Meeting with Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Dy. Managing Director, Department of Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service (EEAS). Photo: International IDEA
A 10-member Bhutanese parliamentary delegation led by Chairperson Tashi Dorji of the National Council of Bhutan visited the Belgian and Danish Parliaments on a study tour between 27-31 March 2023. The tour was a unique opportunity for Bhutanese parliamentarians to broaden their understanding of the international norms and standards of mature democratic parliaments.
In Brussels, the Secretary Generals of the Belgian Senate and the House of Representatives received the delegation. The Bhutanese MPs met with relevant officials and counterparts wherethe Belgian parliamentary systems, gender representation, committee functions, library, and archival systems were reviewed. The delegation had fruitful discussions with Mr. Andries Gryffroy, first vice president of the Belgian Senate, on how Belgian parliamentary institutions and politicians engage with citizens and Civil Society Organizations.
The role of Civil Society Organisations and media in some of the Parliamentary affairs is something that we here in Bhutan can learn from as we have already embarked on engaging CSOs and media fraternity with the generous support from EU and technical assistance from International IDEA through Project ‘Nyamdrel,” said Hon, Dawa, an MP in Bhutan’s National Assembly.
Following a meeting and discussions on legislative and policy mechanisms to ensure gender equality in Belgian society and Parliaments with Honorable Karin Jiroflée, Chair of the Advisory Committee on Social Emancipation of the House of Representatives, the delegation observed live committee proceedings of the Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Senate.
Further, the delegation met Ms. Evelyn Regner, Vice President of European Parliament and Ms. Paola Pampaloni, Deputy Managing Director of the Department for the Asia and Pacific of the European External Action Services. The delegation leader thanked the European Union for their continued support to the Royal Government of Bhutan. His Excellency also thanked the EU for their financial support for Parliament and CSOs’ capacity building through INTER PARES and Project ‘Nyamdrel, implemented by International IDEA. Also, the delegation witnessed a plenary session of the European Parliament.
In Denmark, the delegation called on the Speaker of the Danish Parliament, His Excellency Søren Gade. His Excellency Tashi Dorji conveyed the greetings of His Majesty the King and people of Bhutan to the people of Denmark. He also thanked Denmark for the longstanding support provided to Bhutan. The delegation discussed with Danish parliamentary officials on issues ranging from the country’s parliamentary system, workings and structures of 30 odd parliamentary standing committees, management of Parliament-Press relations, engagement with CSOs and youth participation and education in deepening democratic values and culture in the country.
“Our visit to Belgium, European Union and Danish Parliaments was special. It provided us with the opportunity to engage in conversations that revolved around the functions and need of Parliaments to evolve to be in constant innovative mode to respond to the aspirations of the people they represent. In the discussions we had and lessons we learnt, one thing was stark and clear that a responsive Parliament must be able to strike a good balance between parliamentary traditions, political pragmatism and needs of the people,” said Hon. Passang Dorji, a National Assembly MP.
The visit provided the delegation an opportunity to understand and learn about parliamentary best practices of the two advanced countries – which are also vibrant democracies. Parliamentary delegation hopes to apply some of the concepts and practices in the context of Bhutanese parliamentary system.
The delegation was composed of six members of the two Houses of Parliament, Secretary General of the National Assembly and officials of the two Houses’ Secretariats. The Project Manager of the Project ‘Nyamdrel, International IDEA, accompanied the delegation. The delegation expressed its gratitude to the EU for funding and the International IDEA for arranging this important and fruitful five-day study visit. Ms. Ingrid Walker, Programme Manager, INTER PARES project, International IDEA helped the Bhutan project in organizing this important study visit.