Policy: Parliamentarians, civil servants, leaders of non-government and civil society organisations are attending a ten-day certificate course on social policy that started on December 21 at the College of Natural Resources in Lobesa, Punakha.

This is the second certificate course on social policy being organised by the Sherubtse College, institute for Gross National Happiness (GNH) studies, Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) in collaboration with UNICEF.

Officials said the course aims to provide participants with the conceptual framework and practical skills necessary to succeed in designing and implementing effective social policy, and in shaping and influencing evidence-based policy making in the areas of health care, social services, justice, equality and education with a specific focus on policy for children, youth, women, elders and vulnerable populations.

UNICEF representative, Rudolf Schwenk, said as Bhutan will graduate from the least developed country to lower middle income category the social policy course is a timely effort to help build the capacity of parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society.

He said the sustainable development goals, which the countries of the world have adopted calls for integrated solutions to improve the quality of basic services and the wellbeing of all people. In its pursuit of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, Bhutan, like many other countries, may face specific challenges in ensuring that no one is left behind.

He said the course is aimed at training policymakers in unwrapping the development challenges and in developing effective and evidence-based polices for positive change. The course aims to support the ideals of Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness so that all Bhutanese benefit from development policies.

“Policy makers in Bhutan are increasingly recognising the importance of investing in sound social policies, which have a critical bearing on children’s wellbeing,” said the UNICEF representative. “I would like to commend the government of Bhutan for continuing to give special emphasis on advancing social sectors including health and education.”

Investing in special policies is the right thing to do, he said. Social policies play a crucial role in the present and future wellbeing of the children. It is important for children as they are growing up in a world that is vastly different and more complex than the world their parents lived.

RUB officials said the certificate course is expected to cover three areas: policy analysis, governance and public service delivery and leadership towards effective policymaking and implementation.

They said RUB is looking at introducing a full-fledged programme in future. They hope that through the experiences gained RUB would be in a position to offer either an undergraduate or post graduate programme on social policy at Sherubtse College or the new college opening in Gyelpoizhing, Mongar.

Participants will have the opportunity to learn from both in-country and external resource persons. The in-country resource persons bring a wealth of knowledge and experience especially in terms of contextual and practical application of social policies, and the external resource persons add expertise on global theories and international experience, officials said.

There is an increasing demand for research and evidence in social policy processes and RUB being the institution of higher learning will play a critical role in policy discourse and capacity building of key policy makers, said RUB vice chancellor, (Dr) Nidup Dorji.

Meanwhile, the National Council Chairperson Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga attended the opening ceremony of the programme.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue