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War Legacies Working Group Member Profiles

Profiles of War Legacies Working Group member organizations, their milestone achievements, and priority needs or opportunities

The war the United States waged in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos did not end for the people living there when the shooting stopped in 1975. Explosive bombs and mines stand in the way of using affected land for productive economic purposes. The dioxin legacy of Agent Orange continues to impact several hundred thousand people born with disabilities, as well as American veterans and their families. The war’s consequences continue to affect human health, sustainable development, and the safety and well-being of families in former war zones. Addressing these consequences of war is not just the humanitarian thing to do, it also creates opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships with our former enemies. Such initiatives sustain peace, provide pathways for livelihood development, and improve diplomatic and economic ties.

The War Legacies Working Group (WLWG) is composed of member organizations and individuals active in the war legacies issue area. Below is an overview of the members and member organizations of the War Legacies Working Group, including their mission statements and a priority needs and areas of opportunity that they are working to address.

Center for International Stabilization and Recovery (CISR) at James Madison University

Mission Statement: As a global leader in connecting people, resources and ideas, CISR envisions peaceful and prosperous futures for communities impacted by conflict. In fulfilling its mission, CISR provides management training for organizations that clear land contaminated with explosive hazards (including in Vietnam in 2015), conducts peer support training and capacity-building for disability rights organizations, and works with James Madison University faculty to

develop tools and conduct research to help communities and individuals rebuild their lives in post-conflict environments.

Organizational Milestones: CISR’s work in Vietnam has included being one of the first international NGOs to provide mine risk education in the country (1998-2000), as well as a capacity-building project (2012-2015) educating NGOs in planning, marketing, and communications skills to promote the country’s disability rights laws and facilitate their implementation, which reached 386 participants from 68 organizations. In addition to risk education and disability rights, in 2016 CISR successfully developed a beta version of a mobile GIS tool for surveying land contaminated with explosive hazards that was used in Vietnam to map the geolocation of hundreds of explosive hazards, including cluster munitions, for safe demolition.

Need or Opportunity: As successful as these projects were, follow-on has been hindered by lack of funding. Continued efforts to teach people about the risks of explosive hazards, educate people with disabilities about their rights under the law, and provide technology to clearance organizations is fundamental to improving the quality of life for the people of Vietnam.

Charles R. Bailey – Author from Enemies to Partners: Vietnam, The U.S., and Agent Orange

Charles Bailey headed the Ford Foundation in Vietnam from 1997 to 2007 and then directed the Agent Orange programs at the Ford Foundation and the Aspen Institute until 2014. His work helped bring about a breakthrough on Agent Orange between the U.S. and Vietnam. As a grant maker he paved the way for the clean-up of residual dioxin from Agent Orange, piloted best practices to assist severely disabled victims of Agent Orange, and established a Track II process for hastening progress on Agent Orange and creating a better-informed public in the United States.

Organizational Milestones: Bailey was the advisor on the 2016 Oscar-nominated short documentary, Chau-Beyond the Lines, a coming-of-age story about a Vietnamese teenage boy born with disabilities linked to Agent Orange who aspires to become an artist.

See: https://vimeo.com/143147224.

In 2018 Bailey and his co-author, Le Ke Son, published From Enemies to Partners: Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange, a comprehensive analysis of the consequences of Agent Orange and the steps the two countries have taken to address it. The book appeared in Vietnamese in 2019. From Enemies to Partners has become the standard reference on this subject. Please see: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/enemies-partners-vietnam-u-s-agent-orange/.

Need or Opportunity: Vietnam’s victims of Agent Orange need more help. Today, sixty years after the first spraying of Agent Orange in Vietnam, several hundred thousand Vietnamese, most of them children and young adults, are living with severe physical and often mental disabilities. American assistance needs to reach many more of them, providing direct help and building family and local community capacities so they may lead lives of greater dignity and comfort.

Legacies of War

Mission Statement: Legacies of War’s mission is to advocate for US funding of unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance left behind from the American Secret War in Laos (1964 – 1973). Legacies also advocates for victim assistance and pushes for greater education surrounding the history of the Vietnam War and contemporaneous conflicts in Southeast Asia.

Organizational Milestones: Legacies is proud to partner with Senator Baldwin (D-WI) on the Legacies of War Recognition and UXO Removal Act. If passed, this landmark bill will authorize $100m for 5 fiscal years for UXO clearance and victim assistance in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. We are currently working to recruit bi-partisan support of the bill and reintroduce it in the fall of 2021.

Need or Opportunity: It has been over 5 decades since the last bomb was dropped and less than 1% of the UXO that remains in Laos has been cleared, posing a serious threat to the safety of the people and the country’s overall progress. On top of the ever-present threat of UXO, light has recently been shed on widespread Agent Orange contamination in Laos and the ongoing health effects it has on civilians – yet another deadly legacy of war caused by our country.

Mines Advisory Group

Mission Statement: Mines Advisory Group (MAG). Our mission is to save lives and build safer futures. We do this by partnering with the U.S. State Department to clear landmines, cluster munitions and other exploded bombs and by reducing the impact on communities of small arms, light weapons and ammunition.

Organizational Milestones: As the first and longest running mine action INGO in Vietnam, MAG has, over the past 22 years removed and destroyed over 356,000 items of unexploded ordnance from land contaminated by the legacy of war and returned over 164 km2 of safe land to the Vietnamese people for proactive use. This has directly benefited over 1,024,000 men, women, boys and girls by ensuring their personal security and safety whilst at work and in their communities. 

Need or Opportunity: As the foremost donors of humanitarian mine action in Vietnam the US Government are facilitating the removal of unexploded ordnance that contaminates all the Provinces of Vietnam, with current funding focused on the clearance of its two most contaminated Provinces. With the increase of funding over the last 5 years greatly adding to the handover of safe land, clearance remains the priority and it is essential for momentum to continue, so increased or at a minimum sustained continuation of funding at current levels is vital to ensure the maximum impact of clearance is maintained for the Vietnamese people.

Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) at George Washington University

Mission Statement: Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) of The George Washington University has collaborated with universities and research institutes in Vietnam on joint research, training, and executive education. In Washington, PISA has organized numerous events in order to give voice to Vietnamese activists and humanitarian organizations that strive to heal the wounds of war.

Organizational Milestones: In 2019, PISA hosted a week-long series of events titled Waging Peace, a highlight of which was the participation of leading Vietnamese and American activists dealing with Agent Orange and UXO issues. Coverage of the event was covered by C-SPAN and is still being viewed.

Need or Opportunity: Given our university base, we see that there is a role for educational and scientific exchange with Vietnam to provide training in technical aspects of assistance for those impacted by Agent Orange and UXOs as well as how to remediate these harms. This will also create the means for persons with disabilities to be fully integrated into society.

Peacetrees Vietnam

Mission Statement: PeaceTrees Vietnam’s mission is to address the legacy of war by removing dangerous explosives, returning land to safe use, promoting peace and cultivating a brighter future for the children and families of Vietnam. Thanks to the generous support of the US Government and more than 900 citizen diplomats, we have made meaningful progress towards our vision of a Vietnam completely cleared of dangerous unexploded ordnance and in assisting communities with their safety, resilience, education and economic success goals.

Organizational Milestones: Over the past 25 years we have:

  • Cleared over 3,170 acres of more than 110,636 unexploded bombs and mines, and returned land back to individuals and families in Vietnam
  • Built 20 kindergartens, 12 libraries, 2 community centers and 100 family homes, and provided the 3,187 children who have attended a PeaceTrees kindergarten daily nutritious meals at school
  • Distributed 2,776 scholarships to children impacted by mine accidents and ethnic minority children with financial need

Need or Opportunity: Despite this progress, explosive ordnance continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of children and families across central Vietnam. Sustained support for demining work from the US Government will save lives, address war legacy issues, and strengthen bilateral relations between the US and Vietnam.

RENEW (Project RENEW) 

Mission Statement: RENEW works to make Vietnam safe by clearing bombs, cluster munitions and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the most bombed place on earth, Quang Tri Province, Vietnam.  RENEW is an integrated local organization addressing UXO survey and clearance and many other legacies of war – including the key components of risk education, community reporting of UXO, rapid emergency response and assistance to affected families and communities.  

Organizational Milestones: Over its 20 years of operations, RENEW’s 230-member all-Vietnamese team and its NGO partners have removed and destroyed over 750,000 bombs and other items of UXO, educated 160,000 children about the dangers of UXO, provided artificial limbs and wheelchairs to over 2,000 victims and other disabled persons, and provided micro loans and other assistance to many families of UXO victims.   RENEW fields Vietnam’s only all-women Battle Area Clearance Team, and now has trained and certified a new all-women Emergency Response Team to be deployed in September 2021.  RENEW’s donors recently formed a US tax-exempt charitable organization to advance RENEW’s mission.

Need or Opportunity: For many years RENEW and its partner, Norwegian People’s Aid, have been trusted allies of the US Government in UXO survey and clearance.  It is essential that the increased funding in recent years be maintained to reach the goal of effectively clearing Quang Tri Province, a job which is far from done.  RENEW expects to seek additional funding to expand its Agent Orange remediation and assistance to families. Moreover, when funding is available, RENEW’s model is readily scalable for RENEW to help form similar organizations in other UXO-affected provinces in Vietnam.

Roots for Peace 

Mission Statement: Roots of Peace focuses on the world’s most vulnerable farmers and traders, supporting the removal of the remnants of war and restoring agricultural productivity and prosperity by introducing farmers to new methods and technology, improving export marketing techniques and creating strategies for ramping up food exports to lucrative overseas markets. As a result, we have helped export more than 160,00 metric tons of fruits, nuts, and spices valued at more than $350 million to international markets, impacting more than one million farmers and families.

Organizational Milestones: With modest funding since 2011, Roots of Peace has been working in Quang Tri province, the epicenter of the Vietnam War, planting over 300,000 black pepper trees, improving the export market for black pepper, and supporting over 3,000 smallholder farmers, including women. Many of these farmers have also lost limbs due to cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance that still hold the land hostage. The return on investment has been $1.1 million with a $3.6 million annually in improved incomes.

Need or Opportunity: Our work to restore economic prosperity to smallholder farmers, including women and ethnic minorities is far from complete since 75% of the land remains contaminated by explosive remnants of war. Our work can contribute to bringing to a closure the last chapter of the Vietnam War.

The Halo Trust

Mission Statement: The HALO Trust is a large humanitarian landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) removal organization whose mission is to protect lives and restore livelihoods of those affected by conflict. As a long-time State Department partner, HALO addresses lethal explosive hazards in Southeast Asia to keep families safe, and, as you may recall, conducts advocacy in Congress to increase support for demining programs worldwide, including in Vietnam.

Organizational Milestones: Though more resources are needed, thanks to your support while in the Senate, since 2016, funding for U.S. demining efforts in Vietnam have increased by about $7 million, and regionally by about $25m. And, since 2012, we have destroyed over 575,000 landmines and items of UXO in Cambodia and Laos, many of which originated from Vietnam War era conflicts.

Need or Opportunity: In addition to legacy munitions from the Vietnam War, Vietnam also suffers from landmines left behind from the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. The Vietnamese government has requested international assistance in clearing these deadly devices, offering a new opportunity to deepen the US/Vietnam bilateral relationship and demonstrate US humanitarian leadership in a region where the US is competing with China for influence.

The Landon Carter Schmitt Memorial Fund (LCS Fund)

Mission Statement: The LCS Fund was established in the Summer of 2009 as a memorial to our younger son who died in Vietnam in June 2009 after living and working in Vietnam for five years. To date, the LCS Fund has raised more than $700,000. The mission of the LCS Fund is to provide direct support to disadvantaged children in Vietnam, a population that was very close to Landon’s heart and which he supported both financially and with the gift of his time. The first and largest project of the LCS Fund to date was to provide funding to build and now maintain a residential school for visually impaired children in Dong Ha, Vietnam located in Quang Tri Province in the central highlands. Quang Tri Province is the center of much of the collateral damage of the Vietnam War – Agent Orange and unexploded ordinance.

Organizational Milestones:

  • Built a residential school for visually impaired children in Dong Ha. Recently built a football field for the school. Provide ongoing financial support for program needs.
  • Built two kindergartens and 10+ water treatment facilities.
  • Provided significant financial grants, including support for victims of the pandemic (COVID), and regular counsel to several NGO’s in Vietnam including Children of Vietnam (my wife, Dabney, is a board member), Pacific Links Foundation (I am a member of the board of Advisors), Roots of Peace, and Saigon Children’s Charity.
  • Annual trips to Vietnam (18 to date) to meet with senior government officials, both Vietnamese and American, corporations, and other NGO’s to raise awareness of the needs of the impoverished in Vietnam.
  • Established close and ongoing working relationship with Vietnam’s AMB to the United States and his staff. Pre-pandemic hosted several dinners each year at our home to bring together organizations and individuals who are interested in war legacy issues and humanitarian efforts in Vietnam.
  • Met with President Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam in NYC (9/21/2021).

Need or Opportunity: Agent Orange will remain a problem for generations. Funds for treatment and support of victims is a priority. Clearing unexploded ordinance (UXO) needs to be expanded to other provinces in Vietnam and educational initiatives should be expanded.

Vietnam Legacies Project, Human Rights Center, University of Dayton

Mission Statement: The Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton advances human rights by supporting evidence-based, participatory, and transformational advocacy. Unlike other groups that promote human rights as a legal issue, the Center’s niche is our focus on how human rights take shape through daily lived experiences, systems, practices and interactions.

Organizational Milestones: The Center’s Vietnam Legacies Project uses a transitional justice framework to understand and address the enduring legacies of America’s war in Southeast Asia. In our recently released report, Coming to Terms with Legacies of the Vietnam War, we establish connections between war legacies and social divisions in the US today.

Need or Opportunity: By enhancing Americans’ understanding of the physical, political, social, and psychological effects of the conflict, we hope to strengthen awareness and dialogue among all stakeholders. There is a particular opportunity for the US government to affirm its commitment to the peace-building efforts of US veterans and local civil society groups operating in Southeast Asia, as well as to draw lessons and practices for addressing the ongoing impacts of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Vietnam War Legacies and Reconciliation Initiative, United States Institute of Peace

Mission Statement: The United States Institute of Peace is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical and essential for U.S. and global security. USIP’s Vietnam War Legacies and Reconciliation Initiative supports public education, government-to-government and people-to-people dialogue examining the extraordinary arc of U.S.-Vietnam relations, including efforts to come to terms with our difficult history.

Organizational Milestones: USIP launched its Vietnam initiative in August 2021 with a discussion forum among U.S. and Vietnamese officials on the Vietnamese Wartime Accounting Initiative and how it fits into broader efforts to overcome legacies of war. This event built on the success of a 2019 conference, Overcoming War Legacies: The Road to Reconciliation and Future Cooperation between the United States and Vietnam, hosted by the U.S. and Vietnamese governments in partnership with USIP.

Need or Opportunity: U.S. public and Congressional support is urgently needed to complete the work of addressing war legacies from Agent Orange, UXO/landmines, and missing persons from both sides of the conflict. USIP believes that cooperation on war legacies is an essential basis for strengthening the former enemies’ partnership and consolidating what has become a model reconciliation process.

War Legacies Project

Mission Statement: The War Legacies Project (WLP) is a Vermont-based global nonprofit organization that works with, and in, vulnerable communities in Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, and in the U.S., to raise awareness about, and address, the ongoing legacies of Agent Orange and Explosive Remnants of War. We work to help those who have been impacted by war to build new legacies for themselves and their families.

Organizational Milestones:

For the more than twenty-years WLP has raised awareness about the on-going health and environmental impacts of Agent Orange in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia and successfully advocated for the US government to fund programs in Vietnam to aid persons with severe disabilities in the areas that were heavily sprayed with Agent Orange and to clean up dioxin contaminated hotspots. With donations from the family and friends of Bob Feldman, a US veteran who died from Agent Orange-associated cancer, WLP has also provided direct assistance to over 500 children with severe disabilities believed to be caused by Agent Orange by supporting their medical care, providing scholarships to attend school and helping improve their family’s livelihood and/or housing.

Need or Opportunity: Addressing the very sensitive issue of the health and environmental impacts of war legacies such as Agent Orange has helped to foster stronger relations between the people and the governments of US and Vietnam and to help build the trust that is vital for international peace and security. Expanding support to address the impacts of Agent Orange and Explosive Remnants of War in Vietnam, as well as in neighboring Laos and Cambodia, will further strengthen the relationship between former enemies, serve as an example to other nations.

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