Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Conflict: A case study on Japanese ODA to Vietnam

Type Working Paper
Title Official Development Assistance (ODA) and Conflict: A case study on Japanese ODA to Vietnam
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Vietnam has become a model for achieving rapid economic development. In 2009, the country
reached “middle income” status and joined a number of other Asian countries that have shown
remarkable economic progress in a short period of time. An important element in this success has
been the Official Development Assistance (ODA) the country has received from around the
world, including multilateral aid agencies such as the World Bank and the Asian Development
Bank. It is Japan that has served as Vietnam’s largest single donor for over a decade and has
provided steady economic support during both smooth and turbulent times. This steadfast
support has aided the Government of Vietnam in maintaining economic stability during two
international financial crises, the most recent one still being felt around the world as of 2010.
The robust economic progress has not meant the absence of internal conflict within the
country. Peasant protests have occurred, tensions between the government and ethnic minority
and religious groups have been persistent, labor unrest has happened during economic downturns
and intraparty and extra party individuals and groups seeking greater reform and fewer
restrictions on freedoms have presented challenges to the Communist Party and government.
Donors, including Japan, have generally steered away from these internal conflicts and focused
on promoting and supporting free-market oriented policies and actions. Multilateral aid agencies,
however, have at times used their aid as leverage to require increased economic reform. And in
the area of human rights, Western governments, particularly the United States, have been
forceful in pointing out abuses and demanding improvements. The Government of Vietnam has
at times responded with positive change to these external forces. Japan, in contrast, has not tied
aid to a reform agenda or timeline nor the easing of restrictions on intellectual and political

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