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Until Bhutan opened up to planned development in the 1960s, it was a relatively isolated country, little influenced by the changes taking place in other parts of the world. The formidable mountainous terrain, dense forests and harsh climate added to its natural isolation.

Most Bhutanese live a sustainable way of life, with 79 percent of people engaged in subsistence farming. Their daily lives and values are greatly influenced by Buddhism, which first came to Bhutan in the sixth century.

Bhutan has the smallest population density in South Asia with a population of 698,000 people. This small population size and a late start in development has placed Bhutan in a good position to learn from the development world. It has also made Bhutan determined to set its own pace and direction in its pursuit to raise the quality of life for its people.

This is encapsulated in its development goal and philosophy of "Gross National Happiness", translated as a balanced economic and spiritual development without losing the kingdom's rich cultural and environment heritage. Today, Bhutan is confronting new challenges in a global world.

Inspired by its fourth hereditary Monarch, King Jigme Singye Wanghuck, the kingdom has taken bold steps to evolve a democratic system of governance that is built on the strengths of its own culture, tradition and institutions.

In 1999, the King devolved power to an elected Council of Ministers, thus capping the process of decentralisation that he introduced in the 1980s. As the country embarks on its Ninth Five Year plan, which started in July 2002, decentralisation is the core strategy and activity and focus is now on enabling people in geogs (blocks) to plan their own future development.

But challenges are mounting. Rapid urbanisation, a growing population (2.5%), a young private sector, and economy are adding to the challenges. The search for a balance between economic gain and social and cultural balance adds to the overall challenge for a small nation in a global world.

Bhutan is at a crossroads of its development. It is taking historic steps towards democratisation and emerging with a unique system of governance based on decentralisation and the empowerment of people and institutions at the local levels. In 2001, the King commanded the drafting of a Constitution that will put into place the framework for a democratic system of government that aims to ensure the well being of the nation and its people into the future.

International Organisation Participation

Austrian Co-ordination Bureau, Canadian Co-Operation Office, ESCAP, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), GTZ (German Development Organisation), Helvetas/SDC Programme, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV), JICA, Liaison Office of Denmark, Netherlands Development Assistance, World Health Organisation, World Wildlife Fund, World Food Programme, UNESCO, UN Children's Fund, UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, UN Capital Development Fund, UN Volunteers.


Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. There are four main language groups and 18 dialects. English is an accepted working language for government and is the medium of instruction for schools along with Dzongkha.
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