With its first democratic parliamentary election in 2008, the small kingdom in the Himalayas took an important step towards democracy. To support Bhutan in the transition towards democracy, DIPD supports a range of partners and initiatives, especially focused on the political inclusion of women, research on democracy, and the link between media and democracy.
Bhutan may be a small country in area and population, but it has nevertheless managed to make a mark for itself in the global discourse on democratic governance as well as in the debate on how we should measure the progress of a society in a meaningful way.
Today you often find references to the concept of Gross National Happiness as it has been promoted and pursued by Bhutan for several decades. And the peaceful and planned transition to constitutional democracy initiated by the King in 2008 – after 100 years of monarchy – is in sharp contrast to the many violent and chaotic transitions seen elsewhere, and a testimony to the importance of strong leadership rooted in clear values.
Three years after its first democratic election, challenges to democracy continue to face Bhutan such as establishing new parties, establishing media as “watchdogs” vis-a-via the political system and, not the least, representation of women in politics of which less than 14% are represented in Parliament.
DIPD in Bhutan
The political participation and representation of women is a key focal point for DIPD supported initiatives in Bhutan, which also include research on Government policies and the importance of media for a democratic culture. All DIPD partnerships in Bhutan are funded through the pool for multiparty activities.
In March 2012 the first ever national meeting of women elected at local and national level took place in Paro, Bhutan. Here the Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (the ‘B-NEW’) was established, and an Interim National Steering Committee for B-NEW elected. DIPD will be funding the next steps in the process towards an action plan and an organisational structure.
To get a better insight into the challenges facing women, DIPD supports the documentary film “Bhutan Women Forward” by KCD Productions. Featuring female candidates at the upcoming 2013 elections in Bhutan, the film seeks to “go behind the scenes” and get a better insight and understanding of the issues facing women in politics. KCD productions is also the team behind the film “Yes Madame Prime Minister” (“La, Aum Lyonchhen”) from 2012, also supported by DIPD.
KCD Productions – The Documentary ‘Yes Madam Prime Minister’
To encourage and support the political aspirations of women, especially as Bhutan is approaching its next National Parliamentary Election in 2013, the Board of DIPD has approved a series of media activities to be produced by KCD Productions. The initiative will include a Radio Drama Series, TV Spots, an on Forum and, not least, the documentary ‘Yes, Madam Minister’ (“La, Aum Lyonchen”). The documentary seeks, through a focus on the political participation of women in party politics in Denmark, to inspire the women of Bhutan.
BCMD seeks to promote and foster a culture of democracy via three core programme areas: Strengthening media and democracy literacy, expanding public discussion, and resource/knowledge production. The DIPD supported activities include sensitisation of information focal persons on the role of media and citizenship in democracy and training in information sharing, forums to bring together elected political leaders, civil society and press to discuss different areas of democracy, and the production of different knowledge products on media and democracy.
To help foster accountability of the political parties for the policies and bills introduced by them, DIPD has approved a research project by the Center for Research Initiatives in Thimphu. The Center will undertake analyses of some of the major bills passed by the first democratic government in Bhutan as well as people’s awareness on and satisfaction with democracy. The findings will be published in a book intended as an input to strengthening dialogue on democracy in Bhutan.
Contact Director Bjørn Førde at email@example.com