Voice for Green Change Partnership Project Launches to Transform Civic Engagement in Bhutan

The EU funded project ‘Voice for Green Change Partnership (V4GCP)’ project was launched today in Thimphu, Bhutan. The project is one of four CSO-led projects that the EU will support and aims to support increased civic engagement in governance and development in Bhutan. This initiative will ensure that all key actors such as the government, parliament, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and grassroots communities work in tandem towards propelling development in Bhutan. This is of particular importance given Bhutan’s graduation from being a least developed country (LDC). The project is anticipated to have a tangible impact on Cottage and Small Industries and Small and Medium Enterprises and CSOs representing them.

In Bhutan, small businesses constitute a significant portion of the economy, representing approximately 90% of all enterprises. A 2022 report from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment indicates that there are nearly 27,000 licensed CSIs in Bhutan, employing over 90,000 individuals. The V4GCP project aims to bring positive change to the CSI/SME sector by catering to both formal and informal enterprises, totaling around 56,000 members. Notably, 66% of these enterprises are led by women, and 33% by men, collectively employing 167,000 individuals, constituting almost 23% of the country’s population.

While small enterprises and CSOs play a pivotal role in Bhutan’s economic well-being, challenges such as limited understanding of policies and private sector engagement, along with weak structural linkages have stalled their growth. The V4GCP project will address these gaps and empower CSOs to become more involved in the country’s economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, and sustainability. Further, the V4GCP project advocates for stronger linkages between key stakeholders in order to bring insights from the community level, into policy development and implementation. Some of the work the project envisages includes empower functioning platforms at the local level, promoting joint research, learning, coordination, knowledge building, business development, and leadership training opportunities to capacitate CSOs.

On the occasion of the launch of the V4GCP project, Mr. Franck Viault, Head of Cooperation of the EU to India and Bhutan said “I am delighted with the launch of a new CSO-led project which aims at forging linkages amongst producers, private companies and decision makers and where Bhutanese Civil Society will play a pivotal role in building capacity, collectively contributing to improving processes and policies.  This is one of four new projects funded by the EU with the aim of empowering local communities and enterprises, to actively participate in the country’s development. The V4GCP project is interesting because of its wide geographical spread[1]. We look forward to its successful implementation and its contribution to Bhutan’s self-resiliency and economic growth”.  

The project was launched by Hon’ble Dasho Dago TsheringLa, the Dy. Chairperson of the National Council of Bhutan. Delegates from government agencies, CSOs, private sectors were also present during the launch.

The project is led by the Handicrafts Association of Bhutan (HAB) in collaboration with Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Association of Bhutan Tour Operators (ABTO), Bhutan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (BAOWE), South Asian Business Association of Home-based Enterprises (SABAH), and Hotel and Restaurant Association of Bhutan (HRAB). The project is funded by the European Union.

[1] Project target 10 dzongkhags, namely (Trashiyangtse, Trashigang, and Lhuentse from the eastern region; Bumthang, Trongsa, and Zhemgang from the central region; Sarpang and Samtse from southern region; and Thimphu and Punakha from the western region.