Putting the community in the centre : towards effective village-based planning and development in Vietnam

Catford, A 2007, Putting the community in the centre : towards effective village-based planning and development in Vietnam, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Putting the community in the centre : towards effective village-based planning and development in Vietnam
Author(s) Catford, A
Year 2007
Abstract In addition to successful economic reforms, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) is also in the process of implementing reforms in the areas of civil society, decentralisation and grassroots democracy, within what is generally considered a strong state environment. Relevant research argues that uninhibited democracy, decentralisation and civil society are important elements in achieving what has been popularly termed community 'participation' by development practitioners.

This process was particularly assisted by the release of the grassroots democracy decree of 1998 and its subsequent update in 2003 that set out the details of what Vietnam required from the village and commune levels as part of the reform process. Interestingly, it is also these two levels that form the dividing line between government and community in Vietnam. Although there have been several studies investigating the strengths and weaknesses of the implementation of the grassroots democracy decree and other related policies, village-based planning and development programs, which are a development approach piloted by several non-government organisations (NGOs) and donors to address these issues, have not been comprehensively evaluated. These programs, which are generally long-term, area-based, holistic and integrated, have frequently been observed to deliver many of the relevant elements within the larger notions of democracy, decentralisation, civil society and participation.

The research explores the effectiveness of village-based planning and development approaches within the Vietnamese context using both quality and quantity criteria to assess elements of program effectiveness, focussing primarily on community level perspectives. Four projects of a selected international non-government organisation (INGO), were used as a detailed case study utilising a combination of qualitative focus groups and interviews, complimented by two quantitative household interviews. These community opinions were triangulated against the opinion of other key stakeholders including government, bilateral and multilateral aid donors, as well as Vietnamese and International NGOs involved in such approaches.

The research highlights that with careful attention, village-based planning and development approaches do have the ability to more effectively allow the community to be put back into the 'centre of development' in Vietnam, rather than being passive recipients or marginalised by the development process. A set of seven key elements that contribute to more effective village-based planning and development approaches in Vietnam has been outlined in this thesis. It is hoped that these key elements might be further utilised by donor, NGO and government agencies to support the appropriate replication and up-scaling of the approaches to enable development needs and poverty to be more effectively reduced in Vietnam

However, the approaches are not without their challenges, in particular in terms of achieving integrated planning from village to national level, being flexible enough for the variety of ethnic minority and geographical areas, effectively involving a broad and appropriate range of individuals and organised civil society groups and, perhaps most importantly, taking the approaches beyond the current few pilot programs to a national scale that forms a more integral part of the government's overall poverty reduction strategy.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Regional planning -- Vietnam
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