HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Bhutan launched a project called Support to Civil Society in Bhutan in Thimphu yesterday.

The project is expected to support about 60 percent of all registered Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and about 200 community-based organisations (CBO), 50 percent of which is expected to be from the 10 poorest gewogs and dzongkhags.

European Union, which funds 90 percent of Nu 171 million fund with HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation will help implement the project in partnership with Civil Society Organisation Authority, secretariat, CSOs and CBOs.

The project is for 40 months with the overall objective of enhancing the contribution of CSOs to Bhutan’s 11th and 12th Plans in areas of sustainable development and good governance. The project has three components – a grant mechanism open to CSOs and CBOs, capacity building, and enhancing the policy environment.

Country director with HELVETAS, Tashi Pem, said that currently the criteria for selection of CSOs and CBOs is broad under the themes of sustainable development and good governance. One of the first activities of the project will be to establish a clear grant application guidelines and criteria and to establish grant management and decision-making processes for disbursement of funds.  “Once that is finished we hope to launch the grant.”

A proposal for the grant will be called through media and local governments twice a year for which all eligible CSOs and CBOs can apply. A committee will screen out the CSOs based on the criteria that will be set. The selected CSOs and CBOs will receive the grant according to their proposals or to an approximate ceiling of around Nu 2100,000 grant per proposal.

Tashi Pem said that along with the funds different forms of capacity development such as training and workshops would also be provided. “We will do capacity needs assessment by the end of this year or by the beginning of next year to understand the capacity needs and gaps so that we know the areas in which CSOs and CBOs need capacity building.”

Tashi Pem said that some development practitioners view development as a result of the execution of multiple projects that contribute to promoting human development and welfare. Others argue that sustainable development can only be achieved if critical structural topics are addressed. “I feel that our project has strategic elements of both these views by seeking to support the work and capacities of CSOs including CBOs, while also looking at the policy environment and partnering with policy makers and government counterparts.”

She said: “We feel that CSOs and CBOs can continue the tradition of helping each other when we see a problem. In any well functioning democracy a well functioning state, vibrant private sector and diverse CSOs are needed.”

Currently, there are 51 registered CSOs and more than 1,000 CBOs in the country.

Karma Cheki