In our line of work, disaster, crisis and conflict often consume our attention. And in many ways, rightly so, especially as we seek to fulfill our humanitarian mandate. Last month, however, afforded me the opportunity to remember a different narrative – to see the other side of the story – as CWS joined together with government, fellow NGOs and the private sector to celebrate the remarkable progress made in Vietnam, particularly over the past two decades.
The Vietnam Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs and the People’s Aid Coordinating Committee extended a warm welcome to Church World Service as we marked the 20th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations. Government officials, including the Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S. and Vietnamese officials who made the special trip to Washington for the celebration emphasized the value of U.S.-based NGOs, and our contribution to development within Vietnam.
During the roundtable conversation that followed, I found myself proud to represent CWS. I noted the important work that CWS is now supporting communities to do through the generosity of ELCA funding. I also described our commitment to development among rural, difficult to access and ethnic minority communities. I emphasized our commitment to local partnerships for development in Vietnam, and explained how proud CWS is that we have Vietnamese leadership for our country program.
CWS had the special honor of being the longest-serving NGO in Vietnam of those present at the commemoration. In fact, it was a Vietnamese government official who noted that CWS has been active in Vietnam for 61 years.
NGOs and the government agreed, however, that our collective work is not yet finished in Vietnam. Significant unmet development needs remain among minority communities, among people with specific vulnerabilities, and across specific geographic locations. Our Vietnamese hosts officials also emphasized the significant impact of climate change on Vietnam and called for NGO and private sector partnership, renewed investment in prevention and disaster preparedness, as well as emergency response.
So, as we look back and celebrate, we also look ahead, preparing ourselves for the good work still needed in partnership with communities across Vietnam.
Jason Knapp is a Humanitarian and Protection Advisor at CWS.