The Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), aka the Tibetan government-in-exile, was established by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on April 29, 1959. It is the continuation of the government of independent Tibet. It is headquartered in Dharamsala, India, and has offices in 13 different cities across the globe. CTA is the legitimate and true representative of the Tibetan people. Its core mission is to restore the freedom and dignity of the Tibetan people, preserve Tibetan culture, and ensure the wellness of the Tibetan refugee community.
A hallmark of the CTA is its strong commitment to democracy. It is led by a democratically elected Sikyong (President) and has a vibrant legislature and a functioning judiciary. It functions like any other government with work carried out on the executive side by seven departments each headed by a Kalon (Minister). It is governed by The Charter of Tibetans in Exile, which serves as the constitution. The CTA has a workforce of over 500 permanent civil servants and hundreds of other employees with an annual budget of over USD45 million.
FIVE PRIMARY CHALLENGES
- Attracting and Retaining Talent. It is becoming increasingly harder to attract and retain talented Tibetans to serve the CTA under the current recruitment and human resource policies. The substantial number of Tibetans migrating to the west has led to brain drain and depleted the Tibetan workforce in South Asia.
- Migration. The westward migration is pushing the CTA to pivot from its exclusive South Asia-focus to becoming a more transnational organization.
- Culture and Work Environment. While the current Kashag has made significant inroads, there are larger cultural issues that become part of the work culture and weigh things down. Playing it safe is valued, taking risks is not encouraged, performance-based incentives are missing, hard work is not adequately recognized and talent is not nurtured.
- Slow Adaptation. The external environment and the Tibetan community in exile have gone through profound changes, but the nature of the work, services and approaches adopted by the various entities within the CTA haven’t evolved and adopted accordingly. For example, there is minimal use of technology. Transactions are conducted mostly in person and on paper.
- Dependency on External Donors. There is a high level of dependence on external donors for funding. While the current level of financial support from foreign governments and donors is at an all-time high, it is critical for the CTA to also identify new and more sustainable sources of funding.
- Strengthening Internal Policies. Improvement in the recruiting process; reduction in bureaucracy; instituting a better system of assigning, managing and evaluating staff performance and productivity; a more robust staff professional and personal development program; provision of performance linked bonuses; highlighting performers; and a smaller, more productive, better paid and trained CTA workforce.
- Integration of CTA departments and sections. A special unit needs to be set up to provide back office support and common services: HR, payroll, procurement and account services. Tibetan Computer Resource Center (TCRC) should be made into a proper IT division with its head as the Chief Technology Officer of the CTA.
- Development of Settlement Officers. The Settlement Officers need a customized leadership development and management program so that they can more effectively represent the CTA and the Tibetan community
- Creating more service opportunities. The Tibet Corps program needs to be further strengthened. Additional channels developed for Tibetans to offer opportunities for both voluntary and paid services in Dharamsala, settlements in India/Nepal and at the Offices of Tibet.
- Bolstering Offices of Tibet particularly in politically important cities and in countries with large concentrations of Tibetans. Bolstering measures could include hiring more staff, developing specific strategies and road maps.
KAYDOR’S FIVE INITIATIVES
- Development of CTA’s Middle Management. The Joint and Deputy Secretary levels at CTA would constitute the middle management and this is CTA’s current Achilles heel. Nurturing this layer will pay rich dividends as some of them can rise and provide strong department leadership.
- Expansion of Core Programs and Services for Tibetans Living Overseas. This will include language, cultural, youth, early childhood development programming and leadership development for presidents and secretaries of the Tibetan Associations/Organizations. The support will be in the form of grants, training, material, content development and technical assistance.
- Digital Transformation and Digital Governance. Making the CTA a digitally enabled government to enhance its resilience, efficiency, and better serve the Tibetan cause and Tibetan people. Through this digital transformation, the CTA will be able to govern digitally, ensure continuity of program and services during major disruptions such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. This initiative will be a core component of translating the Five-Fifty Vision into action and will include projects like using the Green Book number as the UID, enabling Tibetans to pay their Green Book contributions online, developing a central database, telemedicine, eLearning, eKashag, possibly also eParliament, etc.
- Youth Leadership. A separate division for youth affairs led by a youth with a rank equivalent of a Secretary and with a dedicated budget will be established. This new division will support young people, aged between 15-30, to increase their wellbeing and involve them in various leadership development, CTA strengthening and overall movement building activities, and increasing overall interest and participation in the CTA. This division will host the annual Five-Fifty Youth Forum and manage the Five-Fifty Youth Ambassadors Program, the Department of Home YES program, and will also represent the CTA in international youth events.
- Long-Term Financial Sustainability. CTA must take care of its financial health by both identifying additional sources of revenue and reining in expenses. The Green Book and Blue Book programs will be strengthened so that additional funds are raised. CTA will explore investing in business opportunities linked to the core competencies of the Tibetan community. On the expenses side, CTA will pivot from the current welfare and entitlement model which breeds chronic dependency to a more fee-for-service and other approaches where Tibetans with capacity and means will be expected to contribute a share for services rendered. Duplication in programs and redundancies will be identified particularly in the education and health sectors and programs and services will be adjusted accordingly.