“Strengthening Voices for Democracy”
Following the global theme "Strengthening Voices for Democracy", in partnership with the Institute of GNH Studies (IGNHaS) and UNDP Bhutan, the International Day of Democracy was observed at the Paro College of Education. The event was designed to understand the importance of bringing youth issues and concerns to the forefront of policy debate.
The local theme “Empowering Youth voices and participation” was adopted and brought together Bhutanese youth and decision makers to share views on youth and democracy. Youth spokespersons called on national leaders to hear the voices of youth and design a future inclusive of youth concerns.
In her statement, UNDP Resident Representative Christina Carlson, stressed the relevance of youth participation for a young democracy like Bhutan where youth constitute about 40% of the population. She also advised Bhutan on “nurturing its youth and children today with proper care, education and guidance to become responsible citizens”.
The event saw energetic youth participation and passionate voices resonate the message that young people cannot be ignored. Gyem Tshering, a youth representative from the Police Youth Partnership Programme (PYPP) disclosed how the under 18 youth contributed in the 2013 election process.
“We have always understood democracy as a “gift” from our kings, but being part of the PYPP I realized that it’s not just a gift, it is a true responsibility" says Gyem. He shared how the PYPP helped polling stations by ensuring security, upholding election laws, and acquiring firsthand behind the scenes experience, he further added “democracy is not just about voting it’s about giving others the opportunity to make their decisions and elect a government of their choice”.
The Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said the young people’s voices are at the core of democracy and encouraged youth to be responsible so a better future of democracy can be ensured.
Yeshey Zangmo, a trainee teacher articulated that “As a future teacher, I look forward to educating the young children on the importance of democracy.” Recognizing Bhutan’s peaceful advancement to democracy with “the kings leading the way” she stated how fragile youth perceptions are. She added that democracy is still a new concept for youth and rural communities, and it is important “to build Bhutan as model to the rest of the world” that “we must not just support the government, but also provide critical analysis to become a dynamic and vibrant democracy”.
Dr. Karma Phuntsho, the founder of Loden Foundation said “Buddha’s teachings on freedom and equality are basic traits of a true democracy”. He encouraged the youth to have a sense of purpose and to give back to the community.
Since embracing democracy in 2008, Bhutan has with UNDP support continued to advance on democratic advocacy and awareness for people’s participation. The event was attended by the Chief Election Commissioner, Members of Parliament, local NGOs and youth representatives.
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UNDP efforts on promoting democracy in Bhutan:
UNDP is one of the principal development partners collaborating with the Royal Government, and civil society to strengthen democratic governance systems in the country to contribute effectively towards sustainable development and achievement of the Gross National Happiness values.
UNDP partners with people at all levels of society to help build nations that can withstand crisis, and drive and sustain the kind of growth that improves the quality of life for everyone. On the ground in 177 countries and territories, we offer global perspective and local insight to help empower lives and build resilient nations.
Sonam Tsoki Tenzin
Media and Communications Officer