Coalition Support Programme & Land Governance
In recent years, the increasing complexity of socio-economic development has opened up space for policy advocacy in Vietnam. However, there are still limits on the opportunities for civil society to engage in policy-making processes.
Oxfam’s Coalition Support Programme aims to contribute to more accountable governance n Vietnam by increasing opportunities for citizens to participate in decision-making. The programme, which was set up in July 2012, identifies and supports issue-based coalitions to carry out advocacy throughout the policy-making process. Coalitions refer to multi-stakeholder cooperation among Vietnamese NGOs, state agencies at different levels, the media, universities and research institutes, and the private sector, who all share a common interest in a policy issue.
Focus on six policy areas
The coalitions are focused on policy issues of broad public concern that are recognised as crucial to the sustainable socio-economic development of Vietnam. These issues currently cover four areas: forest land, extractive industries, water pollution, and agricultural markets. A political economy analysis by the programme confirmed that these issues lend themselves to network-based advocacy, while also offering the potential for tangible policy impacts benefiting vulnerable groups.
Oxfam supports coalitions through funding, technical advice, capacity building and networking. Core funding is provided to cover basic operating expenses, as well as advocacy initiatives planned by two or more coalition participants. A cross-learning fund targets capacity building, learning and sharing among coalitions, and an opportunities fund is designed to fund emerging needs that arise at short notice.
Coalitions have received training on a range of topics, including planning and strategy development, research methods, media engagement and use of social media, and how to ensure both women and men are included in the advocacy process. Coalitions are also connected to key resource people, for example current and former National Assembly members who help participants understand the policy-making process and government structure.
A comprehensive advocacy approach
Since the start of the programme, coalitions have engaged in more innovative, purposeful and effective advocacy processes. They are now focused on generating evidence, increasing public awareness and media exposure, convening discussions, managing personal contacts and participating directly in law or decree-drafting processes.
Coalition participants have started to change the way they view themselves in the policy process. Coalition coordinators and core members, for example, have expressed a new-found sense of confidence to be part of policy discussions, and say they are now better able to organise an advocacy strategy and engage purposefully with policy makers.
Targeting policies that expand civic space
Over the last four years, Oxfam has also engaged in collaborative advocacy on laws and policies that either constrain or enable the involvement of civil society in the policy process. This has included public consultations on the revised Law on Land (2013) and the Law on Law-Making Procedures (2015). For the latter law, which regulates the legislative process, Oxfam colleagues joined with members of several coalitions to add language to the law that enables formal participation of civil society in law making. Analysis by Professor Dang Hung Vo, a member of the programme’s Advisory Panel, showed that about 60 percent of the recommendations were accepted in the final version of the law passed by the National Assembly in June 2015.
In cooperation with the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (a coalition partner), Oxfam has contributed to a civil society space assessment. This tool aims to understand how the space for civil society is increasing or decreasing, by measuring and tracking civil society capacity, relevant government policies and people’s perceptions about civil society and its roles.
In the next phase of the Coalition Support Programme, Oxfam and coalition partners will engage more actively on policy implementation, ensuring that legislation influenced by the programme is implemented at the local level. A second objective is to include additional private sector partners in relevant coalition activities.
Project: Coalition Support Programme
Time frame: 2012-2015 (first phase), 2016-2019 (second phase)
Funding: UK Department for International Development (first phase); Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mekong Region Land Governance Programme, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (second phase)