Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy

by The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)
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Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy
Empower Bhutan's Citizens to Engage in Democracy

Project Report | Dec 28, 2020
Towards Educating Youth and Citizens

By Zulkee Choden Rinzin | Communications Officer

The Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation
The Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation

Youth Initiative – Learning the Ropes of Social Media Campaign

“Now more than ever, as a part of the generation that grew up with the internet, I believe it is the role of all young Bhutanese to become media literate in a world that is constantly bombarding us with overwhelming amounts of raw information. So my expectations for this summer camp is to … learn how we can use social media to become good participants of democracy” (Teacher at Rukubji Primary School & Youth Initiative (YI) Participant).

Building on the learnings and achievements of the winter camp where 20+ YI participants reviewed the National Youth Policy (NYP), the YI summer camp began with a lot of excitement! In its seven years of running, this has been the first time that it has been taken on an online platform with the participants joining from various parts of the country. Nonetheless, the conversation and attitude remained focused on the silver lining that this pandemic has provided in making us experience the potential that technology has in bridging distances and conserving resources.

The participants discussed the meaning, significance and relevance of Social Media Advocacy Campaign which remains the theme for the virtual summer camp.

Starting with their 60-second advocacy pitch, the 7th cohort of YI members launched their campaigns on various social media platforms. After examining the issues from last winter’s review of the NYP, the members came up with four issues to develop further into advocacy campaigns: Share your story (mental health awareness), #IWish (Education), Highlighting responsible stories (Governance) and Every job is noble (Economy).

All projects were up on Facebook & Instagram, where the members shared messages based on their content calendars developed after receiving training on leveraging social media platforms and tools. “The only way out of this mess was to grow stronger and let no one look down on me. As time passed, all the hate that I received never bothered me…it always made me feel like I can be an independent person so that I can walk down my path.” (Excerpt from Health & Wellbeing group).

Continuing to strive towards sustained youth engagement in policy dialogue and deliberation, the members, presented their learnings and challenges from carrying out their respective pilot Social Media Advocacy Campaigns at the closing ceremony. The members received feedback from those in the audience to think about ways to reach youth who are not on social media and to think about the sustainability of their pilot campaigns.

Within a month of campaign launches, the members were collectively able to receive a total of 3,000 ‘likes’ on their pages and an estimated 85,000 total ‘views’ on their video content posted. The learnings and skills from running virtual social media campaigns will prepare them to become advocates for the NYP when it eventually gets passed.

We thank CISU for your support in making YI possible. 

Youth Voices: Youth Matters Report 

‘Youth Voices: Youth Matters’ report will become a useful resource for both policymakers as well as youths with interest in socio-political matters of Bhutan, as it captures a youth-led, youth-driven and youth-centric model of engagement and participation within policy. This approach marks a significant change in Bhutan where youths have traditionally been seen as passive recipients of policy decisions and not as stakeholders that need to be engaged and consulted. 

The report provides the entire National Youth Policy (NYP) revision process by Youth Initiative (YI) members; it includes their own review of the policy, their roles in leading consultations with 114 other youths of Bhutan from various walks of life, and also the online survey that was launched to widen the reach to 1,099 other youths. 

However, the most treasured section of the report consists of pertinent and extant issues that have been identified across various thematic areas by youths themselves and corresponding solutions and interventions that they would like to see implemented. The report weaves together the ‘big picture’ of the landscape that youths navigate in Bhutan through a large quantitative set of data; with the indispensable testimonials and revealing glimpses into the thoughts of youth through the qualitative data gathered during the consultations. 

You can now access the report here:


This report is supported by UNICEF, Department of Youth and Sports and Ministry of Education.  

Reset! At the Media Lab

‘Reset! at The Media Lab’ puts young recent graduates and those looking for jobs in direct conversation with thought leaders, practitioners, academia and others from diverse walks of life to discuss matters revolving the socio-cultural, economic and political landscape of the country.

In ways more than one, the COVID pandemic has forced us all to ‘hit the reset’ button as individuals and societies are affected indiscriminately. Everything from the micro to the macro level has been affected. Previously invisible gaps and shortcomings in our systems and way of conducting ourselves have been made much more visible. As such, Reset! at The Media Lab will provide the platform to revisit the various aspects governing Bhutanese lives and society to recognise the shortcomings and gain clarity on charting the way forward. So far, three sessions have been organised which are further detailed below.


1. Governance in Modern Bhutan

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who is swimming naked” – Warren Buffet

Mr Ramakrishna incorporated this metaphor in his presentation to compare it to the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing out that most countries were unprepared and caught by surprise. His insights on emerging stronger through digital paradigm shift aptly characterises the urgency of a digital transformation needed in sectors such as governance.

Dasho Kinley also compared this to Bhutan’s context when discussing the persisting challenge of the gap between the planning and implementation of the policies. He also emphasised on how COVID-19 brought these key governance challenges, such as the need for developing a proper house addressing system, to the forefront.

This discussion on governance enabled the participants to assess the similarities of issues faced both by Singapore and Bhutan such as management of the migrants in the labour force.

2. Institutions: How Do They Matter?

The session highlighted the concept of “Institutions being the projections of societal beliefs” to help present a holistic understanding of the topic. The conversational exchange revolved around how collective values enshrined in norms, lay the foundation for both the formal and informal institutions in a society.

Dasho Sangay, a former member of parliament, spoke on formal institutions as being more than infrastructures such as parliament, and the role of community in formalising social practices over time to strengthen the existing informal institutions. Dr Sonam, a curriculum developer in values education at the Royal Education Council, pointed out that informal institutions such as rituals, invoke community ownership and help the individual to participate actively in reinforcing these social practices as well.

The dialogue discussed in great length about the narrative of the institutions in Bhutan, the role of collective values and the significance of incorporating a balanced approach in tackling institutional challenges.

The voices within the space included educators, entrepreneurs, young professionals and students from the Political Science & Sociology Department, Royal Thimphu College.

3. Climate Justice

How do we approach the middle path to secure a sustainable ecological development while promoting economic progress that is justifiable and socially responsible?

What is our vision of sustainable economic development for Bhutan?

The thought-provoking questions by the speakers initiated a critical discussion on climate justice in Bhutan.

Thinley, an independent consultant and former chief at the Climate Change Division in the National Environment Commission, presented a comprehensive overview of the environment acts and policies in Bhutan. This enabled the audience to understand how Bhutan is working toward achieving sustainable ecological development, and also shed light on the citizens’ role during the consultations of these legislations.

Pem, the Director of Landscape Enterprise, Agriculture & Forest Programme in Bhutan Ecological Society, gave a holistic view on sustainable development through concepts such as the 9 planetary boundaries. She argued that although Bhutan has a grand vision, it lacks focus, which hinders incorporating policies that uphold the GNH model when dealing with problems such as waste management.

An important takeaway from this discussion was the responsibility of the citizens in being aware of how our actions disrupt the ecosystem and compromise the inter-generational equity.

There was a large turnout of Zoom audience with a total of 239 students of Environmental Science, Eco-Geography, Population and Development Studies from Sherubtse College, and 39 students of Sustainable Development from the College of Natural Resources.

We would also like to extend our gratitude to CISU - Civilsamfund i Udvikling for supporting Reset! At The Media Lab.

Reimagine Bhutan, Building Forward Better Beyond COVID

The unsustainability of Bhutan’s socio-economic and development policies have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has been exemplary in responding to the humanitarian crisis at hand while simultaneously preparing economic contingency plans to stimulate economic growth. Now more than ever, it is important to make policy decisions that not only prepare for recovery but are also able to transform our society for a sustainable future through whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches.

In light of this, UNDP in partnership with Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy organised Reimagine Bhutan, Building Forward Better Beyond COVID, a conversation series on themes that are critical for Bhutan’s development.

The #ReimagineBhutan Conversation Series started in September with the conversation on Future of Work, Skills and Education that touched on topics such as TVET integration, network intelligence, liquid workforce and micro-skills development. The panellists provided policy suggestions that must be made to build a more resilient 21st-century workforce and an adaptive, robust labour market.

With Bhutan’s economy projected to plummet to a record low of 1.1% due to the pandemic, the Future of Economy was discussed next to understand how the Bhutanese economy could be steered towards a resilient and sustainable path. The need for an enabling ecosystem for the entrepreneurial sector to flourish, the opportunity to address structural issues in the economy and build reforms that will drive the long-term product of the economy were discussed.

The next conversation series kicked off the discussion on how the pandemic has heightened the need to put Bhutan on the path to Green Recovery. Changes in policy and financial incentives to support green business ideas, the cost-effectiveness of green technologies in the long run and a system shift in recovery are required if Bhutan is to build back better.

The penultimate conversation on Social Protection discussed building a social protection system that is not only inclusive but is sustainable and shock-responsive. The speakers also pointed out the need for better coordination across agencies and to bridge the gap between policies and implementation.

The Conversation Series wrapped up with the theme of Anticipatory Governance where ideas about regulatory sandbox initiatives and grassroots collaboration among civil society, private and public sectors were put forward to encourage an ecosystem for anticipatory governance.

The conversation series provided a platform for individuals to provide transformational and no-regret policy choices that that are much needed for Bhutan to #BuildForwardBetter and to shape a society that is resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Druk Journal Conversation on Bhutan in the Age of Technology

The second Druk Journal conversation on the theme: Bhutan in the Age of Technology was attended by enthused participants from Sherubtse College, Gyalpozhing College of Information and Technology and College of Science and Technology and a small in-person audience. Questions regarding blockchain technology, the widening digital divide, further developing online payment systems, cybersecurity and difficulty for students in ICT to find jobs/internships were discussed during the conversation.

The conversations started with the three speakers and their perspectives on the theme of Bhutan in the Age of Technology. Jigme spoke on Digital DrukYul – a cross-cutting flagship programme that enables government agencies to work more collaboratively and to help create a governance mechanism where investment in technology is a collective endeavour rather than siloed initiatives by ministries. The aim is to leverage technology to deliver equitable access to online services for all citizens. Dr Tshering stressed on the rising need for a technological transformation to strengthen our economy. He said the modest success of the Thimphu TechPark shows we can benefit from technology but consistent effort and political commitment is required to sustain this success. Ujjwal spoke about technology being an ecosystem and leveraging its use for societal benefits. He also highlighted the need to find a Bhutanese technological pathway — to figure out which technology is worth investing in? And how to leverage that technology for the everyday consumer and the next generation.

A question at the conversation was about revisions to the Digital DrukYul in light of the pandemic and Jigme agreed that it has opened up vast opportunities to make changes to specific sectors of the programme especially in education, which has been massively affected. Had there been a robust infrastructure, there would not have been issues in continuing education. However, plans are being developed to accelerate the implementation of Digital DrukYul.

The Druk Journal Conversation was funded by DHI and DIPD.

Rethinking Urbanisation - The Druk Journal

The fall issue of The Druk Journal, ‘Urban Bhutan - the Story’ has been published and it explores the topic of urbanisation in Bhutan. Bhutan had the advantage to learn from the failures of others’ development, to ensure the same mistakes weren’t repeated, however, it appears our developmental path has not steered into the direction we had hoped.

The opportunity presented itself to develop well-planned towns and aesthetic cities as Bhutan opened up in the 1960s but attempts at creating urban centres have been far from successful. Efforts from the government have been immense in developing long-term structural plans with the help of foreign experts but there has always been a shortfall in implementation of these plans. With more and more emphasis being placed on technology & digitisation and cities around the world exploring the idea of “smart cities”, Bhutan is still far behind with a capital city that is barely able to cater to the needs of people with disabilities.

This issue is supported by Civilsamfund i Udvikling (CISU) through Bhutan Denmark Friendship Association, Danish Institue for Parties and Democracy (DIPD), Bhutan Foundation and Helvetas Bhutan.

This issue of the journal can be accessed at www.drukjournal.bt

Subsequently, the first Druk Journal Conversation on Urbanisation in Bhutan was organised and generated discussion surrounding the rapid urbanisation of Thimphu, failure of implementing the Thimphu Structure Plan (TSP), the need for community participation in the development process and more. The session was moderated by the Editor of The Druk Journal, Dasho Kinley.

Meghraj, the first Bhutanese urban planner, spoke about the failure to implement the TSP due to lack of funding and resources and highlighted co-ordination amongst relevant authorities as a problem with most organisations choosing to work in silos. Siok, an editorial member of The Druk Journal, spoke about the importance of the inclusive development processes with wide consultations and engagement of end-users in the planning and design process. Tashi, the Chief Urban Planner from Works and Human Settlement Ministry, spoke about how the introduction of the zoning system during lockdown is paving the way for urban planning and development in Dzongkhags across the country. Jigme, a lecturer at College of Science and Technology (CST), spoke about rental unaffordability in Phuntsholing with the market being driven by private developers, thereby inflating the market.

More than 100 students and faculty from CST attended the conversation via Zoom and a small in-person audience of 22 were present at The Media Lab, which included the current and former Thimphu Thrompons, urban planners from the MoWHS, Thimphu Thromde (City Corporation) and private design firms, members from the political parties, architects, development partners and the media.

Thank you to DIPD & JICA for supporting the conversation.

Facts vs Misinformation in an Infodemic

With overwhelming information on COVID-19 and the rise of the ‘infodemic’, it has made it crucial now more than ever to be critical of what you see in the media. With the lack of media literacy, Bhutanese citizens, including individuals who are actively facilitating to keep people informed and aware, were unconsciously sharing information and pictures that were not verified, including fake news. In light of this, Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy conducted the training on “Facts vs Misinformation in an Infodemic”, which was attended by 85 participants from different schools, colleges, and individuals who are in the frontline assisting the medical professional fight the pandemic like officials from the Ministry of Health (MoH), and volunteers from the Bhutan Red Cross Society, Bhutan Taxi Association, and De-Suung.

The first workshop heightened the critical lens of 21 educators and curriculum developers who were trained as facilitators of news and media literacy by Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD) given the urgency to educate the society that is experiencing an onslaught of information both useful and useless.

The discussions revolved around inculcating the value of news in the society especially when we are unable to distinguish between real news and fake news. “I was never critical of the news and media information I consumed. Now I wonder how much of my values and what I believe are my own or are shaped by what I have consumed from social media. I realised the importance of analysing and consuming media information critically.” Pema, Teacher, The Royal Academy.

Taking back insights to integrate into his process of curricula development, Ugyen from Royal Education Council (REC) shared: “I now understand that the news and media literacy training by BCMD also focuses on democracy and it is quite different from the Media Studies of the REC … the content is similar but the approach is very different. I learnt a lot of very insightful approaches.”

The second workshop was attended by De-suung, MoH officials, and volunteers from the Bhutan Red Cross Society, Bhutan Taxi Association.

As volunteers helping the government contain the virus, the participants were made to think of how the training has changed the way they use media – both as a producer and as a consumer, to be cognizant of their own biases and predispositions, and the need to understand their target audiences.

“Since the [start of the] pandemic, I was delegated to the National COVID-19 Media Team and that is when I had to work on creating content…Whatever the MoH was releasing on social media or any other platforms, we could have used the tools we were taught here today. I think it would have helped us disseminate ideas more professionally…this is a very helpful platform for us to learn and for inner growth and to create quality content for Bhutanese citizens.” Kinley, Ministry of Health.

The closing was graced by the Honourable Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen. Lyonpo highlighted the importance of the training and mentioned the struggles MoH faced at the start of the pandemic dealing with disseminating information but mainly with the spread of fake news and misinformation, which not only created panic in the public but also cost the government in terms of time, money and resources.

Thank you to Give2Asia for their support in filling this critical gap in news and media literacy.

Media Literacy Participants Become Media Nomads

The training on Media and Democracy Literacy inspired a number of initiatives that expanded the reach of MDL to 37 parents and teachers in Paro and Punakha and 450 students in Thimphu.

“Media literacy must be introduced to students from pre-primary because children as young as six years old now have access to gadgets and the internet.” said the Principal from Olathang Primary School, Paro. The 9 teachers at the training in Olathang reflected on their online behaviours and felt the urgency to develop a social media guideline to model positive online behaviour and review the existing social media guideline of their school.

Meanwhile at Lobesa Secondary School, Punakha, 28 parents deliberated on the double-edged nature of social media.  The parents reconciled that children can’t be denied access to mobile phones, however, it is equally important to introduce quality family time to connect and share the benefits and dangers of the internet among other things. “A broken mobile can be repaired at the repair stations but a child spoiled [addicted] to a mobile can be difficult to repair.” said a parent. To start that process at home, the parents co-developed social media guidelines for their families -- one of which was to watch the news as a family. 

At Wangbama Central School, Thimphu, around 450 students received an introduction to media literacy. The major learning for the students was having the tools to distinguish news from other forms of information and misinformation.

We would like to thank Give2Asia for supporting this project.

Youth Initiative participants at the summer camp
Youth Initiative participants at the summer camp
Participants after the 3rd Reset! at The Media Lab
Participants after the 3rd Reset! at The Media Lab
MDL training for Olathang Primary School teachers
MDL training for Olathang Primary School teachers
Participants developing social media guidelines
Participants developing social media guidelines
Preparing for the closing of Youth Initiative 2020
Preparing for the closing of Youth Initiative 2020
Panellists from the five Conversation Series
Panellists from the five Conversation Series


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Sep 4, 2020
Expanding Citizen Voices

By Zulkee Choden Rinzin | Communications Officer

May 8, 2020
Building Inclusive Citizen Education

By Tempa Wangdi | Communication Officer

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Organization Information

The Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD)

Location: Thimphu, N/A - Bhutan
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Bhutan_CMD
Project Leader:
Pek Sioksian Dorji
Thimphu , N/A Bhutan
$6,352 raised of $10,000 goal
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