CSOs share their challenges and roles

Bhutan has 54 registered Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) including 42 PBOs and 12 MBOs with the CSO Authority currently. On an average, at least 8 CSOs are registered every year. It is learnt that CSOs in Bhutan are very content playing supplementing and complementing role, however, there are bigger roles a CSO can play.

People do not have the desirable perception on the CSOs and the role they play in nation building, as CSOs are fairly new to Bhutan. Likewise, not having financial support and poor networking of CSOs in the country are seen to be other major challenges faced.

However, with the implementation of the two documents, Government CSO Collaboration Guideline (draft) and Parliament CSO Collaboration Strategy, it would serve to enhance the collaboration between the CSOs and the government and the Parliament.   

The visibility of the CSOs in the country has now improved in recent times, and continue to play an important role of ensuring vulnerable sections of the society are not neglected through the mobilization and sensitization of communities in affecting change.

It has also played an essential role in the context of state services by addressing challenges in development areas of education, health, governance, transparency and accountability, etc.

Executive Director of Bhutan Transparency Initiative, Dr Rinzin Rinzin, shared that with a direct financial support from the government and negligible contribution from the non-government, CSOs has to directly depend upon the development partners from abroad.

He said, “The support are short-term and project based which is another problem, thus some of the CSOs are doing good, so far. Moreover, CSO to CSO networking at the both national and international level is very poor for now, almost non-existent. We have limited linkages with the CSOs abroad to share experiences.”

In addition, there is no desirable perception of the CSOs in the country, as the CSOs are fairly new to Bhutan. People take CSOs as a family business and self-serving. However, they are at the moment creating awareness on the role and mandate of the CSOs.

Those are the major issues the CSOs live on a daily basis. Nevertheless, Dr Rinzin Rinzin said, “We see the opportunity to enhance the collaboration and create networking. To ensure that the CSOs are able to remain vibrant, dynamic and continue to contribute to nation building, there is an urgent need to create an endowment fund.”

Executive Director of Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, Dr Chencho Lhamu, shared that concept of CSOs, as citizens coming together to respond the common problems, is traditionally ingrained in the collective society.

But, she said, “CSOs as an organized entity, in physical, is a new phenomenon which is why people has the least understanding about it, wherein, they are either mistaken for a government or a private sector. This is one challenge.”  

There is a clear distinction between the role of the CSOs and the government, but CSOs is more matured and plays much larger role than just supplementing and complimenting to what government does, she added.

She further said that one gray area between the government and the CSOs is in the area of policy, whereby policy formulation is the job of the government, but in the democratic set-up, an individual can contribute to the discussions.

“That is where the CSOs need to work a little more, in terms of influencing policy area. Many CSOs in Bhutan are small and are clear about our mandates. We are working on to fulfilling our mandates,” she added.

President of Loden Foundation, Sangay Tshering, said that not all the entrepreneurs that are financed by the foundation do well, and they pursue the case to court to get back the money and to hold them accountable.

However, “There were instances, wherein court said we cannot pursue penalty against the person and just to take back the financed amount. We want to make a person responsible and not let them go free. This is how you establish accountability, and this is not happening.”

Are CSOs being considered and heard, he said, even the coordination between the CSOs has not happened.

“Maybe we are just reminded that we are CSOs, and if we can take a lead or if we are the right agencies to do it. So, there is mixed thought and no clarity on what we could and what we cannot do,” he added.

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  1. Mathew Joseph C.

    A good number of CSOs and their visibility are essential for a vibrant democracy to survive…
    This is a very good news

    • CSOs in Bhutan don’t do any kind of activism, most of the CSOs are run like small family business and its has more become a form of getting salary for some many individuals who start these CSOs.

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