TOKTEN – Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals. The TOKTEN programme was first introduced in Turkey in 1977 under the auspices of the TOKTEN Global Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The programme aims at mobilizing cost effective technical services of expatriates living abroad to work for short-periods in their country of origin to support the country’s development process. This mobilization effort is referred to as ” reverse transfer of technology” or “brain gain”. Since 1994, the TOKTEN Programme has been operated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV). The TOKTEN programme is currently implemented in 25 developing countries. TOKTEN experts have served governments, public and private sector enterprises, universities and other organisations in fields ranging from agriculture, engineering, and sciences to computer technology, and management. Countries where the scheme has been most successful include Turkey, India, China, the Philippines, Poland and Palestine.

Who are TOKTEN consultants?

TOKTEN consultants are motivated and talented professionals who volunteer their experience to recipient institutions through consultations, advisory services and seminars in areas of national priorities. Their cultural and linguistic affinities, and knowledge of constraints in their home country are added advantages in identifying the special needs of the country. They can further recommend the technologies for adaptation in the priority areas of development in order to deal with both the opportunities and constraints offered by globalization . It is thus a cost effective modality to enlist the best available talent from a pool of expatriate professionals.

TOKTEN is Successful

The UNDP/UNV TOKTEN programme is currently implemented in 25 developing countries. The programme has created databases of highly trained and experienced expatriate experts interested in returning to their country of origin on short-term assignments. In the 1990s, each year more than 400 TOKTEN experts were assigned to projects of between three weeks to three months. TOKTEN experts have served governments, public and private sector enterprises, universities and other organisations in fields ranging from agriculture, engineering, and sciences to computer technology and management.



It is estimated that there are approximately two and a half million overseas Vietnamese living in about 100 countries around the world, primarily in the USA, France, Australia and Canada. Given this and the growing interest of overseas Vietnamese to return to their homeland, TOKTEN has a rich pool of highly talented and experienced professionals from which to draw. The Government of Vietnam recognises the potential resource available in this expatriate community and wants to create the appropriate conditions to attract the overseas Vietnamese community to make their contribution to the social and economic development of their country of origin.

Previous TOKTEN Programmes in Vietnam

TOKTEN was first initiated in Vietnam in 1989, and in the decade since, two projects that include TOKTEN recruitment have been completed. The first TOKTEN project developed a roster of 194 potential expatriate consultants and established relationships between Vietnamese organisation’s and the organisation of each fielded consultant. Sixty requests for consultants were received and 20 TOKTEN consultants were placed between 1990 and 1992. The first TOKTEN project focused mainly in the area of science and technology. A list of the receiving organisations includes the Institute for Scientific and Technological Strategic Studies, Institute for Medical Equipment, Ben Tre Committee for Sciences, Institute for Computer Science and the Hanoi Polytechnic.

Following on from the recommendations from the first TOKTEN project, the “Umbrella Programme for Expert Services” was established in August 1995. The project’s objectives were to strengthen the capacity of non-state organisations to plan, manage and deliver services that contributed to the development of the market economy and, to recruit volunteer consultants who provided specific advisory and training services to reinforce the country’s effort to foster non-state business activities. The main activities under this project included 21 short-term business training courses (mini MBAs) for nearly 700 participants, and “business clinics” providing management advice. By the end of June 1998, 51 volunteers had been recruited under this project, including 20 TOKTEN consultants of which, ten were from the USA, eight from Canada, one from Australia and one from Switzerland.

New Initiatives for TOKTEN Programme in Vietnam

The Sixth International TOKTEN Conference held in Beijing in May 2000 highlighted that TOKTEN is a unique and valuable concept, and a powerful expression of volunteerism among expatriate nationals under the UN umbrella. In particular, information technology has created greater opportunities for TOKTEN. Country specific TOKTEN web sites have shown tremendous capacities to reach beneficiary institutions and expatriate nationals interested in becoming TOKTEN volunteer experts.  The conference provided the impetus for the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese (COV), the national TOTKEN focal point in Vietnam, and UNDP to assess the overall achievements of TOKTEN and to explore new strategies amidst the changing global and local environment. It was therefore agreed to renew the TOKTEN programme in Vietnam.

TOKTEN Roster Development Programme in Vietnam

This programme aims to ensure a needs-based approach to the use of TOKTEN volunteers and mainstreaming of TOKTEN into regular project development activities. This approach requires the development of a TOKTEN database/roster that maximises the potential of TOKTEN. It would ensure the widest possible choice of candidates for every identical position and the ability to recruit overseas Vietnamese for any project or organisation by providing useful, up-to-date information. The roster will not only be extensive but also be updated regularly, in line with availability of candidates and changing national needs.

Management of the TOKTEN Roster Development phase

The government of Vietnam has appointed the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese the national counterpart for the Vietnam TOKTEN Programme. The TOKTEN Selection Committee has been established to guide global TOKTEN procedures and relevant selection criteria. The committee consists of representatives from relevant ministries, agencies, and UNDP to be headed by the Vice-Chairman of the Committee for Overseas Vietnamese.

The Working of TOKTEN

TOKTEN assignments are implemented through a process of need and supply. Domestic institutions determine which skills are needed and the TOKTEN Programme identifies the most relevant TOKTEN consultant to fit these needs. The TOKTEN Programme follows a standard selection procedure approved by the TOKTEN Steering Committee. TOKTEN consultants are considered volunteers but they receive travelling expenses and a living allowances.

Becoming a Vietnam TOKTEN Consultant

As this is a Roster Development phase of TOKTEN in Vietnam and in order to respond quickly to requests from domestic institutions/organizations for consultants, the Vietnam TOKTEN Programme is inviting applicants with professional experience in any discipline egs: management and finance; production, manufacturing, and industry; education, research, and training; health; agriculture and environment; information technology; to be included in the recruitment roster database. For more information on how to become a TOKTEN Consultant and to learn more about the minimum standards required to apply please contact the Vietnam TOKTEN Programme below.

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