People-to-people diplomacy a major part to foreign affairs activities’ successes in 2023
|Phan Anh Sơn, President of the Việt Nam Unions of Friendship Organisations. — VNS Photo Nguyễn Hằng
Phan Anh Sơn, president of the Việt Nam Unions of Friendship Organisations (VUFO) talked with Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Hằng about VUFO’s outstanding achievements of people-to-people diplomacy in 2023 as well as the role of people-to-people diplomacy in fostering bilateral relations between Việt Nam and other countries over the past decades
What are the outstanding achievements in people-to-people diplomacy of the Việt Nam Union of Friendship Organisations in 2023?
The world situation had many fluctuations in 2023. The biggest fluctuation was increased conflicts and fierce competition among big countries. Countries around the world also faced common challenges such as pandemic, climate change and natural disasters. The international situation was thought to be unfavourable for Việt Nam last year. The world economy was also relatively gloomy. However, under the leadership of the Party, foreign affairs and diplomacy works achieved many important results, notably, high-level diplomacy. There were nearly 50 business trips of Vietnamese leaders to other countries. Việt Nam also welcomed about 50 delegations of leaders from other countries. In a successful year of Việt Nam’s foreign affairs sector, people-to-people diplomacy works have certain contributions.
In 2023, VUFO carried out some major tasks as follows. It maintained relationships with existing partners and also expanded the partner network. VUFO also implemented many people-to-people diplomacy activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and other countries, including Canada, Argentina, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, England, France, Italy and the Netherlands by new forms, new content, new approach and new participation from foreign partners.
|Japanese Crown Prince Akishino (second, right) and Japanese Crown Princess Kiko (third, right) and Trương Thị Mai (fourth right), chairwoman of the Việt Nam – Japan Friendship Parliamentarians’ Group visit a photo exhibition at the ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan in September 2023. — VNA/VNS Photo An Đăng
For example, on the occasion of the Japanese Crown Prince Fumihito Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko’s visit to Việt Nam in September 2023, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Japan. It is believed to be a very smooth combination between the State diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy, conveying many values of people-to-people friendship, cooperation and culture in Việt Nam’s foreign policy.
|Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng and General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping attend a friendship meeting with nearly 400 friendship scholars and youths of the two countries in Hà Nội in December 2023. — VNA/VNS Photo Phương Hoa
Regarding high-level activities of the Party and State leaders, on the occasion of the visit of General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping to Việt Nam, VUFO coordinated with relevant agencies to successfully organise a friendship meeting of friendship scholars and youths between the two countries. The meeting was attended by more than 400 delegates. This was a very special meeting because of the presence of both Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng and his wife as well as Chinese Party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping and his wife. There were also senior leaders from the two countries. More importantly, both Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng and Chinese Party General Secretary and President Xi Jinping emphasised in their statements that people-to-people friendship was the foundation, driving force and a very important factor promoting people’s friendship, tradition and cooperation between Việt Nam and China.
|Chairman of the United Russia Party (URP) and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev at a friendship meeting in Hà Nội in May 2023. —VNA/VNS Photo Phương Hoa
Previously, in May 22, 2023, on the occasion of the visit to Việt Nam of Chairman of the United Russia Party (URP) and Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, VUFO held a friendship meeting for Vietnamese people who had studied, worked, lived in the former Soviet Union and today’s Russia; and Vietnamese people who love the former Soviet Union and today’s Russia. Speaking at that meeting, Medvedev said: “The first foreigner I met since I was a child was Vietnamese.”
It was told that at that time, Medvedev’s father was a professor at a university. He taught foreign students, including Vietnamese students. The statement showed that Medvedev has very deep impressions about the country and people of Việt Nam.
Also in 2023, VUFO deployed many foreign affairs activities within a high-level framework. We received Politburo member and President of the National Assembly of People’s Power of Cuba Esteban Lazo Hernandez and Secretary General of the Cuban Women’s Union Teresa María Amarelle Boúe on the occasion of commemorating the 60th founding anniversary of the Cuban Committee for Solidarity with South Việt Nam (September 25, 1963) – the predecessor of the Cuba – Việt Nam Friendship Association, and 50 years since Fidel Castro first visited Việt Nam and the liberated zone in South Việt Nam (September 1973).
Through the activities, VUFO once again affirmed to world leaders and people that “Việt Nam is always the same. Việt Nam is always faithful and grateful for your efforts, contributions and support.”
Also in 2023, VUFO organised an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement: Ending the war, restoring peace in Việt Nam. It was to not only commemorate the signing of the agreement but also give an opportunity for Việt Nam to express its gratitude to the friends who supported Việt Nam during the years of war for independence.
Last year, foreign non-governmental aid achieved impressive numbers after VUFO innovated its approach to mobilising foreign non-governmental aid. The value of aid disbursement reached US$223.3 million although the world situation had many changes and a lot of countries adjusted their foreign policies and aid policies for developing countries, including Việt Nam.
VUFO reformed dissemination activities, focusing on conveying information about Việt Nam’s country, people, policies, culture, friendship and cooperation to international friends. We consider these as the foremost important task that we have to do, so that Việt Nam’s partners and friends in all continents do not lack information about Việt Nam. We sent them timely and most accurately information through an official channel about Vietnamese issues in all fields.
What is the role of people-to-people diplomacy in strengthening and cultivating bilateral relations between Việt Nam and other countries over the past 50 years?
The role and contribution of the people-to-people diplomacy always goes hand in hand with the progress of the nation’s history. Going back to 1975 and before, people-to-people diplomacy played a very important role in the country’s two resistance wars for national independence and national unification, the main mission and role of the people-to-people diplomacy were to mobilise friends, people of other countries, social movements, peace movements to support Việt Nam’s struggle for national independence and unification.
Since 1975, when peace was restored in Việt Nam, the people-to-people diplomacy entered a new stage. The people-to-people diplomacy continued to mobilise friends and people all over the world to support Việt Nam in breaking the blockade and embargo, helping Việt Nam to open up, innovate, reform and develop the economy. Those were great contributions of the people-to-people diplomacy. Furthermore, the people-to-people diplomacy also assisted Việt Nam to reconcile and normalise relations with a number of countries, including the United States.
In 2000s, the people-to-people diplomacy continued to promote friendship cooperation to implement the foreign policy of the Party and State. During the past 50 years, the people-to-people diplomacy has played a major role in promoting friendship relations and people-to-people cooperation between Việt Nam and countries around the world, building a positive and favourable social foundation to develop Việt Nam’s relations with other countries.
The people-to-people diplomacy has also coordinated with the Party and State diplomacy to carry out the foreign policies of the Party and State. In general, the people-to-people diplomacy has helped to not only strengthen the friendship relations between Việt Nam and other countries but also mobilise resources to serve the country’s development.
How do you evaluate contribution of the people-to-people diplomacy to development and improvement of relations between Việt Nam and the United States and what will the people-to-people diplomacy do to promote diplomatic relations between the two countries in the future?
|Phan Anh Sơn, president of the Việt Nam Unions of Friendship Organisations (right) and US Ambassador to Việt Nam Marc Knapper (left) at the US-Việt Nam Friendship Festival on December 2, 2023. — Photo courtesy of the Việt Nam Unions of Friendship Organisations.
I think that 2023 was a special year in the overall picture of Việt Nam’s foreign affairs work. It was a very special thing that relation between Việt Nam and the United States had been upgraded to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for peace, cooperation and sustainable development. In the upgrade of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries, the people-to-people diplomacy has made remarkable contributions. In the joint statement on upgrading to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, there are 10 major items, including one item related to the people-to-people diplomacy. The people-to-people diplomacy has maintained a smooth channel of cooperation between the Vietnamese people and all social classes of the United States. We have maintained a channel to contact and exchange information to American friends and partners at all levels of society.
To deepen people-to-people relations and contribute to upgrading the relationship between Việt Nam and the United States, in September 2023, VUFO signed a five-year cooperation programme with the United States Institute of Peace in the 2023-28 period.
The cooperation’s purpose focuses on two major things. The first thing is to coordinate to implement programme to overcome the consequences of war in Việt Nam. The second thing is to carry out educational programmes, convey lessons about peace from the two countries. The painful history of war needs to be conveyed to many countries and peoples to avoid repeating the same things that happened in the two countries more than 50 years ago. That is the biggest purpose of the agreement between VUFO and the United States Institute of Peace.
How has the people-to-people diplomacy applied the concept of “bamboo diplomacy” in practice?
I think the term “strong root” means that the goals of Việt Nam’s foreign policies are consistently with independence, self-reliance, for peace, cooperation and friendship. The “strong root” also means the spirit, the will, and the character of the Vietnamese people, which are self-reliance and independence.
The term “firm trunk” means the coordination among the three pillars of diplomacy, which are the Party diplomacy, the State diplomacy and the people-to-people diplomacy. At the conference reviewing foreign affairs works of 2023, Trương Thị Mai, Politburo member and permanent member of the Communist Party of Việt Nam Central Committee’s Secretariat, said that the important task of the three pillars of diplomacy was coordination. If the coordination was carried out smoothly, it would bring a synergy for Việt Nam’s diplomacy.
In the meantime, the term “flexible branches” are thought to be suitable with the motto of the people-to-people diplomacy, which is proactive, flexible, creative and effective. The nature of the people-to-people diplomacy is encouraging and persuading international friends, people, movements and politicians to support Việt Nam’s national interests.
Could you share about challenges of the people-to-people diplomacy last year and orientations for this year?
There were several challenges for the people-to-people diplomacy work last year. The first challenge was the external factors. They were the fluctuations and changes in the international and regional situation, causing the adjustments of foreign policies of all countries in the world, including Việt Nam.
The second challenge was that Việt Nam has a system of long-standing friends and partners who have supported the country in the two resistance wars for national independence and unification. However, the group of friends and partners is currently entering the ageing phase and gradually losing their role in many countries. It requires Việt Nam to not only continue to maintain the existing partner network but also expand the network of friends and partners through the people-to-people diplomacy in different countries.
Therefore, we have identified a number of key tasks for the VUFO this year.
We will continue to innovate thinking, forms and approaches in implementing the people-to-people diplomacy. The people-to-people diplomacy activities will be more in-depth, supporting the pillars of the Party and State diplomacy to meet the foreign policy goals of Việt Nam.
Next, we also plan to focus on giving more training for specialised staff to implement the people-to-people diplomacy work. We will expand our partners in all continents.
The people-to-people diplomacy work will concentrate more on agencies, ministries, sectors and parliaments of countries that have the authority to approve aid budgets for developing countries.
After Việt Nam upgraded the relations with important partners, there has been a wave of many large companies from big countries shifting their investment direction to Việt Nam and neighbour countries. The wave is called friend-shoring. We schedule to take advantage of the opportunities so that the large companies will come to Việt Nam to partly fulfill their social responsibilities for the socio-economic development of Việt Nam as well as contributing to helping Việt Nam to overcome the consequences of war.
Regarding foreign policies’ dissemination, we have a big goal. It is making innovation in content and form to convey information about Việt Nam more promptly, more accurately and more diversely this year. Those are our major focuses this year. — VNS