More than a decade after its enactment of troubled implementation and overall institutional capacity, the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Act of Bhutan 2007 is tabled for amendment at the National Council (NC).

Legislative committee chairperson and NC eminent member, Phuntsho Rapten said that NC as a House of review saw these issues and felt the need to amend the Act.

Foreign Affairs Committee reviewed the Act initially and observed weak monitoring by the CSO Authority and several informal organisations were raising funds. “It’s important to review and see what kind of risks it poses,” Phuntsho Rapten said.

Later, the Legislative Committee was directed to review the Act based on the consultations and initial findings.

“We reviewed based on the principles such as safeguarding the country’s security, balanced and coordinated CSO, strengthening the capacity of CSO Authority and Secretariat, and harmonising the existing provisions,” Phuntsho Rapten said. “Based on these principles, consultation was done and we proposed the amendments.”

He added that the amendment is to ensure it boosts CSOs’ growth through the Act given their contributions to the communities. 

The amendment will also strengthen CSO authority and secretariat to have enough human resources to have constructive and productive decisions.

The committee proposed amendments of about 20 sections including seven new subsections in the Act. However, following the deliberation, some members did not agree with certain sections.

The Chairperson asked the committee to further re-deliberate the sections with the members. The Bill after the re-deliberation will be tabled again for adoption.

Phuntsho Rapten said that while some were sceptical about the amendment of the Act, the amendment was not to restrict the registration but to strengthen the Act and the CSOs.

There are 63 registered CSOs in the country and another 25 are awaiting registration.

Some of the new sections recommended included providing adequate human resource and financial support to the CSO Authority. Some members said that these issues need not be mentioned in the Act but others said the Act should be clear and exhaustive.

The new section states that the Authority shall be provided with adequate human resources to enable it to exercise its powers or functions efficiently.

The Bill also states that the government should make adequate financial provisions for the independent administration of the Authority as part of its annual budget.

By Yangchen C Rinzin 

Edited by Tshering Palden