Democracy: The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) has clarified that the Bhutan Children’s Parliament was initiated as part of its mandate to promote public awareness on the electoral process.

Questions about the legality of the Children’s Parliament have been raised from some quarters of society, including some Members of Parliament (MP). An MP recently wrote on his Facebook page, asking whether the sessions of the Children’s Parliament were a “drama” or “joke”.

Issuing a press release on January 11, the ECB said that the Children’s Parliament was initiated based on Sections 35 (b) and 36 (f) of the Election Act.

These provisions according to the ECB, specify the responsibility of the commission to promote public awareness on electoral matters by conducting education and information dissemination programmes or by any other means.

The ECB has said the Children’s Parliament was initiated to take democracy clubs further.

Democracy clubs in schools and other learning institutions were initiated by the ECB to organise events and activities that promote understanding of the Bhutanese electoral system and processes. Democracy clubs also promote democratic governance and institutions, and encourage student participation in the school’s or educational institution’s decision-making process.

The parliament functions in accordance with the Constitution of the Bhutan Children’s Parliament, which was adopted on June 2, 2015 at Punakha by the democracy club members.

The ECB has stated that the Children’s Parliament is gaining momentum in promoting democracy and is a matter for rejoicing and a reassurance for the future. The parliament is a platform to prepare children for their roles and responsibilities as potential leaders through means and mechanisms in a real-life setting.

The platform, according to the ECB, has promoted active engagement, constructive participation and harmonious resolutions of differing opinions based on research, debate, deliberation and consensus building, which are hallmarks of a vibrant democracy.

The second session of the first Children’s Parliament was held from January 3 to 6. An orientation programme for the children MPs was also held prior to the session.

During the orientation, the children MPs were briefed on various aspects of the electoral system. They also interacted with various senior leaders and related organisations to explore the role of youth in democracy.

The Children’s Parliament passed 17 resolutions, which will be submitted to His Majesty The King, the Prime Minister, Speaker, National Council Chairperson, education minister and other relevant stakeholders. The resolutions are a representation of the children’s views, concerns and proposals for possible consideration in the overall decision-making process.

The resolutions include proposals based on concerns regarding facilities in non-Central Schools, students’ diet, stipends for boarding students and Daily Sustenance Allowance for students attending various programmes.

The Children’s Parliament is held at the Democracy House (ECB head office) in Kawangjangsa in Thimphu.

MB Subba