Keynote Address of Dasho Kunzang Wangdi, Chief Guest at the International Democracy Day 2013 at Paro College of Education, Royal University of Bhutan, Paro
(Sunday the 15th of September 2013)
Her Excellency Aum Christina Carlson, UN Resident Coordinator for UN Systems and Resident Representative, UNDP, Bhutan.
Hon’ble Vice Chancellor Dasho Pema Thinley,
Hon’ble Members of Parliament,
Dy. RR Hideko Hasidic, UNDP, Bhutan
Heads and executives of various UN and multilateral Agencies,
Director, the Faculty and Trainees of Paro College of Education,
Various Speakers and presenters participating on the occasion,
Director Institute of GNH,
Director, Centre for Research and Policy Analysis,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
At the outset, may I say how grateful I am to the organizers of the International Democracy Day 2013, the UNDP and the Royal University of Bhutan for giving ECB and me the opportunity to celebrate the day with everyone here.
This year’s theme -Strengthening Voices for Democracy: Empowering Youth with Voices and Participation” is intended to spotlight on the importance of people’s voices, the ability of people to raise their voices to help determine their own political, economic, social and cultural system and their full participation in all aspects of their lives. For voices are at the core of democracy. Voices must be expressed and heard, expressed most explicitly, heard clearly, transformed into reality at elections, shaped by the citizens’ aspirations, information, knowledge, interest and commitment into laws, policies and programmes.
The theme is so befitting and relevant for a young democracy. When an increasing number of the population are graduating as young citizens everyday mainly because of the success of our successive socio-economic policies and programmes.
As such, it is necessary to be cognizant of the abundance of such a resource. It is opportune to have in place, active policies and programmes that empower and prepare to mainstream youth for effective participation. If we can prepare them to be responsible future voters and politicians, a better future of democracy in Bhutan can be best assured.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very nostalgic and happy to observe the Democracy Day here at this college.
It was in the month of September 2006 that the National College of Education (NIE) now Paro College of Education and ECB jointly had our Electoral Bills acted out to see whether these are good enough to conduct the democratic elections for the first time in our history. We are glad to say that it culminated into a DVD titled “Democracy and Elections: The Bhutanese Way”. It helped everyone understand the electoral process and nuts and bolts of democracy easier and enabled effective participation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, it is four days after the Second Parliament had its first session. The Second Parliament has seen younger men and women enter its portal.
We can today say that democracy in Bhutan is on a firm and sure footing. But we cannot be complacent. It needs to be sustained and be consistently given further vibrancy. It needs the collective hard work of all sections of our society.
While Parliament, government and political parties could spearhead, it is the voters who must oversee and contribute meaningfully in the process.
In this regard, I am glad many initiatives and efforts are being already put in place by different agencies and bodies which is evident in today’s programme.
On our part, the ECB conscientiously and consistently makes every effort to ensure that the Voices spoken through the Ballot Box and medium as the Will of the People and their Sovereign Right exercised freely.
As such, however, significant these may be the ECB has started various initiatives to foster democratic practices, raise awareness engaging voters in various aspects of the electoral process.
We have started Democracy Clubs in schools to reach out to the future voters. We hope that the Democracy Clubs will serve as mini-ECBs and also promote School Parliaments and carry out education and discussions on democracy and elections including observation of important days such as this day and the Constitution day in their clubs and schools.
The “Volunteer –VOICE” for voters to volunteer in taking the voter education programmes to the communities and a “Network” offering a forum for intellectuals, academics, researchers and those with ideas on how to strengthen the electoral process through meaningful discussions . I look forward to many Bhutanese to come forward to register with us as members of these for deepening democracy and enhancing social responsibility.
We shall also be adopting SIM Democracy a tested learning method of engaging voters and educators for enhancing greater and effective participation. The training for how to use this will take place this month with the support of Frederick Neumann Stiff Tung.
The continuous application of BRIDGE an education programme for democracy developed over several decades by the UN, International-IDEAS, IFES and the Australian Electoral Commission under the auspices of Aus-Aid has created a pool of BRIDGE felicitators and trainers that helped the ECB reaching out to all voters the education and information essential for effective voter participation.
We shall also begin work on scouting in Bhutan to be co-opted to cooperate in the empowerment of youth who shall one day begin to exercise their role as voters and then candidates to different positions of power.
I recall as part of educating public in auditing, I visited this institution as the Auditor General. I dared to tell a house packed with lecturers and would be teachers “All of you would break or make this Nation”. It unsettled many in the audience. I followed it further “If you do not love teaching I may advise you leave the training.” It made it worse. As the teaching is the important vocation and mission in our national developmental endeavours, teachers mould citizenry. Bhutan needs persons who are committed to teach should only become teachers. PCE has the biggest role to make that difference in our future. I commend the organizers for making the appropriate choice for the venue – the college of education for this year’s International Democracy Day 2013.
We urge, therefore, the education authorities, academics, tertiary institutions and entities such as this to build and enthuse democratic culture in our management and administration. As parents and teachers, conscious efforts are critical to be placed on promotion of democratic thinking in the minds of our children and youth so that they can handle their lives responsibly.
We urge, the youth, be it above or below eighteen, as the democratic process has a direct bearing on your life and livelihood, short term or long-term, you need to be mindful that only a responsible politician can bring positive effects on you, your children and your community.
While, I once again, thank the organizers, urge all Bhutanese as voters, candidates, party members and supporters alike – to continually reflect on the fresh reminder of His Majesty the King that democracy is not a Gift, rather it is a responsibility entrusted to the People of Bhutan. May I, therefore, humbly add to this Wise Royal Counsel that it shall be the duty that none of us will ever shirk!
Thank you and Tashi Deleg!