Young Bhutanese democrats sign Bhutan 1st Children’s Parliament Constitution

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It has been nine months since 15 year old Sangay Chophel from Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School became the Gross National Happiness Captain for his school. With this new responsibility, he has been monitoring issues such as school environment cleanliness and substance abuse among others.

Sangay was the second highest voted candidate during the Democracy Club school election and secured 374 votes from a total of over 1,300 voters. “I think I won over the voters with my oratory skills and my commitment to address some of the most pertinent ongoing youth issues,” he says proudly.

Sangay was one of the 153 students from across the country who gathered at Punakha Dzong on June 2 for the historic signing of the Constitution for the Bhutan’s first-ever Children’s Parliament (BCP).

The Bhutan Children’s Parliament will meet twice yearly, bringing Bhutanese youth together to discuss issues of common concern. Through this, children and youth will be able to submit their proceedings to the Prime Minister, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Opposition Leader and other senior officials.

Christina Carlson, the Resident Coordinator of UN in Bhutan said, “Bhutan Children’s Parliament is an important platform to give voice to and engage the largest segment of the Bhutanese population in the democratic process. Youth population constitutes 50 percent of the total Bhutanese population.”

Ten year old Tshering Yangchen was one the youngest parliamentarians from Gasa Primary School. Addressing the gathering, Tshering said that the initiative has provided children a platform to express their opinions and to be a part of Bhutan’s democratic journey in the years to come.

Pledging his support for BCP, Jigme Zangpo, the National Assembly Speaker said that the parliament will support this ‘noble initiative’ in the best ways possible. He added that such initiatives will go a long way in enhancing youth participation in the democratic process of the country.

In 2013, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB), established Democracy Clubs across schools in the country to help youth learn the principles and practices of electoral democracy. It is a part of ECB’s mandate to promote public awareness on electoral matters by conducting education and information dissemination programmes.

Addressing the student participants from all across the country, Chief Election Commissioner, Dasho Kuenzang Wangdi said that BCP launch has been timed well as this year also marks the 60th birth anniversary of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, who played an instrumental role in introducing Bhutan to democracy in 2008.

Phuntsho Wangdi, a 16 year old student from Autsho Middle Secondary School in Lhuentse said, “This is a reminder for us as to why our monarchs always emphasized that the future of the country lies in the hands of the youth.”

Shaheen Nilofer, UNICEF Representative to Bhutan, while congratulating the Election Commission of Bhutan on this initiative said, “in a vibrant democracy, children and young people are equal stakeholders, and every effort to provide youth with space to participate in civic and other matters that affect them will directly contribute to the strengthening of democratic outlook of the country.”

The Children’s Parliament was developed by the Election Commission of Bhutan in collaboration with the National Assembly of Bhutan. The launch of the Constitution for the Bhutan Children’s Parliament was supported by UNDP Bhutan and the Swiss Development Cooperation through UNICEF Bhutan.

For more information
Pushkar Chhetri, Communications Analyst, UN RCO, pushkar.chhetri@undp.org

Annamari Salonen, Portfolio Manager, Inclusive Governance Unit, UNDP

annamari.salonen@undp.org

Aniruddha Kulkarni, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF. ankulkarni@unicef.org

SOURCE: UNDP, 03/06/2015, http://www.bt.undp.org/content/bhutan/en/home/presscenter/articles/2015/...