Agent Orange Day, August 10th: Da Nang Cleanup Project

 

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Agent Orange Day is today, August 10th. It marks the day in 1961 when the U.S. began aerial spraying of toxic herbicides over Vietnam. This year, Agent Orange Day marks the 51st anniversary of that fateful day. On this day we would like to draw your attention to the recent, exciting news out of Da Nang, Vietnam. On August 9, 2012, the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a joint project that will safely and completely destroy the dioxin in contaminated soils at the Da Nang airport. This announcement marks a dramatic new milestone in the collaboration between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments towards resolving the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam 37 years after the end of the war.

Ribbon cutting in Da Nang - August 9, 2012

The August 9th launch represents the product of efforts spanning multiple agencies in both governments and is a significant step forward in making Agent Orange history. We would like to draw your attention to just some of the media coverage that this event is attracting:

 

The Vietnamese Ministry of Defense & the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch a project to clean up dioxin in Da Nang, Vietnam

 

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Da Nang Vietnam, August 8, 2012 –– On August 9, 2012, the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will launch a joint project that will safely and completely destroy the dioxin in contaminated soils at the Da Nang airport. This announcement marks a dramatic new milestone in the collaboration between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments towards resolving the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam 37 years after the end of the war.

Make Agent Orange History_Vietnam_Dioxin_Da Nang Cleanuo Demining

Soldiers work to remove land mines from the site of one of Vietnam's most severe dioxin hot spots, a former U.S. airbase in Da Nang. This is the first step in a joint U.S.-Vietnam effort to clean up this toxic hot spot.

The August 9th launch represents the product of efforts spanning multiple agencies in both governments.  It is also the result of many years of private efforts to address every aspect of the Agent Orange/dioxin legacy in Vietnam.  Walter Isaacson, the U.S. co-chair of the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin and CEO of The Aspen Institute, welcomed the news: 

“This ceremony marks the coming together of our two countries to achieve a practical solution to dioxin contamination. As important, the U.S. government is also devoting more resources to meeting the needs of people with disabilities in Vietnam, regardless of cause.  This is a humanitarian issue we can do something about, and the Aspen Institute is proud of its role in helping to convene the Dialogue Group and advance enduring responses to the Agent Orange legacy.”

The Aspen Institute has served since 2007 as the U.S. secretariat for the Dialogue Group, which includes prominent scientists, environmental experts, and former officials from both countries. The Dialogue Group is co-chaired by Walter Isaacson and Ambassador Ha Huy Thong, vice chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Vietnam’s National Assembly and convened by Susan V. Berresford, former president of the Ford Foundation.

As a follow up to its 2010 Declaration and Plan of Action to address the Agent Orange legacy, the Dialogue Group’s June 2012 Second Year Report offers well-researched recommendations from experts in both countries for addressing the needs of people and families whose challenges may be linked to dioxin exposure, cleaning up all the remaining dioxin hotspots and restoring damaged landscapes. The Dialogue Group is hopeful that its reports will inform each government’s efforts.

The Aspen Institute’s Agent Orange in Vietnam Program (AOVP) is a multi-year project to help Americans and Vietnamese address the continuing health and environmental impact of herbicides sprayed in Vietnam during the war. The program promotes dialogue on solutions to the continuing impact of the wartime use of herbicides in Vietnam. The program provides the U.S. secretariat for the bi-national US-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin and manages the Agent Orange in Vietnam Fund supporting model projects benefiting people with disabilities in Vietnam.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

 

Sec. Clinton Emphasizes the Private Sector’s Role in Addressing the Legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam

 

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During a joint press conference on July 10th with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at the Government Guesthouse in Hanoi, Vietnam, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drew attention to the significant role of the private sector in resolving the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Reflecting on her discussion with her Vietnamese counterpart, Secretary Clinton said:

“As we discussed, I have worked very hard to make sure that the United States is addressing the Agent Orange issue. It is a legacy issue that we are – we remain concerned about, and we have increased our financial commitment to dealing with it. The Minister and I discussed consulting on having a long-term plan so that we can look not just from year to year, but into the future to try to determine the steps that we can both take. The Minister also mentioned the idea of getting the private sector involved in remediation efforts, and we will certainly explore that as part of this ongoing discussion.”

Secretary Clinton’s remarks come at a time when the needs of those affected by Agent Orange in both the US and in Vietnam are being addressed more comprehensively than ever before. While we are moving forward, much more remains to be done. Take a look around the Make Agent Orange History website, and the Get Involved section for more ways you can contribute to the movement of making Agent Orange history.

Read a full transcript and watch a video of Secretary Clinton’s remarks here.

 

Charles Bailey: Why I Care about Agent Orange

 

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Charles Bailey leads the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam Program. He has done more than perhaps any individual to address the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Please watch this short video of Charles explaining his faith, belief in social justice and why he is passionate about ending the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

 

President Obama Calls on America to Stand with Veterans Affected by Agent Orange

 

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During remarks delivered this past Memorial Day at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., President Obama drew attention to the remaining problems associated with the Agent Orange legacy of the war in Vietnam.

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President Obama prepares to speak to a crowd assembled at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Reflecting on the ravages that remain long after the end of a war, President Obama remarked: “Let’s resolve to take care of our veterans as well as they’ve taken care of us — not just talk, but actions. Not just in the first five years after a war, but the first five decades. For our Vietnam veterans, this means the disability benefits for diseases connected to Agent Orange. It means job opportunities and mental health care to help you stand tall again. It means ending the tragedy of veterans’ homelessness, so that every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America. You shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over your heads when you fought on behalf of the country that you love.” (Read full transcript here.)

President Obama’s remarks come at a time when, after decades of inconclusive debate about liability and causality concerning the complicated issue of Agent Orange, the needs of those affected by Agent Orange in both the U.S. and in Vietnam are being addressed more comprehensively than ever before.

While we are moving forward, much more remains to be done. Take a look around the Make Agent Orange History website and Get Involved section for ways you can contribute to the movement to make Agent Orange history.

 

Action Alert: Tell USAID How You Would Solve the Legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam

 

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Make Agent Orange History_Vietnam_Dioxin_Da Nang Cleanuo Demining

Soldiers work to remove land mines from the site of one of Vietnam's most severe dioxin hot spots, a former U.S. airbase in Da Nang. This is the first step in a joint U.S.-Vietnam effort to clean up this toxic hot spot.

On May 16, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it is developing a “comprehensive, multi-year plan for Agent Orange-related activities in Vietnam.” USAID  is inviting all interested parties to submit their recommendations, ideas and comments about how best to end the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

Last year the U.S. government became the largest single foreign donor on the issue of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The USAID request for comment is a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations to contribute their experience and ideas to influencing the approach the U.S. government will follow over the next few years to address this remaining legacy of the war in Vietnam.

The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin has submitted a three-page statement of its recommendations.  These recommendations include cleaning up dioxin at all remaining dioxin “hot spots“, upgrading social services for people with disabilities, advancing disabilities rights, augmenting professional and managerial skills of local partners and encouraging new funding mechanisms.The Dialogue Group’s recommendations to USAID are supported by analyses in its Second Year Report (released May 31st, 2012).

Take Action: Tell USAID your ideas for addressing the toxic legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam »

 

U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group Simulation Inspires Agent Orange Curriculum

 

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In October 2010, Charles Bailey paid a visit to the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Bailey led a two part program dedicated to exploring an innovative approach to addressing the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam: Track II diplomacy.

Students at the Matsunaga Institute simulated the first meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin. Each student was assigned a member of the Dialogue Group to represent and the group discussed critical elements of neutrality, trust-building and framing issues important to working on the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.

The simulation lasted for two hours and all who participated asked to continue the dialogue over the following week.

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Students at the Matsunaga Institute simulate the first meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin.

Out of that inspired program came a new approach to teaching Track II diplomacy. The Matsunaga Institute worked with the Aspen Institute and Active Voice to develop the Make Agent Orange History Track II Diplomacy Instructor Module and Simulation.

Through a simulation with a series of lessons and exercises, students learn the essential elements of Track II diplomacy such as active listening, decision making and the ability to understand and embody differences.

“Track II diplomacy is unofficial meetings between parties who are not acting on behalf of a government,” says Anne Marie Smoke of the Matsunaga Institute. “This approach is especially useful in circumstances where governments or official organizations are at an impasse due to protocol or political concerns.”

The curriculum is available for free online or by contacting Anne Marie Smoke at the Matsunaga Institute.

 

A Public, Private and Sustainable Solution to Disability in Vietnam

 

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The Aspen Institute established the Agent Orange in Vietnam Fund to gather and deploy resources from public and private donors to address the disability issues that remains as a legacy of the war in Vietnam. One of the first projects of this fund is an innovative and sustainable “Public-Private Partnership” in Da Nang.

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HSBC Vietnam CEO Sumit Dutta (far left) announces a grant of $60,000 (VND 1,300,000,000).

The Public-Private Partnership is a partnership between the Aspen Institute, Children of Vietnam, the Cam Le District People’s Committee and many associated agencies and hospitals. It will bring 265 children and young people living with disabilities into Children of Vietnam’s Hope System of Care. (Hope System of Care, developed by Agent Orange Champion Dannia Southerland, provides comprehensive wraparound services such as training, education and rehabilitation services to children and youth living with disabilities in Vietnam.)

According to Charles Bailey, director of the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam Program, what makes the Public-Private Partnership unique is its sustainable funding structure. The initial start-up funding needed to purchase equipment, train staff and bring new children into the program is being provided by private donors, notably the Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels and HSBC Vietnam. After three years, the Cam Le District People’s Committee expects to take over funding of direct services.

“Thanks to the generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels, HSBC Bank, the Cam Le People’s Committee and other donors, we will be able to enroll hundreds of children and youth in this program and vastly improve their lives,” Bailey says. “We hope this partnership will serve as a model for other parts of Vietnam.”

The Cam Le District of Da Nang lies adjacent to the airport which during the 1960s was a major hub for the spraying of Agent Orange and similar herbicides. High levels of dioxin, a toxic contaminant in Agent Orange, are still found at several dioxin “hot spots,” around Vietnam. One of them is at the Da Nang airport. The U.S. and Vietnam launched a project to clean up of the dioxin at the Da Nang airport earlier this year.

At its September 2011 meeting, the Clinton Global Initiative recognized the program as an official “CGI Commitment” and the Aspen Institute is seeking an additional $200,000 from corporate partners and donors to bring another 100 young people into the program.

Each partner’s conscientious concern and meaningful contribution will be highlighted in a most positive way in Vietnam and by the international aid community. If you are interested in contributing to the project, please email info@childrenofvietnam.org.

 

UNAVSA selects Children of Vietnam for major fundraising effort

 

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Every year since 2005, the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) has organized the Collective Philanthropy Project, a collaborative fundraising effort to raise money for a charitable cause chosen by the members of UNAVSA. In past years the Collective Philanthropy Project has raised substantial sums ranging from $32,000 to $60,000.

Make Agent Orange History_Dioxin_Vietnam_Tien Threading Bamboo to make Incense 2011

When Thien was six weeks old, he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Thanks to economic support, medical care and vocational training provided by Children of Vietnam's Hope System of Care, Thien now contributes to the families income by making incense.

This year, the beneficiary of UNAVSA’s fundraising efforts will be Children of Vietnam’s Hope System of Care, a fantastic program which provides individualized wraparound services – ranging from health care to scholarships to economic support – to help children and young people with disabilities.

According to Nancy Letteri, Executive Director of Children of Vietnam, more than 200 children have enrolled in Hope System of Care since the program’s inception in 2007. They are in the process of enrolling another 165 and Ms. Letteri hopes to find funding to support an additional 100 young people.

“The efforts of UNASVA will make a huge difference to the lives of some very precious children whose potential and quality of life is shackled by poverty and lack of access to much needed resources,” says Letteri.  “We are honored to have UNSAVA members’ support. They are incredibly dedicated and committed to giving back to their community.”

To learn more about the Collective Philanthropy Project or to donate, click here.

 

Rotary and U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group Bring Clean Water to A Luoi Valley

 

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For the fortunate few, access to safe water is a given. We don’t worry about toxic chemicals lingering in our water supply, and we don’t develop serious health problems due to contaminated water.

Make Agent Orange History_Vietnam_dioxin_Rotarians in A Luoi

Rotarians visit the site of an irrigation ditch that will soon be replaced with a piped water system delivering clean and safe water to the people of Dong Son.

But for nearly 1300 residents of the Dong Son commune of the A Luoi District in the Thua-Thien-Hue Province of Vietnam, this nonchalance is a dream. Their community borders one of Vietnam’s 28 toxic ‘hot spots’ where Agent Orange/dioxin was stored or sprayed during the war.

Fortunately, thanks to the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group and the Rotary Foundation, the people of Dong Son will soon rest easier. Construction is nearly complete on a piped water system that will bring filtered and safe water from two small dams to the west of the village into the Dong Son commune. The project is designed, built and soon to be operated by the Thua-Thien-Hue Water Company. It will cost $70,000.

The A Luoi Water Project is now fully funded, but there are many more communities in need. Many ‘hot spots’ in Vietnam remain in urgent need of attention. If you are interested in donating money to help those living in these areas, please contact Mr. Nguyen Tien Thinh, a staff representative of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group, at asheng2k@yahoo.com.