Building Civil Society – a CSO Retreat

Posted by Tempa Wangdi, April 10th, 2018







CSOs came together to work towards a nation-building through increased collaboration and coordination.

Civil society organisations in Bhutan are committed to working together to
contribute to Bhutan’s nation building efforts through increased collaboration
and co-ordination. To do this, CSOs must have the support of the Royal
government and play a larger part in the 12 th Five Year Plan period.
This was the conclusion of a 2.5 day CSO retreat that brought together 43 CSO
participants from 35 organisations including one community based organisation.
The retreat was aimed at strengthening networking amongst the CSO fratenity,
and to identify some strtegic directions to enable CSOs to realise their collective
vision and mission adopted in 2017.
Noting the importance of a strong civic space for citizens in a democracy, CSO
members discussed strategic ways to take the CSO vision and misson forward.
The meeting ended with a compilation of some key opportunitites that would
lead to a more enabling environment for CSOs and other informal groups and
associations to thrive in Bhutan. Among several key strategies — the CSO retreat
decided on the following:
1. The need to call on government to create guidelines to enable CSOs to be
partners in the 12 th five year plan period. This would include reviewing
current modalities of development funding and enabling development
partners, like UN agencies, to work directly with CSOs.
2. The importance of working with government to develop a policy for civil
society growth as an important third sector in society alongside the
government and the private sector.
3. Improve advocacy and lobbying on civil society work to create more
awareness amongst the general public, government and other partners.
Participants expressed a need and urgency to work collectively to create a space
for civil society to develop and be more effective in serving many unmet needs of
Bhutanese society.
The retreat adopted a draft framework to create an improved environment for
CS to develop and operate. Members said they now realise the importance of
working more closely, and to be united in seeking support for the CSO fraternity
from government and corporate agencies. The retreat provided opportunity for
CSOs to bi-laterally discuss possibilities for collaborative work in the future.
This is the third annual CSO retreat. Past retreats have enabled participants to
review existing Legislation governing CSOs, and to co-create a common vision
and mission.
“ The retreat has really helped us to understand what CSOs are about and how
we can play a role in society,” said a newly registered CSO.

“ We were able to understand why we must come together and I wil share with
my organisation about this important development. We will do our best to
collaborate with oher CSOs,”
“As Bhutan’s 12 th five year development plan is being put in place, CSOs must
come together to adocate for our inclusion in Bhutan’s development process,”
said a founder and director of …
As the retreat ended, many members said that while they are focuseed on their
own organisations priorities on a daily basis, the meeting helped them to better
understand the role of civil society today, and the critical need for CSOs to
The retreat was held in Kharbandi and was supported by the European Union /
Helvetas Interco-operation.