The evaluation was part of the country-evaluation program carried out jointly by AFD, the DG Trésor, and the MEAE. This three-year program concerned development cooperation with two representative countries from areas with different forms of partnership. Vietnam has been among the top 10 beneficiaries of French ODA since 2006, and France is one of its main donors. The evaluation targeted bilateral development interventions implemented in Vietnam by the DG Trésor, MEAE, and AFD. The focus was thus more limited than the whole of French financing measured over that period as Official Development Assistance (ODA) according to the definition of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The objectives of this study were to report on French involvement, learn lessons from the French intervention strategy over this period, and to propose possible recommendations for the future. The four main evaluation dimensions were dealt with, i.e. the relevance, coherence, effectiveness, and efficiency of the interventions. Specific reflection of an exploratory nature was moreover carried out on French economic influence in Vietnam.
The evaluation was contracted to the consortium EDATER-LECES (LHP Group). It was based on:
- desk research and analysis of project databases;
- around 20 interviews with managers from the three French financing bodies;
- two field missions to Vietnam, which enabled around 40 interviews with Vietnamese managers, actors in the field, and other international donors present in Vietnam; and
- a survey targeting 52 French companies and organizations that are direct or indirect beneficiaries of France’s development assistance over the timeframe.
The evaluation faced various difficulties or technical limits, especially due to the unavailability of accurate and recent enough Vietnamese sectoral statistics and to changes in intervention contexts and strategies.
- The evaluation concluded that French aid positioning was relevant overall and that its intervention strategy adapted successfully to the local context. A marked characteristic of the intervention strategy was that its operations progressively converged on the crucial theme of fighting climate change, particularly by adapting and becoming more resilient to its effects, to which Vietnam is especially vulnerable. On the other hand, promotion of a more equitable development, which was the target of some specific French interventions implemented, definitely lacked the financial resources to meet the needs that had been expressed.
- The lack of formalized and shared strategy between French and Vietnamese actors brings up the question of the visibility and leverage effect of the interventions. Indeed, the strategic partnership signed in 2013 does not provide precise guidelines on the mobilization of the various French instruments that guarantee, ex ante, good synergy among the French interventions. Enhanced coordination among actors for the implementation of the various projects seems ensured, but more on a case-by-case basis than according to an approach of concerted and planned interventions. Some interventions thus seem to have been carried out in a more scattered approach and for that reason suffered from lack of visibility and potential synergy with the other French interventions.
- The complementarity between French interventions and those of other countries or multilateral institutions was relatively successful in terms of thematic coverage of Vietnam’s needs. France stands out for its interventions that incorporate, in a cross-cutting and nearly systematic way, sustainable development and the fight against climate change. Many other donors, on the other hand, tend to concentrate on other issues. However, some themes, such as water, put several bilateral and multilateral donors into de facto competition. Effective coordination between French aid and aid from other European donors also seemed to be limited.
- Coordination between bilateral and multilateral donors, especially via the group of six development banks in which AFD participates, represents a key factor in ensuring overall coherence of interventions in Vietnam and in negotiating certain key subjects with the Vietnamese government so as to avoid the compartmentalization of the use of these various financing channels and the obstacles to cofinancing.
- Assessment of the interventions and ex-post evaluations, as well as the specific case studies on the four sectors, reveal a satisfactory level of effectiveness with regard to the outcomes obtained. These latter nevertheless remain difficult to assess precisely and quantitatively because of a lack of systematic monitoring of the outcomes and of a relatively low level of capitalization of experiences.
- Effectiveness in project implementation was seen for most of the operations that had a good level of preparation, ownership, and alignment with the Vietnamese procedures. Conversely, the conditions for implementing projects often deteriorated for those that were inadequately prepared, especially in intervention areas enjoying less experience in Vietnam. Furthermore, an instrument such as the RPE (Emerging Markets Reserve) can sometimes create a feeling of lack of ownership on the Vietnamese side, for example when the project manager has not been involved early enough in setting up the operation. This effort in project preparation is all the more crucial because the decision-making processes in Vietnam are restricted by complex and centralized organization that makes any modification during operations difficult.
The evaluators made three recommendations:
- Consolidate the strategic positioning and visibility of the French intervention for two purposes: (i) affirmation of a French specificity and (ii) justification of maintaining development-aid commitments in Vietnam, which are still significant.
- Optimize and highlight the specificity and complementarity of the instruments among French actors.
- Improve the conditions for implementation and project monitoring in view of the short- and medium-term issues.