Usually the Ruling Party, Opposition Party and the National Council can be trusted to have three different views on the same issue, but this was not the case when it came to discussions on the Civil Society Organizations Amendment Bill in the last two sessions.
There were concerns raised on the governance structure of CSOs, conflict of interest, transparency, financial issues etc.
Members rightly raised the matter of dangers of the rise of briefcase CSOs in Bhutan like in India and Nepal.
These CSOs are there either to just make a quick buck or push vested interests and agendas.
Many members also raised concerns over the Financial transparency of the CSOs and how some of them could be more about earning money.
This is an important area of concern as currently while permission is required from the Home Ministry to publicly solicit funds, it is being raised directly or indirectly without following the rules.
There are also issues in the governance structures like boards, secretariat etc for CSOs and how people are appointed there or how they operate.
It is important to state while there are issues with CSOs there are many organizations in Bhutan that are not even registered as CSOs, but operate like CSOs raising large amounts of money but with no accounts or what is being done with it.
Some of them may even be working contrary to national laws and priorities.
CSOs are an important part of the nation’s development process and they can play an important role in various fields.
However, it is also important to ensure that existing CSOs are professional and regulated well.
It is also equally important to ensure that those organizations that are not registered as CSOs are not allowed to do things reserved for CSOs like raising funds or working on the ground in certain fields.
There is no point in making strong laws for registered CSOs and then letting the rest do what they want.
Care must also be taken to ensure that we do not have excessive CSOs or even ones with extremist views and actions that are not in consonance with Bhutan’s laws and ethos.
Otherwise, our very future is at stake.
Rule of law is the most important element in any civil society.–Mo Ibrahim