The One UN in Viet Nam; to whom do the resources for social development belong, and does the subaltern have a say? : A study of the human rights situation in Viet Nam juxtaposed with the principles of the recently enacted One UN reform

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Teologiska institutionen


In recent years there has been an increasing demand for a reform of the UN system at the national level. Objecting to a failure in aid effectiveness and a paternalistic implementation of a rigid western model of human rights, the call for reform has been concretised in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005), the Hanoi Core Statements on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and the General Assembly Resolution A/60/1(2006), which recognize the need for a more effective and coherent UN country presence. The One UN reform – Delivering as One – is currently being piloted in eight different countries, one of them Viet Nam. One of the main principles governing the reform is the shift of power as to who directs the UN’s resources. The principle of increased national ownership is juxtaposed with the fact of a government repressing its people, as is the case in Viet Nam. This thesis builds upon a field study in Viet Nam, addressing issues of human rights violations, the Communist Party’s rhetoric of protecting the people, and the UN’s rhetoric of expertise conditioned by western thought. The question of whether the subaltern can speak is again raised here, as is further inquiries on whether the Government of Viet Nam and/or the UN hears and/or listens to it. Utilizing Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action to theorise the agencies of The Government of Viet Nam and the One UN, and by placing them in a Habermasian polity of communicative action, it becomes possible to view this occurring encounter of ideologically governed actors in a new light, and inquire as to whether it is possible to reach an understanding and coordinate plans of action by way of agreement. This thesis sheds light on and problematizes issues of western presence, communicative action, the colonial civilizing project, subalternity, as it is activated in the context of Viet Nam and in the principles of the UN reform.

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