Gretchen Murphy

Gretchen Murphy (Survivor Corps in Vietnam): Gretchen has considerable experience of volunteering with human rights prior to her fellowship. Her jobs included working with Amnesty International’s International Justice and Accountability Program, and served at International Service for Peace (SIPAZ) in Chiapas, Mexico where she researched the impact of international organizations on indigenous nonviolence movements. Gretchen also interned at International Crisis Group in Washington DC. Where she focused on the role of new media in advocacy and the role of media in creating change. At the time of her fellowship, Gretchen was pursuing her Masters degree at American University’s School of International Service. After her fellowship, Gretchen wrote: “I witnessed some of the most genuine forgiveness I have ever seen. Although I did run across the occasional angry person (often rightfully so) ALL of the survivors I met were nothing but generous and welcoming to me. It was incredibly humbling.”

Heading to Hanoi!

02 Jul

My first month at LSN-V has been primarily focused on assisting with the preparations for the National Workshop on Victim Assistance and International Cooperation taking place this coming Tuesday in Hanoi.  LSN-V is one of the hosts of the event and I am excited to be able to participate–though I’m a little nervous that I’ve been selected to help facilitate the discussion group made up of Vietnamese government officials.  I will have to be on my best (and most diplomatic) behavior.

This Workshop is the first of its kind in Vietnam and there will be a large contingent of survivors participating, mostly through LSN-V’s involvement.  As the name of the Workshop implies, there are a number of issues to be addressed; I will attempt to unpack them in the most coherent–and least boring–way possible.  Here we go.

Victim assistance essentially bundles up a variety of issues including disability rights, development rights, non-discrimination, public health and more.  The task of the Workshop is to shed some light on how three international conventions-the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT), The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)-provide a framework for a rights-based approach to victim assistance, and why this would be good model for Vietnam.

Well, you might ask, how is a rights-based approach different and/or better from the current approach?  The difference of a rights-based approach is that it shifts victim assistance away from a charity-based model to one of social empowerment and inclusion.  Why is that better?  There are a number of opinions on this matter, but from my perspective, the biggest difference is that a charity-based model is unsustainable.  Charity, despite the best of intentions, often creates dependence.  And dependence, in turn, often exacerbates marginalization and poverty.  Although there are certainly some situations in which a charity-model is most appropriate, such as when the goal is immediate relief, for long-term development it can actually be counterproductive.

A rights-based approach is one that survivors themselves help build.  And from the limited time I’ve been able to spend with the survivors here in Vietnam it is clear that they are already doing just that.  However, without a corresponding shift in policy their efforts will continue to be the exception as opposed to the rule.  So that is the goal of the workshop: push for a change in policy to better reflect the changes already happening on the ground.  Very bottom-up indeed!

By far the biggest concern I have heard from survivors is a lack of employment opportunities.  As Vietnam’s economy continues to grow the gap between survivors and the rest of society is getting wider.  I look forward to watching the survivors raise their voices at the workshop and hopefully get a step closer to closing the gap.

The banner we created for the Workshop that includes survivors hopes and challenges

The banner we created for the Workshop that includes survivors hopes and challenges

Posted By Gretchen Murphy

Posted Jul 2nd, 2009


  • Kim Hoa

    July 2, 2009


    A very good summary, my dear! Thanks for your great job here!

  • David Yogi

    July 4, 2009


    Hey Gretchen! I agree with your argument for why a right-based approach is more fruitful than charity-based strategy, and look forward to hearing how things are progressing in future posts. I hope all is well with you and take care.


  • Shaden

    July 6, 2009



    Hope the conference went well! Keep up the hard work, with a soft heart.

    Peace my friend

  • Heather Dolstra (Zonta)

    July 6, 2009


    A rights based approach might focus attention on some of the most basic issues like: access. When you consider how long it has taken the U.S. to create laws mandating equal access (Disability Rights Act), what an uphill battle in Vietnam where there is nary a curb cut and virtually no ramps for wheelchairs. Talk about having to start from scratch!!

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