CSOs in Bhutan
A civil society is comprised and defined as groups or organizations working in the interest of citizens but operating outside of the governmental and for-profit sectors. There is no denying that civil society in Bhutan existed long before the Bhutanese people knew what civil society actually meant. As a nation steeped in the values of Gross National Happiness, acts of community and volunteerism came naturally to the Bhutanese since ancestral times, but the concept of formalized civil society emerged only in the late 1980s. Over the centuries, isolated rural communities practiced interdependence among members of the community. For example, acts such as the exchange of labor contributions in the community are age-old traditional practices in Bhutan.
The role of CSOs has evolved since then into one that is a credible force in Bhutan’s development process with activities complementing the government’s efforts and playing a passionate role in the development of the country. Civil society entities were formalized after the registration of CSOs in 2010. For a small country like Bhutan, CSOs play a major role in mobilizing and sensitizing communities; drawing attention to new development challenges; promoting accountability; and becoming service providers in areas of need, such as education, health, and governance.
In Bhutan, CSOs are now being recognized as a partner in development as their role among Bhutan’s vulnerable populations and in civil society are important now and will continue to be so in the future. Since the Civil Society Act was instituted in 2007, the number of CSOs in Bhutan continues to grow. Today Bhutan has over 50 registered civil society organizations and they are divided into Public Benefit Organizations and Mutual Benefit Organizations.
Public Benefit Organizations (PBOs)
There are currently 42 Public Benefit Organizations (PBOs) registered with the Civil Society Authority. Their mandates and activities are oriented towards service delivery working with vulnerable groups of society (e.g. the poor, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence, unemployed youth, livelihood opportunities for girls and women) while others work on topics as diverse as the environment, animal welfare and research on music.
Bumthang Health Association
Phensem Parents Support Group Bhutan
Phuentsholing Sports Association
Mutual Benefit Organizations (MBOs)
A total of 12 Mutual Benefit Organizations (MBOs) are registered with the Civil Society Authority and are focused on specific trades such as associations of industries, tourism operators, filmmakers, and artists among others.