By Hoang Thi Huong Tra, Trinh Thi Tuyet

Before major reforms in its political system in 1986, Vietnam had groups or associations that would have stood for today’s civil society organisations. Post-­‐reform Vietnam saw the introduction of innovative policies that have created opportunities for more of these organisations to thrive. Charity organisations and local and international community organisations have blossomed in response to emerging social issues. Over the past few years, Vietnam has been grappling with a global environment which from the economic perspective has come with its own challenges. This was especially true in 2014, where the country faced a number of socioeconomic problems due to a slow global economic recovery and rising inequality among countries after the global recession. These difficulties have limited the development of all kinds of organisations. Despite these difficulties, civil society in Vietnam has pressed for a stronger role in political life, and has managed to influence the formation of state policies in recent years.

It is in this context that Vietnamese CSOs have made their presence more strongly felt to the government. CSOs focus on the rural poor; and a number of socio-­‐cultural and economic factors impact significantly on the success of their implementation. The impacts of these projects are discussed at the end of the report, followed by the successes, challenges and lessons learned. In general, CSOs in Vietnam have grown in number and made significant strides in capacity development. With supportive policies on the part of the Vietnamese Government, assistance from domestic and international donors, and the growth of CSO networks, Vietnamese CSOs will have more opportunities to operate efficiently and effectively. This has brought about considerable impacts on Vietnam development, especially for rural communities or ethnic minorities. CSO projects have helped address a number of social problems in Vietnamese society, bringing hope and visible benefits to the most vulnerable sectors of society. However enhancing coordination and strengthening networking among CSOs would establish an even stronger environment for debate among civil society – the exchange of ideas, experiences and development initiatives -­‐ to support CSOs in their various fields of work. Besides, with reduction trend of ODA for MICs, CSOs in Vietnam is also facing with new challenges and bringing other large opportunities, thus they need to improve their capacity and visibility to catch with these in the near future.

This report provides the overall context in which CSOs have worked in Vietnam over time, and their role vis-­‐a-­‐vis other development actors. It provides an analysis of a specific case study involving SRD, using the following factors: the legal and regulatory framework in Vietnam, its political environment, its governance context, socio-­‐economic context and socio-­‐cultural context affecting the development of CSOs in Vietnam in general. An analysis of SRD’s recent project, ‘Implementing Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT): Promoting Good Governance for Forest Sector’ outlines the factors shaping its successes, as well as challenges faced throughout project implementation. A law detailing the implementation of the Science and Technology Law was applied and its effectiveness will be discussed in the political context together with some information about a network that supports the development of CSOs.

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