IFRC Bhutan Program Overview 2019

Bhutan, which is situated in the eastern Himalayas, is a small, mountainous, and landlocked country between the People’s Republic of China and India. Despite challenging geography and limited connectivity to the global markets, Bhutan managed to transform itself from being a closed, pastoral, and subsistence economy into a rapidly growing low middle-income country by managing its natural resource endowment and unlocking its hydropower potential. Bhutan’s development performance has been guided by its philosophy of gross national happiness—of striving to balance spiritual and material advancement toward total well-being through four pillars: sustainable and equitable economic growth and development, preservation and sustainable use of the environment, preservation and promotion of cultural heritage, and good governance.

Bhutan has been experiencing frequent hydro-meteorological and geological disasters such as glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), earthquakes, landslides, windstorms, forest fires, and the like. Currently, climate-related impacts are evident in the melting of the glaciers and attention is being given to the risk of GLOF, which occurs with regularity in the valleys and in low lying river plains. In 1995, Bhutan was severely hit by a storm in 1995 that affected 65,000 people and left 17 dead. For a country with a population of around 733,000 (2013), this number is quite significant. The country has also had two devastating flash floods, one in 1994 and another in 2009. In 2017, one in three Bhutanese live in urban areas. Rapid urbanization compounds the country’s climate challenge. The severity of these impacts has yet to be determined.

The Bhutan Red Cross (BRC) was formally established in May 2017, following the adoption of the Bhutan Red Cross Act earlier that year. The National Society is still in the early stages of its formation, and continues to make steady progress on its roadmap towards formal recognition by ICRC and membership of the IFRC. Technical assistance and cooperation will be required for both organisational development and for further developing a set of relevant and sustainable core programmes and services.

In 2019, IFRC will prioritize its support in the areas of organizational development and disaster risk management. Working closely with IFRC, ICRC, Swiss Red Cross and other interested partners, BRC will continue to develop its foundation, structure, systems and capacities. Immediate priorities include the recruitment of members and volunteers, the establishment of a branch network, the finalization of formal statutes, leadership development and the successful conduct of its first General Assembly with elections of a full governing board. Programmatic support will focus on strengthening Bhutan Red Cross’ disaster response capacity at instituional level, and in building predictable response capabilities as part of its auxiliary role, and resilience building at community level.