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Partner Spotlight: The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment

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The Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environment (UWICE), a partner of the Bhutan Foundation, is a government-based environmental research and training institute. UWICE strives to foster better stewardship of our natural heritage – land, water, air, and species therein – through rigorous science-based research and transmission of cutting-edge science results to field practitioners, environmental leaders, and policy makers.

UWICE focuses on environmental needs and challenges within Bhutan and concentrates their research and other efforts on four major areas: sustainable forestry, conservation biology, water resources, and socio-economics and policy sciences. UWICE recognizes linkages between the way forestry is practiced to the dynamics of species conservation and persistence. They understand the implications of land-use practices and global climate change on water resources and energy requirements. Above all, they appreciate and seek to understand human impacts and impacts on humans by studying social patterns and economic implications of management and policy interventions.

In addition to conducting research, UWICE works to develop the expertise of Bhutan’s scientists:

  • UWICE provides a one-year course in environment, forestry, and conservation.
  • They also offer tailor-made courses within the field of conservation biology, sustainable forestry, and water resources for professionals working in these fields.
  • UWICE offers opportunities for undergraduate students to conduct research projects as part of their undergraduate degree program.

As part of their initiative to encourage discourse and dialogue within the environmental community, UWICE also regularly organizes seminars and hosts conferences at national and international levels.

UWICE works in partnership with various agencies in conservation, including the Bhutan Foundation.  In our partnership, we have developed projects including the HEROES (Himalayan Environmental Rhythms Observation and Evaulation System) program, tiger conservation program, river-guides of Panbang, takin conservation program, and Bhutan’s first conservation drone. The Bhutan Foundation continues to support UWICE’s work throughout Bhutan to protect and conserve Bhutan’s rich environment.

How One Semester Can Improve Public Health in Bhutan

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When Royal Institute of Health and Sciences (RIHS) lecturer Pema Udon attended a semester at the Yale School of Public Health as a visiting scholar in 2012, she hoped to share her knowledge with her students back in Bhutan to the benefit of all Bhutanese citizens. And now, it has happened: 24 of Ms. Udon’s RIHS students have graduated with their bachelor’s degree in public health and will now be placed throughout Bhutan as District Health Officers to plan, execute, monitor, and evaluate public health programs within their regions. “My visit to Yale will have a rippling effect in the long run benefiting the Bhutanese population,” said Ms. Udon.

While at Yale, Ms. Udon took a course on program planning, monitoring, and evaluation as a part of her overall program and was then able to replicate this module in Bhutan for her students. The students spent three months in the field throughout Bhutan to determine their public health research topics, which they then presented. Some of the research topics were a Responsible Alcohol Service Program, Continuous Health Quality Improvement for Rural Communities, Infection Control and Waste Management, Recording and Reporting System, and Pap Smear Screening, among others.

The Bhutan Foundation is proud to support the visiting scholar program at the Yale School of Public Health. So far, the foundation has supported three lecturers from RIHS and is looking forward to supporting more RIHS faculty in building their capacity as well as supporting public health research throughout the country.

Understanding Bhutanese Voters

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The Bhutan Foundation and its partners, QED Consulting Group Pvt. Ltd., Patton Boggs LLP, and the International Republican Institute, presented the findings of eight focus group discussions (FGDs) they conducted in March 2014 to stakeholders, including the Election Commission of Bhutan, members of Parliament, political parties, and the Royal Government of Bhutan. Key findings were that FGD participants, especially from the rural areas, expressed the need for increased voter education to help them make more informed decisions. Participants were also concerned about Bhutan’s economy and shortage of Indian rupees, reviving of the agriculture sector, lack of proper roads, human-wildlife conflict, and youth unemployment.

For the FGDs, 72 participants were recruited from across the country and grouped using demographics: high income, low income, youth, adult, gender, profession, and rural-urban setting. The discussions covered a wide range of topics, including democracy, political awareness and participation, specific youth and women’s issues, and current socio-economic situation of the participants.

Four FGDs were conducted in Thimphu, two in Bumthang (midwestern part of Bhutan), and two in Phuntsholing (southern border town). The qualitative research was conducted to help Bhutanese politicians and policymakers better understand citizens and to strengthen the democratic process through voter education and engagement.