Civil Society and People’s Participation, Final Evaluation of the Grassroots Democracy Project
Background The program is in direct support of government's effort to promote grassroots participation as promulgated through the Grassroots Democracy Decree (GDD decrees 88 & 79) of Vietnam. Thus the project advances the increased knowledge and awareness by Vietnamese people and government officials especially at commune and village level on the GDD and related rights and responsibilities of right holders and duty bearers. The ultimate goal of the project is to enhance people's participation in the decision making process for planning and implementation of their own development. It also aimed at developing a replicable approach for building democracy and civil society. Purpose/objective The Final Evaluation follows up on previous medium term review, conducted in May 2006. As such it assesses progress, achievements and lessons learnt to assist in designing appropriate actions for more effective implementation of Plan Projects that are in line with the provisions of the grassroots decree. Plan Vietnam Country Strategic Plan articulates its intentions and commitment to promote children and adult participation in the development process with clear coordination mechanisms with other social organisations and Local Authorities. Methodology The research methods used captured both qualitative and quantitative information. Secondary data and Plan documents were reviewed and focus group discussions and interviews with stakeholders were conducted along with field visits to project sites. Key findings 1. The project was found to be relevant, designed based on actual situation and needs of the local people and authorities as a result, it attracted their engagement. However, coverage is still limited and timing is short. Nevertheless, the project addressed constraints of the local authorities by (among other things) expanding leaflet distribution, training coverage to reach grassroots participants and making the GDD dissemination more comprehensive.2. Over 81% of the people demonstrate understanding of the GDD; however this may need further internalization of the decree. In some cases local people are involved in project monitoring even though their capacity is still limited.3. The GDD models used strengthened the participation outcomes of the project in some ways e.g. Water User Management for water supply system increased transparency, community mobilization and contribution in the project. The community centres model enhanced the environment for meeting particularly including children while as the hamlet budget plan increased local people's participation in budgeting and planning further strengthened by the community consultations in the 5 year social development plans of their local authorities.4. There was no clear baseline conducted upon which to measure impact of this project on grassroots participation even though in general the project contributes to all the efforts made in promoting people's participation and enhancing their awareness of the GDD.5. The GDD intervention has benefited from the values and influence embedded in Plan's program principles and approach e.g. Plan articulates poor people's participation with special recognition of children and women's participation in their own development, values which have been incorporated in Plan Vietnam Country Strategic Plan (CSP).6. While as there are some contextual differences in progress in the various areas where GDD was implemented, on the whole they all emphasized on popularization of the GDD coupled with training of staff in hamlets and commune (e.g. in Phu Tho). Thai Nguyen and Quang Binh had more diversified intervention extending to cover legal aspects, budgeting and procedures for petition and complaints. Equipment and information resources were provided e.g. Quang Binh and Bac Giang, provided loudspeakers, radios; bookshelves, handbooks/guidelines provided in Thai Nguyen besides engaging new partners. There was enhanced gender popularization and increased staff skills in mobilization in Quang Tri. Recommendations 1. The project should expand its scope to reach areas not yet covered, paying special attention to integration of women, adolescents, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups of the society.2. It is important to continue promotion of GDD, integrating it with other relevant issues like child protection, gender mainstreaming etc. This should utilize the multiple forms of dissemination methods i.e. training, leaflets, festivals, panels etc and making best use of expert support available to the process.7. Incorporate different topics in other programs to make grassroots democracy more attractive and practical.8. Support capacity building of various players at grassroots e.g. in mobilization, meeting organisation, presentation and knowledge in gender and child rights.9. Encourage sharing of experiences and lessons learned in the project and across regions through e.g. review workshops.10. Support more synchronized, effective, comprehensive investment in necessary media / information equipment and infrastructure to improve on quality of information disseminated.11. Continue to develop and replicate models of grassroots democracy relevant to context, building capacity of the local actors and integrating the relevant models into Plan's interventions, maintaining the activities of the common house as a practical model for meeting the demand for people's participation.12. Improve project management particularly through e.g. expanding opportunities and forums for participation of people from policy level to implementation level; streamline payment procedures and development of long term plan with communes for people's mobilization and participation.13. Increase local commune staff skills in people mobilization to enhance their capacity to create an atmosphere of trust that accommodates local people's participation. Comments from the organisation Based on the findings and recommendations mentioned in the report, Plan VNM would like to have further grant support from NORAD with support of Plan Norway to improve limitations and gaps with the aim to enhance grassroots democracy. Particularly, the Vietnam government enacted the Ordinance No 34 (enforced since the 1st of July 07) on implementation of grassroots democracy. The Ordinance has higher legal level which replaces the GDD 79. In this connection, Plan VNM drafted the proposal "Enabling grassroots participation" and it was sent to NNO for consideration and approval. The 2nd phase can add value and enhance participation by incorporating various models and lessons learnt from Phase 1 to various projects under other Plan VNM CPO's.