Social accountability - Its position and potential in the development of Vietnam
Civil society organizations in Vietnam are experiencing some critical transitions. As the nation is no longer on the list of low income countries, an increasing number of such organizations are changing their missions from alleviating poverty to promoting more democratic governance. ‘Social accountability’, as one of their most common employed approaches, is often the combination of civic engagement, evidence-based monitoring, and advocacy. Carrying with it the expectation of improving accountability in Vietnam, the approach is still a new, foreign-imported concept which will challenge and be challenged by particular contextual factors in the country. This study examines the practices of social accountability in Vietnam to find out its position and potential in terms of development of the country. Promoting social accountability in Vietnam is often based on the assumption that the approach will improve government’s accountability, strengthening the state – citizen relationship. It is envisaged that the country will be eventually more open as a result. It is as yet an optimistic vision and will take time for practitioners to put in place. This study aims to analyse how early adoption of social accountability is affected by Vietnam’s contextual factors, to what extent it is affecting governance and increasing people’s participation, and what organizations can actually expect of social accountability. The research aims to fill a gap in the literature regarding social accountability in Vietnam. As a new concept, social accountability is often introduced via materials provided by international organizations like World Bank and UNICEF. Most of the documents present successful cases of applying social accountability in other countries like India and Bangladesh, and countries in Latin America. Thus, a critical analysis of adopting social accountability in the Vietnam context is necessary to provide more insights for both practitioners and scholars on the topic. Employing interviews as the key method, the study seeks input from key informants who are involved in the adoption of social accountability in Vietnam. From perspectives of government officials, development practitioners, and community members, the reality of practicing social accountability and how it is interacting and negotiating with other factors in society should be more clearly revealed. Practical expectations and recommendations to conceive of and practice social accountability in Vietnam are also suggested.