7th of May, 2016

After due consideration of the following:

As a member of the United Nations (UN), Vietnam is obligated to honor its commitments to this international body.

The establishment and growth of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) is an important issue in the world today, and enabling it to occur is one of such commitments to the UN.

Article 71 in Chapter 10 of the UN Charter mentions NGOs’ consultation role. As an UN member, Vietnam is bound to recognize the role of NGOs.

Chapter 27 in the UN’s Agenda 21 specifies that the strengthening and enabling of the global network of NGOs are necessary if mankind were to achieve its strategic goal of sustainable development.

In developed countries, NGOs play a vital part in protecting human rights, and in guiding and maintaining orderly and peaceful development. NGOs’ impact can be global in scope.

NGOs in Southeast Asia are also following this trend in experiencing rapid growth and have been playing an active role in influencing national policies to improve the people’s wellbeing in the economic, social, and environmental spheres. In particular, virtually all the NGOs strive to protect human rights (except for government-owned NGOs in selected countries such as Vietnam). NGOs have succeeded in reclaiming for their people basic freedoms that had been smothered by dictatorship.

However, the Vietnamese government continues to maintain policies that are at odds with the UN Charter, resulting in serious economic, social, and environmental deterioration. The government’s disregard for human rights is particularly grave, and it has been identified time and again as one of the worst offenders.

In Vietnam the Fatherland Front, an organization subordinated to the Communist Party, was created by the party as an instrument for controlling all social activities and civil society organizations (CSOs). Since the government currently bans and suppresses independent NGOs, it uses the Fatherland Front as an instrument substituting for real NGOs.

Consequently, a key need for Vietnam is for independent NGOs to reclaim their role as genuine representatives of the people. This will enable the people to exercise its consultative role to ensure that the country is on a path of sustainable development.

Yet, the Vietnamese government continues to impose unsound policies in the economic, social, and environmental spheres without consultation with its people. To redress this crisis, it is necessary for many individuals and organizations to join forces and attract international attention on their causes. This will help bring about positive developments while mitigating negative impacts resulting from official policy.

In view of the necessity to act quickly as previously discussed:

We, the undersigned CSOs in Vietnam, on 19th of February, 2016 established the Vietnam Independent Civil Society Organizations Network (VICSON) with the objective of reclaiming our role as genuine representatives of the people as we engage with regional NGOs and NGOs from other parts of the world in carrying out our function of protecting inalienable human rights.

VICSON was established to enable closer partnership among independent domestic CSOs in order to exchange information, learn from one another, and coordinate with each other more effectively. VICSON members have the responsibility to collaborate with and mutually assist one another to achieve success and growth.

In the context of Vietnam’s current suppression of independent CSOs, it is vital for us to disregard our differences, to respect one another, and to collaborate on equal footing so as to ensure that our collective strength matches the task at hand.

VICSON’s guiding principles include adherence to non-violent approaches, autonomy in carrying out our work, and guarding against all biases rooted in political partisanship.

We urge other independent CSOs in Vietnam to join us in this effort to stimulate democracy and protect human rights.

List of original member organizations:

1/ Hội Cựu Tù Nhân Lương tâm Việt Nam – Former Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience

2/ Hiệp hội Giáo dân Cồn Dầu – Association of Con Dau Parishioners

3/ Bạch Đằng Giang Foundation – Bach Dang Giang Foundation

4/ Khối Nhơn Sanh Đạo Cao Đài – Popular Bloc of Cao Dai Religion

5/ Hội Anh Em Dân chủ – Brotherhood for Democracy

6/ Hội Ái hữu Tù nhân Chính trị và Tôn giáo – Vietnamese Political & Religious Prisoners Friendship Association

7/ Hội Thánh Tin Lành Đấng Christ – Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ

8/ Những người Bảo vệ Tôn giáo và Sắc tộc – Religious and Ethnic Minorities Defenders

9/ Hội Bầu Bí Tương Thân – Association of Bau Bi Mutual Assistance

10/ Hội Dân Oan đòi Quyền sống – Association of Victims of Illegal Expropriation

11/ Hội Phụ nữ Nhân quyền Việt Nam – Vietnamese Women for Human Rights

12/ Nhóm Người Bảo vệ Nhân quyền – Defend the Defenders

13/ Hội Phát huy Quyền Tự do Tôn giáo hay Niềm tin – Association to Promote Freedom of Religion or Belief