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Cablegate: Vietnam's Diverse but Politically Limited Civil

VZCZCXRO0466
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1331/01 3401000
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051000Z DEC 08 ZDS
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8812
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5345

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001331

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - (ADDED CAPTION)

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV PHUM SOCI VM
SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S DIVERSE BUT POLITICALLY LIMITED CIVIL
SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS (C-AL8-01684)

REF: A. STATE 92765
B. 07 HANOI 750
C. 07 HANOI 1215
D. 07 HANOI 1246
E. 07 HANOI 2617
F. HANOI 1102

HANOI 00001331 001.4 OF 002


1. (U) The responses below are keyed to questions in Ref A.
This cable is not meant for Internet distribution and should
remain within USG channels.

2. (SBU) Summary: Most of Vietnam's growing and varied civil
society organizations administer to the poor and
disadvantaged. They have limited impact in influencing
government decisions and in holding leaders accountable. The
Party's six mass organizations are now drafting laws and
doing a better job of representing the interests of their
membership at the local level. Our civil society contacts
say the GVN wants more "safe" groups to take on social tasks
it cannot. However, these contacts add that some GVN
officials worry about civil society organizations fomenting
"color revolutions." End Summary.

A Plethora of Organizations
---------------------------

3. (SBU) Vietnam has many different types of organizations,
associations and groups. Most of these organizations provide
services to the poor and disadvantaged. Their impact in
influencing public policies on human rights, social policy
and national budgeting, and in holding the state and private
sectors accountable, is limited. The role of the Party's six
mass organizations has evolved in that they now are drafting
laws and are doing more to represent the interests of people
at the grassroots level. The GVN wants more "safe" groups to
take on social tasks that it cannot but some GVN officials
worry about civil society organizations fomenting "color
revolutions," according to our contacts. The GVN has moved
cautiously in granting civil society "more space."

4. (U) The Communist Party of Vietnam's "mass
organizations"(MOs) are: the Fatherland Front (FF), the
Women's Union (12 million members), Farmers' Association (8
million members), General Federation of Labor (4.25 million
members), War Veterans Association (1.92 million members) and
Ho Chi Minh Youth Union (5.1 million members). The FF
functions as an umbrella group for 29 organizations; among
other things, it screens candidates for National Assembly
elections. Historically, the MOs have had a special
relationship with the Party. Organized hierarchically, the
MOs have branches at each administrative level from the
center to the provinces, districts, communes and villages.
At the grassroots level, the MOs have some autonomy and can
act in their local settings, whereas the higher levels often
serve as a career ladder both within the MOs and into
government and Party positions.

5. (U) "Professional associations" can be divided into two
major groupings: umbrella associations and professional
associations. In the first category are some of the
organizations under the FF, such as the Vietnam Union of
Science and Technology Associations, the Red Cross, Union of
Art and Literature, and the Vietnam Lawyers' Association.
Others are broad organizations like the Gardening
Association, which is in 62 provinces and has a membership of
about 700,000.

6. (U) "Vietnamese NGOs" (VNGOs) tend to be small
organizations that: 1) deliver social services for the
government in health or education, often charity based; 2)
carry out research and social work; 3) help marginalized
groups; 4) work like consulting companies for the GVN or
Donors in preparing and implementing programs. VNGOs are
often more innovative than other organizations, but are
limited in impact and have limited funding. They view their
role quite differently from their foreign counterparts; VNGOs
see themselves as partners working on development projects in
support of state policy and as advocates for improved state
services. There is a strong tendency for VNGOs to negotiate
with and educate state officials rather than confront them as
a tactic to bring about change.

7. (U) "Community-based organizations" (CBOs), estimated to
number from 100,000 to 200,000 groups, work to improve
people's livelihoods and include groups like water-user
groups, pig- or cow-farming groups, youth groups, mutual
assistance groups and education and training groups. Cities
have neighborhood groups, family clan groups, and groups
taking care of festivals and pagodas. As they operate at the
grassroots level, CBOs have no independent legal framework
for their activities. Presumably, a large number of CBOs are

HANOI 00001331 002.4 OF 002


not registered at all.

The Registration Process
------------------------

8. (U) Associations desiring to work throughout Vietnam must
gain approval to do so from the Ministry of Home Affairs'
Department of NGO Affairs. The overwhelming majority of
national level organizations have registered under VUSTA, the
Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) and the
Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VNCCI). This is
because VUSTA, VUFO, and VNCCI have long worked throughout
Vietnam and their leaders are respected and relatively senior
Communist Party members. Estimates are that Vietnam has
roughly 400 associations operating nationally. Organizations
or associations seeking to operate in particular areas of
Vietnam are required to get approval from provincial or city
people's committees and local offices of the Ministry of Home
Affairs.

9. (U) The GVN's Law on Science and Technology became
operational in 2001. This law allows Vietnamese to establish
science and technology organizations with local science and
technology departments. Vietnamese seeking to open a science
and technology organization technically do not have to go
through the city people's committee. A group of Vietnamese
intellectuals took advantage of the Law on Science and
Technology to register the Institute for Development Studies,
which is pushing the reform envelope (Ref. F), with the Hanoi
City Department of Science and Technology. IDS scholars did
not have to go through a several stage process at the Central
level to register their institute.

The Long Odyssey of the Law on Associations
-------------------------------------------

10. (U) The Law on Associations (LOA) remains in limbo. It
is not on the National Assembly's 2009 agenda. The Ministry
of Home Affairs' Department of NGO Affairs is in the midst of
revising the law for the 12th time. (Refs D and E discuss the
difficulties in passing the 11th draft version of this law.)
MICHALAK

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