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VNGOs and civil society
Highland development NGOs: a case study

NGOs and highland development: a case study in crafting new roles

by Michael L. Gray
M.A. Southeast Asian Studies
School of Oriental and African Studies, London

Abstract
Private, non-profit development organizations began to emerge in Vietnam following a 1993 decree on "science and technology associations." The government at this time was decreasing the size of the bureaucracy and wanted to see what innovations could emerge in rural development through private initiatives. At the same time, a new agenda was emerging among international donors to support "civil society organizations" such as development-oriented NGOs. This synergy between domestic and international trends paved the way for an NGO sector to emerge in Vietnam. One organization founded in 1994 was TEW, Towards Ethnic Women, which grew quickly to support a range of projects among some of northern and central Vietnam's poorest minority communities. TEW offers many interesting examples of the types of innovations private development organizations can make in Vietnam today. However, as I initially argued in a 1999 paper on the emergence of NGOs in Vietnam, even TEW's impressive growth does not predict an important role for NGOs in Vietnam for many years to come.

Published in Kerkvliet, Benedict, Russell Heng and David Koh (eds) Getting Organized in Vietnam: Moving in and around the Socialist State. Singapore: ISEAS, 2003.

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