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Civil society puts down roots at capital meeting
17 | 12 | 2007
Civil society is taking root in Viet Nam. Proof of its debut, for better or worse, was a meeting of its representative organisations in Ha Noi yesterday.

These included government ministries, industry, mass organisations, domestic non-government and community based organisations.

The about 40 delegates to the two-day gathering shared information and exchanged ideas about how to make themselves more effective in raising aid for agriculture and rural development.

Senior Agricultural Ministry official Nguyen Van Chuong told them that the proportion of the State budget dedicated to agriculture had been reduced every year. "Just 4.8 per cent of State budget would be spent on agriculture if foreign aid was not available," he said.

Therefore, it was necessary for civil-society organisations to propose feasible suggestions to the Government so that farmers would receive more money and have their difficulties addressed. An example was the work done by the Seedlings and Plants Association.

An NGO that answers to the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, it had helped the ministry reduce the cost for a hybrid rice seed project from about VND1.200 billion to VND47 billion.

Last year the Government began encouraging more participation by civil-society organisations in policy making.

The purpose was to bring the voice of the people to the Government; monitor the effort to ensure grassroots democracy; promote transparency and reduce poverty as part of the country’s 2006-2010 socio-economic development plan.

So far, the participation of civil society organisations had been very weak, said Viet Nam Union of Scientific and Technological Associations International Relations Department director Nguyen Manh Cuong.

The founding of many organisations had depended on finance from international NGOs and Official Development Assistance project, he said. The end of these projects put the fledgling civil-society organisations in jeopardy.

The number of civil society organisations is almost impossible to calculate. But Viet Nam Union for Scientific and Technological Associations figures show there are 350 national associations and 10,000 NGOs. The number of provincial, district and commune associations is uncountable.

The reasons for weak civil-society participation varies. But a lack of specific regulations governing their roles and functions is a major hindrance. "It’s difficult to bring civil society organisations into operation," said Nguyen Manh Cuong. Enthusiasm fell because voices fall on ‘deaf ears’.

Another delegate to the gathering agreed.

Viet Nam Food and Foodstuff Scientific and Technological Association chairman Professor Le Doan Dien complained that his association had not yet received any request from the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry for advice.

Nor had it been asked to help monitor and evaluate the science and technology relevant to agriculture development. The association, which was founded five years ago, answers to the ministry.

The professor said many scientists want to contribute to the country’s development by providing advice as well as monitoring and evaluating science and technology. But their wishes were in vain.

Many research projects had used much of the State’s money only to end forgotten in libraries, he said. But despite their pessimism, Viet Nam Union of Scientific and Technological Association deputy general secretary Pham Bich Sam told the meeting that civil societies had just been in their first stage of development.

It would take time to make them work for the good of society and common stability, he said. An action plan to raise and promote the role of civil society is expected to be completed before the gathering ends today.


Source: agroviet.gov.vn
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