EU to focus assistance on civil societies and local authorities
The European Commission will be assisting the Royal Government with €42 million under the new EU - Bhutan cooperation programme for the time period 20142020 as known as the Multiannual Indicative Programme (MIP) . The assistance will be finalized during the visit of European Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs to Bhutan from 21 till 26 October. The assistance will be provided to Bhutan in moving towards its overall goal of achieving self-reliance and inclusive socioeconomic development as identified in the 11th Five Year Plan (FYP) as part of the philosophy of ‘Gross National Happiness’.
According to the press release from the EU the priority sectors following consultations with the Royal Government of Bhutan and other development partners has been identified as civil society and local authorities which the government highlighted decentralization towards the local ‘gewog’ (geographical administrative unit in Bhutan) level as its priority under the 11th FYP with the ambition to ensure more substantial transfers from central to local budgets. Moreover, new elections for the local governments are foreseen to be held in 2016. The EU became a signatory to the ‘Partnership for Good Governance’ in 2011 and then started funding the Local Government Support Programme (LGSP). The programme was evaluated in 2013 as a groundbreaking flagship project supporting local governance through innovative practices for financial decentralization, local administration development and service deliv-
ery. The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have only been emerging since 2008. Their ability to voice people’s opinions and influence policy making is still at a very early stage. Bhutan passed the CSO Act in 2009 and established the CSO Authority in 2010, a governmental body which registers CSOs and ensures communication and liaison between CSOs and state institutions. As of April 2013, about 31 CSOs were registered with the CSO Authority.
Development partners have contributed since 2010 to the CSO Funds Facility, a temporary mechanism aimed at enabling non-state actors (media, civil society and private sector) to contribute to Bhutan’s democratization and modernization. In coordination with other development partners, EU assistance will support this mechanism, as well as dialogue between CSOs and public institutions at central and local levels. The support will also include efforts to strengthen public finance management in Bhutan.
The second priority the EU assiatance will focus is the Sustainable agriculture and forestry – The Renewable Natural Resources (RNR) sector takes a prominent role in the 11th FYP.
Due to limited areas of land available for agriculture (about 2.9% of the land is used for agriculture and about 70.5% of the land area is covered by forests),
Bhutan faces food security issues and is dependent on food imports from India. The vast majority of the Bhutanese population lives in rural areas where the sustainable use of natural resources is vital in view of its fragile environment (the slopes of the Himalayas are strongly affected by climate change). There is a need to develop local agricultural production and commercial farming and to address national and household food security. The forestry sector is also vital to increase Bhutan’s resilience to climate change. The EU is a major player in the renewable natural resource sector in Bhutan. EU support to this sector has represented the backbone of EU-Bhutan cooperation since the early 1980s.
In addition, Bhutan is benefitting from other cooperation programmes, namely, SWITCH-Asia (a grants programme funded through the Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI) that promotes sustainable consumption and production among consumers, small and mediumsized enterprises and Asian policy-makers in 15 Asian countries) - one project on sustainable tourism for €1.08 million is ongoing since January 2013 for 3.5 years and one project on greening public procurement in Bhutan for an amount of €2.13 million started in January 2014 for 3.5 years.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) project on rural livelihoods and climate change adaptation in the Himalaya, with an EU Contribution of €10 million covering the region of the Himalayas.
The EU assistance to Bhutan for the period 2007 to 2013 amounted to €14 million which were assisted on renewable natural resources and good governance.