Dr Nitasha Kaul, from the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD), hosted the second Bhutan Biodemocracy and Resilience Conference (BBR 2020) in Bhutan online on December 21 and 22 in partnership with the Centre for Local Governance & Research in Thimphu.

Dr Nitasha Kaul

The two-day conference focused on the coronavirus pandemic, with panel discussions on the effects of the crisis in relation to economic vulnerability and climate change, volunteerism and public health, local governments, agriculture, employment, hydropower and tourism.

A keynote address from Lyonpo Ugyen Dorji, Minister of Labour and Human Resources of the Royal Government of Bhutan, began the two days of panel discussions on the pandemic, public policy and development. The talks were livestreamed and watched by thousands of people and were covered nationally.

The BBR 2020 conference built upon the first conference titled ‘Bhutan as Biodemocracy: Building Socioeconomic and Environmental Resilience’ which was held in July 2019. 

The conference builds on Dr Kaul’s previous work on Bhutan, spanning over a decade. Following on from the insights gained by her British Academy-funded research on democratic transition in 2008 and democratic consolidation in 2018, she conceived the overall Bhutan as Biodemocracy project in 2019 as part of her initiative under the Global Challenges Research Fund Scheme.

This further links to her work as Principal Investigator on the ongoing AHRC Networking project on Narratives of a Sustainable Biodemocracy: Bhutan and Beyond, which focuses on connecting political and ecological concerns through activities that create an understanding of planning and policy-making. Using a narrative-based approach, the project concentrates on responsible consumption and production, also known as the Sustainable Development Goal 12 of the United Nations.

Talking about the conference, Dr Kaul said: “Resulting from sustained online and offline work across cities, we brought together perspectives of a diverse range of people: policymakers, bureaucrats, local government officials, farmers, medics, entrepreneurs and frontline volunteers, to provide original reflections on the cross-sectoral effects of the pandemic. This knowledge-sharing can help address the challenges facing development priorities and pathways.

“During a time of crisis, it is vital that we learn from each other. I am convinced that research with impact beyond academia can make a difference by enabling greater engagements between communities of policymakers, development practitioners, and people."

Dr Kaul teaches on the International Relations MA, International Relations and Security MA and the Politics and International Relations BA Honours courses. She welcomes doctoral students in the areas of her expertise

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