To increase community ownership and public inclusiveness in the community discussions, the department of local governance has developed a community engagement guideline.

According to the guideline, the Community Engagement Programme (CEP) will support management of local surroundings and community facilities with activities such as cleaning and anesthetic beautification of the village, waste management, management of cultural monuments and properties, and coordinate management of village festivals.

The guideline was developed under the support to community engagement in local governance (SCLG) project. The three-year project is aimed at strengthening ownership and engagement of community groups in local governance.

The CEPs will also coordinate support to senior citizens, support activities to prevent man-made disasters such as fire, promote national arts and crafts, initiate and promote green development activities such as recycling, organic farming, and provide administrative and management support for community development activities such as road construction and maintenance.

At the high-level stakeholders meeting held on May 22 in Thimphu, the department of local governance with technical assistance from JICA presented the final draft of the guideline.

A local consultant, Tshering Chophel, said community engagement in the country is minimum and that the communities are dependent on the orders of the central government system.

He said that for better inclusiveness and quality engagement, the guideline introduces the formation of a community engagement programme (CEP) in each village.

Home secretary Sonam Topgay said the department could look for a community to test the guideline. “The guideline has to be a success story to be emulated in other dzongkhags.”

He said that although there exist traditional mechanisms of public participation such as the village zomdus, studies have pointed out that such mechanisms could be strengthened to make them more effective. “Community engagement forms an important basis for local governance and therefore it is critical subject of concern for the home ministry.”

As part of the SCLG project, which began in August 2013, workshops on community engagement were held in pilot dzongkhags and gewogs.

Two gewogs each in Dagana, Mongar, and Punakha were chosen to pilot the project. About 520 local governance officials and community members were trained on community facilitation, planning and prioritisation.

Phurpa Lhamo