In 2021, the U.S. Institute of Peace launched a multiyear project to foster greater dialogue both in and between the United States and Vietnam on war legacy issues and reconciliation. This project stems from the U.S. Congress’s landmark 2021 authorization for the U.S. government to assist Vietnam in identifying its missing personnel, following decades of Vietnamese cooperation to help the United States conduct the fullest possible accounting of U.S. personnel. This project will support this bilateral initiative while also engaging in the work that remains to address legacies of war — including the continuing impacts of Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance — and to deepen reconciliation.

Since the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in 1975, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship has traveled an extraordinary road, from enmity and war to an increasingly close strategic partnership, driven by shared interests and built on decades of work to build trust and to address the enduring impacts of the war.

Villagers in Tien Chau. (Paul Hosefros/The New York Times).
Villagers in Tien Chau. (Paul Hosefros/The New York Times)

Cooperation between the two governments — supported by efforts from civil society, including veterans organizations — has helped address the impacts of Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance and helped both sides identify the remains of missing personnel. Meanwhile, people to people exchanges, ranging from veterans exchanges to major initiatives like U.S. support to establish Fulbright University Vietnam, have fostered connectivity and built trust between our societies. Yet nearly 50 years following the end of the war, more work is needed to address its legacies; to more deeply connect our two countries; and to use the story of U.S.-Vietnam relations as evidence that peace is possible and practical.

This project aims to further advance reconciliation through people-to-people engagement; to build and sustain U.S. support for addressing the war’s legacies in the coming decades; and to highlight lessons from the U.S.-Vietnam experience that could apply elsewhere in the world. This project will include public events, multimedia and publications and bilateral track 2 and 1.5 dialogues.

Featured Resources

Senator Patrick Leahy at the U.S. Institute of Peace on March 26, 2019.

Overcoming War Legacies

Event Webcast and Podcast

The road to reconciliation and future cooperation between the United States and Vietnam.

Latest Publications

Keith Mines on Secretary Blinken’s Trip to Colombia

Keith Mines on Secretary Blinken’s Trip to Colombia

Thursday, October 21, 2021

By: Keith Mines

As Secretary of State Antony Blinken travels to Colombia, USIP’s Keith Mines notes there is still work to be done in implementing and expanding the 2016 peace agreement with the FARC insurgency, saying that “consolidating the peace in a place like Colombia was almost as hard as fighting the war itself.”

Type: Podcast

Global Policy

Iraq’s Election Raises More Questions Than Answers

Iraq’s Election Raises More Questions Than Answers

Thursday, October 21, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shia cleric whose Mahdi Army followers battled U.S. forces during the years of the occupation, made big gains in Iraq’s parliamentary election on October 10. His victory could pose problems for the United States and Iran. But despite the Sadrist List’s electoral success, it is not a given that al-Sadr will be the next man to lead Iraq, or even be the only kingmaker. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun examines the outcome of the election, the electoral process and the implications for Iraq’s future.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

 Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Friday, October 15, 2021

By: Jasmine Dehghan ; Sandrine Nama

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un tel changement est une tâche extrêmement complexe et une ville du Burkina Faso a élaboré un plan de réformes locales avec un processus pour gérer cette complexité.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Democracy & Governance

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: Jasmine Dehghan; Sandrine Nama

This year’s escalation of violent turmoil in Africa’s Sahel—widened jihadist attacks, military coups or attempts in four nations, and continued high civilian casualties—underscores that years of work to reinforce military and police forces have failed to reduce instability. To undercut extremism and violence, countries must improve governance, and recent analyses underscore the particular need to build people’s confidence that their governments can provide justice and fair resolutions of popular grievances. Such change is an immensely complex task—and one town in Burkina Faso has shaped a plan for local reforms with a process to manage that complexity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Democracy & Governance

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

In Africa, U.S. Should Focus More on Democracy, Less on China

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: Thomas P. Sheehy; Paul Nantulya; Gustavo de Carvalho

Even as the United States draws lessons from its unsuccessful, 20-year effort to build a sustainable peace in Afghanistan, it is shaping policies to engage the political and economic rise of Africa. Both the shortcomings in Afghanistan and the opportunities of Africa underscore the imperative of building policy on a full appreciation of local conditions. Yet on Africa, China’s growing presence has seized Americans’ political attention, and scholars of African politics say this risks distracting near-term U.S. policymaking. A requisite for U.S. success in Africa will be to focus on Africans’ desires—which include an ambition to build their futures by democratic means.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Democracy & Governance

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