Workshops in the Kingdom of Bhutan!

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) together conducted a 3-day BRIDGE Electoral Contestants module workshop from 19 to 21 March 2012 at the Tashi Namgay Resort, Paro. 

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) together conducted a 3-day BRIDGE Electoral Contestants module workshop from 19 to 21 March 2012 at the Tashi Namgay Resort, Paro. 

This workshop formed part of a BRIDGE program conducted in Bhutan across 2011, 2012 and continuing into 2013.  Funding is provided by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The workshop was directed at ‘Executive Members, Prospective Candidates and Senior Officials from existing and aspiring political parties’ The objective of the workshop was to provide, prior to the Second Parliamentary Election in 2013, an opportunity for political parties to take part in this election ‘on sound footing and with a positive and harmonious post-election political culture’. It did this through discussions that built confidence and knowledge about contesting future elections.

The workshop was opened by the Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, who in his address spoke of political parties as an essential component of representative democracy in Bhutan. He emphasized their responsibility to promote national unity and progressive economic development. He discussed this for the wellbeing of the nation, without any form of discrimination. He also encouraged a strong and sustained organization and adherence to the national strategies and goals.

Dasho stated that the ECB was prepared to take an active role in encouraging and guiding current and emerging parties in their understanding of and commitment to Constitutional provisions, electoral law and administration. He encourage all present to make the most of the material and activities in the workshop in order to address their needs and requirements. He was encouraged that this workshop facilitation included a number of national resource persons who will in due course be able to take over responsibility for such workshops in the future.

The content of the workshop was diverse with topics including electoral systems and parties; contestant guiding principles and codes of conduct; accountability and electoral fraud; registration and nominations; party platforms and campaign development and management; dealing with the media and electoral complaints; and party funding and disclosure. The activities were mostly interactive, with much discussion, debate and with personal experiences shared between participants. It was pleasing that those who had already had the experience of contesting an election were generous in sharing this experience with those new to the process.

The workshop had 23 participants and was delivered by BRIDGE facilitators Kinley (ECB), Beatrice Barnett (AEC) and Brian Latham (AEC). Support was provided by national semi-accredited facilitators Sonam Tobgyal (ECB), Sherab Zangpo (ECB) and Tashi Dema (GAO).

Participation throughout the workshop was, after an initial uncertainty, lively, often passionate and always interested.

Feedback from participants included requests for further such workshops and for extra time to delve deeper into matters raised, and particularly, an appreciation of the opportunity to share and learn from past experiences and to debate current issues.

The Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) together conducted a 5-day BRIDGE Introduction to Electoral Administration module workshop from 26 to 30 March 2012 at the Tashi Namgay Resort, Paro.  This workshop formed part of a BRIDGE program conducted in Bhutan across 2011, 2012 and 2013.  Funding is provided by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID).

The aim of the workshop was to provide, as part of their training in the lead up to the Second Parliamentary Election in 2013, an opportunity for some members of the ECB who had never before experienced BRIDGE to participate in this foundation module where they would be introduced to the participatory and interactive BRIDGE methodology and learning style. The workshop was directed at ECB delimitation and store assistant officers from all the 20 electoral districts in Bhutan. There were 32 participants over the course of the workshop.

The content of the workshop was by definition an introduction to various activities from the suite of BRIDGE modules, chosen and adapted to suit the inexperience of the audience and modified/expanded where applicable to the Bhutan situation and the ECB requirements. The activities were mostly interactive, with much discussion and some lively debate between participants and facilitators.

The workshop was delivered by BRIDGE facilitators Kinley (ECB), Beatrice Barnett (AEC) and Brian Latham (AEC) and national semi-accredited facilitators Sherab Zangpo (ECB), Tshering Peldon (GAO), Tashi Dema (GAO) and GemTshewang (ECB  – extra support ). The semi-accredited facilitators gained valuable experience in BRIDGE facilitation and are well on their way to receiving full workshop accreditation at future workshops.

Participation in the workshop was initially hesitant, as BRIDGE methodology and content was a new experience for all participants. However, as their familiarity with the interactive and participatory method grew and as also their confidence in their ability to speak their opinions and ideas developed, the participants became extremely engaged and vocal, particularly in group work and increasingly in their presentations.

Feedback from participants was extremely positive. Each learned something new and felt the real importance of their own role in the ECB organisation as well gaining a greater appreciation of their contribution to the whole electoral process. They were particularly enthused about opportunities and their ability to now carry out an electoral education and voter information role.

The workshop was closed by the Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, who, in his address to his staff, spoke of the importance of the individual roles for each of these officers (all of whom were new to the ECB since the previous election) and of the need for them to use the experience and learning gained from the workshop once they returned to their places of employment. He emphasized that having had exposure, mostly for the first time, to a wide range of factors concerning electoral principles, best electoral practice and procedure, they should be confident to strive for excellence and to use their initiative and creativity to look for better ways to do their jobs and to be forceful in putting their ideas forward.

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