Although there is collaboration between the civil society organisations (CSO) and the government, the relationship was found to be “quite shallow and limited” today, a study on cross-sectorial interaction in Bhutan found.

Saroj Nepal from Gonefel Consults, the firm, which conducted the study, found that only three percent of the fund was received from the government in the last five years while the rest were mobilized from donors. “It was disappointing to find that although there were provisions for CSOs to participate in the five-year plan, the key result area in the draft did not mention anything related to CSOs,” Saroj Nepal said.

This was shared during a panel discussion at the on-going Societal Leadership summit 2017. The summit was themed building civil society in Bhutan: an inclusive approach to the development of Bhutan society yesterday. The summit is taking place at the critical juncture when the government moves into the 12th Plan that is focused on strengthening co-ordination, collaboration, and consolidation among the public, private sector, and civil society.

“The study also found that some CSOs were not really involved with government projects and CSO has to seek fund from donors to implement the projects,” he said.

Dasho Neten Zangmo from Samdrupjongkhar Initiative said when the CSO has to work at the local level, the mindset of the people becomes the biggest obstacle. She cited structured government procedures like the annual performance agreement, which restricts people from working with the CSOs.

“But we should build trust, we should reach out to them and find joy in working together,” she said. “We’ve been proposing for long that if we can integrate our plans with the government.”

Sriven Naidu from Singapore Management University said it is not just money that the CSO should seek for, but interactions, collaboration and sharing of knowledge. “Maybe the CSOs could find an issue that needs government’s attention and you could work with government. We should be innovative, get government on our side, let the government take the credit but you do your work.”

The summit was organised to inspire ideas and greater commitment to foster collaboration across sectors to overcome Bhutan’s most pressing societal issues and problems. The summit in collaboration with the Institute of Societal Leadership, Singapore Management University, and CSOs, was organised by the Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy with support from Helvetas Intercooperation.

Yangchen C Rinzin