Initiatives launched to transform civic engagement in Bhutan


The Voice for Green Change Partnership (V4GCP) Project to Transform Civic Engagement in Bhutan was launched by the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan (HAB) on 18 January.

This project aims to support increased civic engagement in governance and development in Bhutan. The project is one of four Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)-led projects that the European Union (EU) will support.

According to the HAB, this initiative would ensure all key actors such as the government, Member of Parliament (MP), CSOs, and grassroots communities work in tandem towards propelling development in Bhutan which is of particular importance given Bhutan’s graduation from being a least developed country (LDC).

The project is anticipated to have a tangible impact on Cottage and Small Industries (CSI) and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and CSOs representing them.

During the launch of the project, the Head of Cooperation of the EU to India and Bhutan, Franck Viault, said, “I am delighted with the launch of a new CSO-led project which aims at forging linkages amongst producers, private companies and decision makers and where Bhutanese Civil Society will play a pivotal role in building capacity, collectively contributing to improving processes and policies.”

He said that this is one of four new projects funded by the EU to empower local communities and enterprises, to actively participate in the country’s development. The V4GCP project is interesting because of its wide geographical spread[1]. “We look forward to its successful implementation and its contribution to Bhutan’s self-resiliency and economic growth.” 

The project is planned for three years from 2024 to 2026 which is targeted in ten Dzongkhags. In the first year, the project will look at reviewing the existing policies, rules, and regulations, then studying the existing platforms for CSI/SME-CSO engagement and inviting parliament committees to review the CSOs’ participation in decision-making.

In the second year, the project will be voicing the recommended changes to enhance supportive policies, implement strategies to strengthen the existing platforms and build parliament capacity to engage CSI/SME-CSO in decision-making.

Finally, for the third year of the project, it will constituent engagement program (CEP) with MPs, and evaluate the media-CSO collaboration.

Executive Director for HAB, Chorten Dorji, said that it is the beginning of a transformative journey that upholds the promised landscape of carbonless development in our CIS and SME sector.

“As Bhutan is undergoing some major reforms CSO and SME sectors must step up and actively contribute to the goal of the transformation,” he said.

He said CSI/SME sector and the CSO representing them are facing numerous challenges reflecting the diverse needs and aspirations of the Bhutanese people.

At the core of the V4GCP, Chorten Dorji said is the collaboration. “We aspire to bridge the public and the private sectors, CSO and the government to create an environment where all the stakeholders are actively engaged in decision-making.”

The press release from the HAB states that in Bhutan, small businesses constitute a significant portion of the economy, representing approximately 90 percent of all enterprises.

A 2022 report from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment indicates that there are nearly 27,000 licensed CSIs in Bhutan, employing over 90,000 individuals.

Further, HAB states that the V4GCP project aims to bring positive change to the CSI/SME sector by catering to formal and informal enterprises, totaling around 56,000 members. Notably, 66 percent of these enterprises are led by women, and 33 percent by men, collectively employing 167,000 individuals, constituting almost 23 percent of the country’s population.

The project will address these gaps and empower CSOs to become more involved in the country’s economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, and sustainability.

Further, the project advocates for stronger linkages between key stakeholders to bring insights from the community level, into policy development and implementation.

Some of the work the project envisages includes empowering functioning platforms at the local level, promoting joint research, learning, coordination, knowledge building, business development, and leadership training opportunities to capacitate CSOs.

Meanwhile, the project is led by the HAB in collaboration with the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Association of Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO), Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE), South Asian Business Association of Home-based Enterprises (SABAH), and Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB).


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