Consular Bodies Leading Support for Civil Society in Southeast Asia

May 12, 2017


A few weeks ago, we attended an inspiring and informative talk on the history of LGBT progress in North America and internationally by the amazing Kim Vance, Executive Director of ARC International. It was amazing to hear more about the work being done in the area and to hear from an activist and professional who has been leading the way for decades. Hearing more about the Yogyakarta Principles was particularly interesting. The talk was held at one of the cultural gems of Ho Chi Minh City, The Old Compass Cafe, and was made possible by the Consulate General of Canada to Vietnam in HCMC. 


It was encouraging and inspiring to see the Consulate embracing its role as a representative of Canadian values and a leader in supporting dialogue, discussion and capacity building of civil society. 


After having serendipitously met the Consul General one evening in the city, we started to think more about the potential that consular bodies can play with local civil society, especially around issues that are not always easy to talk about. The space for civil society is shrinking in most places, but consuls and embassies can play a big role in widening that space. As we were in the process of building our training programme training programme for civil society organisations, we thought there might be potential for an exciting collaboration.  With little notice, the Consulate agreed to partner with United Edge to host the training in their lovely office in downtown Saigon. 


It seemed to us that this is exactly the type of leadership needed from diplomatic missions around the world. There will always be a huge amount of administrative work with visa and trade and other essential services. But state representatives around the world are representing their government in much broader ways too. Even more so, they are representing the values of their country's people. 


The Justice Based Approach has now launched. We delivered the workshop in Ho Chi Minh City to a room full of inspiring individuals and organizations working to improve life for people in the south of Vietnam. It was both a great success and a learning opportunity. We now have the opportunity to improve the training as we go forward.


We're thrilled to be partnering again with the Canadian Government for our upcoming training in Hanoi. Again we are inspired by their leadership, and because of their support, we are also able to offer more financial support for local NGOs to attend the training who struggle to find budget for capacity building. We hope to continue to see other consular bodies taking the lead in supporting civil society the way that Canada does here in Vietnam. 

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