Civil Society and Democracy
Civil society is an intriguing revelation to our country. It is so captivating that large sections of Bhutanese intelligentsia have closely looked upon it and sensed it as a new medium that can seriously boost Bhutanese society-especially in terms of dealing with complex social set up. Such noble institution can indeed reinforce and refine existing Bhutanese social setting and it can ultimately lead to a design of a vibrant democracy which we Bhutanese yearn for.
Then, what is this so called civil society? How can a lay man comprehend about such institution? Why is there need for such body? What makes such civil society to grow? These are the immediate questions which need to be answered in the most simplest-convincing manner by civil society in our country.
One thing is definite-Civil Society cannot be directed by the politicians nor can it afford to dance upon the tune played by business community. Chauvinistic character, syndicate like attitude, excessive bureaucratic temperament and showy outlook of any such body can never be termed as a civil society.
Around the world there are few tainted and ambiguous- hyped groups existing in the name of civil society which in actuality seek fame and fund-and faction to sustain themselves. Such organization has enormous tendency to generate communal sentiment, communal assembly and confusion among people from various social background. Moreover, such body will breed corruption, disrupt normal functioning of the society and consequently people will be skeptic to such organization.
A real civil society can never ever politicize and at the same time won’t hang its tongue and be a puppet to any political party or business community. Again, it would also be naive on part of good civil society to exploit and toy with extremists and emotionally sensitive people in the society. Therefore it is obligatory for such body to be aloof from politics and power. And at the same time with much matured approach it can definitely create a sound social network. Thus, maintaining its independency and authority to function itself as separate entity in the society.
If you examine the nature of civil society-It is not mere charity association but a commune that is firmly inspired by deep sense of volunteerism. It is a foundation that exclusively believes in collective responsibility to strengthen and stabilize the community. Civil society itself is an institution-a model which believes in advocacy through hands on experience by public themselves. It’s a righteous copy that every other sector should be animated to help this body to grow in its own space and should integrate some of its innovative programmes.
Before discussing its role towards enhancing democracy, first it is extremely essential to understand why such organization comes to an existence. Civil society develops-first due to discrepancy between the different social class and second due to degradation of man himself and environment around. To be specific –economically if you examine-the gap between “Haves” and “Haves not” is getting wider, environmentally- natural resources and animal kingdom are fast fading and if you view politically, people are arranged in various bloc and alienating themselves and morally- spiritually mankind is becoming more elusive from it. Even culturally people do not value their originality which further devalues their existence. And psychologically people are becoming impotent. Old-poor-diseased-physically challenged people, kids and woman still do have hard time to find their place in the social setting. Discrepancy and degradation in these domains of man’s life has lead to a chaotic and selfish society. So-either due to sheer desperation or inspiration to fix physiology of imbalanced social order-civil society started to mushroom.
Now, let us look at its role. Civil society is indeed synonymous to democracy. Any democratic country without civil society is no democratic country at all. Civil society is embodiment of emancipation, freedom and equality-just like the ideology of democracy it focuses upon social well being and believes in peoples’ power. Thus, it becomes mandatory for such organization to create a platform where people from all walks of life can experience a deep sense of freedom to express themselves intellectually, emotionally and culturally. When such freedom is given it can act as a medium to compliment the government and business community for noble cause and if these two bodies tend to fail to uphold their social responsibility then it can act as their conscience.
In our Bhutanese context, we have numerous civil societies in the form of formal and informal body. Some are registered in the form of non government organizations and some are mere congregation but effective in fulfilling their set objectives in the society.
For instance RENEW (Respect Educate Nurture and Empower Women), Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy, Youth Media Centre, GNH Center Bhutan, Bhutan Youth Development Fund-in fact all these civil societes can enhance the democratic setting in the country. After all these civil societies, they create a space where people can come forward to mutually work together for the social cause. It acts as medium in which everyone is encouraged to join in the collective decision making concerning public interest.
Furthermore, it is acting as a school of advocacy which educates people to seek for their equal rights. It simply teaches the people to treat people equally, safeguard their rights and make them feel secure in our society irrespective of their social backdrop. Thus, it is fair to say that like democracy-civil society in Bhutan is-of people, by people and for people.
With strong and broader guiding principles and secular strategy-approach-and with selfless members, any civil society can withstand amicably face to face with the government and private sector. In fact, those civil societies which can easily reach to the mass and inspire public from various social back ground and make them to be a part of it can overwhelm the government and private sector which may ultimately lead to reckon and embrace civil society as third sector in the public domain.