How Vietnam Helped the Government Rethink Community Rights

Promoting Land Rights for Ethnic Minority People ran in Vietnam from 2016-2018, with $785,000 in funding from the EU. It reached 1,211 people directly, and nearly 12 million indirectly.

Among its many impressive impacts, perhaps the most important thing CARE Vietnam accomplished in its recent land rights project was changing the way governments think about communities. In the words of one key decision-maker, "I asked a village elder: 'If allocate forest and land to you, you can sell, deposit or invest to earn money why you didn’t like that?' He said, 'No, it is the village’s forest. No one can sell or own it!' When hearing that I thought we might have ignored community ownership to forests, and that we need to rethink.”

As a result, they changed laws to create more rights for communities. According to one key official, CARE and our partners (especially CIRUM), "made real contribution to all the processes, from consolidating lessons and best practices to supporting us organizing consultation activities and reviewing every article."

Promoting Land Rights for Ethnic Minority People ran in Vietnam from 2016-2018, with $785,000 in funding from the EU. It reached 1,211 people directly, and nearly 12 million indirectly.

What have we accomplished?

  • Changed laws to support ethnic minorities: The new forestry law in Vietnam now includes protection of community rights to forest land, something the previous version did not allow. And the law passed with those rights included a year ahead of our predictions.
  • Communities (especially young women) are more involved in policy: One young woman in the project said, “I am now very proud that under the new LoF forest and forest land can be allocated to village community, that I am very proud of. Perhaps because they have considered our recommendations.” Another person said, “I have valuable chances to get access to government policies, learn from peers through knowledge exchange and common actions.”
  • The government is making plans to implement: Passing a law is just the start of achieving impact through advocacy. In Vietnam, not only has the government passed the law, it has also put in place mandates to support communities to manage those forests, ensuring that the law actually benefits communities.
  • Civil society is stronger and can sustain advocacy campaigns: The new LandNet network of ethnicminority community groups has gotten better at advocacy, and at ensuring women’s participation in decisions—paving the way for continued improvements in policy and better governance.
  • Policy makers respect communities more: Policy makers are more likely to recognize the skills and value of community participation.
  • Impacts are likely to last: The evaluation points out that implementation strategies from the government and the legally-mandated support to communities make the impacts from this project more likely to last in the long term.
  • Opened windows for the future: The project has opened windows to continue to influence national and local actions, by supporting implementation and bringing together advocacy coalitions around future policy issues.

How did we get there?

  • Support partners to grow: The project helped its partners, especially LandNet, improve their capacities for working together and planning inclusive strategies for advocacy and development.
  • Work with others to gather evidence: Getting the communities, government, and partners involved with research not only meant people were more bought into research results and more likely to use the evidence, but also gave various actors a reason to come together and talk, creating stronger networks.
  • Get youth involved: youth worked as key champions and leaders in the advocacy efforts, both at the grassroots and national levels.
  • Pay attention to timing: By having evidence and research available at crucial times, and by focusing on building relationships, the project was able to influence a policy process that the government had in process, and actually get a law passed earlier than predicted.
  • Engage consistently: The project published 11 case studies and contacted the government at least once a month. According to one government official, part of the reason we were so successful was that the project partners engaged, “not just in formal consultative events such as seminar or workshops, CIRUM send us their comments to every draft version. In addition, they send their updates or policy brief every month.”

Want to learn more?

Check out the evaluation.