International IDEA and the Parliamentary Centre, Canada, partnered to organize a training on Legislative Drafting and Legislative Process from 3rd to 11th of March in Thimphu, Bhutan, for the members and staff from the two chambers of the Parliament of Bhutan. 32 participants attended the training of which 21% were female. 11 members of parliament were among those who participated.
The Constitution of Bhutan provides parliamentarians with the authority to initiate legislation. In order to do that members need to rely on the competent support of parliamentary staff who help with the drafting of bills. Given that the next session of Parliament is scheduled to start on 8th May 2015 the training provided an opportunity to build skills and knowledge that can be put to immediate use.
The training was delivered by Edgar Schmidt, an experienced legislative drafter and trainer from Canada who has also assisted other countries under Parliamentary Centre projects. The training combined a series of presentations related to legislative process and legislative drafting with practical exercises. Using a blended learning approach (learning by doing), the training also provided an opportunity to put into practice the legislative preparation techniques where the participants were given specific drafting assignments which they had to work on for several days. The assignments were then reviewed and commented upon with immediate feedbacks by the trainer as well as other participants in a seminar approach style.
In their feedbacks to the training, the participants testified that it has resulted in significant improvement of their knowledge and acknowledged that the newly acquired skills are highly relevant and important to their profession. For the vast majority of the participants, no prior training on the subject has been offered nor do they have any legal educational background.
The Parliament of Bhutan has expressed interest in continued support from International IDEA and the Parliamentary Centre, noting key needs such as the development of legislative drafting manual to guide the work of those who draft laws and more in-depth practical training on legislative drafting techniques. As noted by Mr Kinley Tenzin, Deputy Chief Legal Officer from National Council of Bhutan “In future all aspects of legislative drafting should be covered, in the absence of a proper drafting manual in Bhutan, it is better to incorporate all aspects of legislative drafting and drafting exercise.”`
The training was supported by the Norwegian-funded project titled “Bhutan Parliamentary Support” with its stated outcome as “Enhanced capacity of the Parliamentary Secretariats in providing efficient and effective professional services to the National Assembly of Bhutan (NAB) and National Council of Bhutan (NCB) members and committees”. The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently approved more funding to International IDEA’s support to Bhutan until mid-2016.