HANOI -- Our experience both here in Vietnam and globally is that a vibrant civil society sector is essential to connecting individuals facing the greatest HIV risks to lifesaving services. Thanks to the critical efforts of many of the civil society organizations represented here today, thousands of people in Vietnam are living happier, healthier, and more productive lives.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your contributions, and to say how proud USAID is of its history of support to building the organizational, technical, and advocacy capacity of civil society in Vietnam. With donor support, civil society organizations in Vietnam are increasingly at the forefront of delivering relevant, high-quality, and low-cost HIV services to those who need them most.
We learned yesterday in a new UN report that with good work like yours, the global rate of HIV infection and the number of AIDS-related deaths have been dramatically reduced. UNAIDS found that despite a flattening in donor funding, individual countries' efforts have increased, accounting for 53 percent of global HIV resources in 2012.
The work in Vietnam has created the foundations for much stronger partnerships and trust between civil society and the government of Vietnam. Government and civil society now are developing new ways of working together – with civil society organizations more frequently assisting government to deliver much-needed services at the grassroots level.
One of the key lessons that we have learned in the United States is that civil society organizations are often well-placed to provide community services and often the most effective and efficient channel for service delivery. As donor funding for HIV declines in Vietnam, our hope is that your contributions and successes will clear the way for greater government support for your work.
The Government of Vietnam has made a significant commitment to expand cooperation with civil society organizations in addressing social and economic development challenges when it approved the Vietnam Partnership Document on January 25th of this year. It has committed to policy reform dialogue with its development partners with respect to the role of the private sector in public services.
Nevertheless, many challenges remain:
- Civil society groups face internal challenges related to capacity, management, and resource mobilization and diversification.
- Regulatory barriers limit the ability of civil society organizations to exist as legally registered entities in Vietnam.
- The rapid growth of the civil society has challenged government capacities to integrate civil society activities within national development and social policy frameworks.
Overcoming these challenges and equipping civil society organizations to play their legitimate vital roles represents a great opportunity for the government of Vietnam to make the most of the dedication, resources and commitment of its people. In the current economic and development climate, a strong and dynamic civil society sector is more vital than ever. Forums like this are crucial for building an effective partnership between the government and the civil society sector.
I wish you all the best for your discussions over the coming two days. I am sure that some important recommendations will emerge that will further the cause of strong, independent and productive civil society in Vietnam.
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Last updated: January 21, 2015