Five Key Development Principles
The Sikyong-led 14th and 15th Kashag has been very successful in mobilizing international development assistance to strengthen the self-reliance and resilience of Tibetan communities in South Asia and to enhance the capacity of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and Tibetan governance.
In order to ensure that development projects initiated by the CTA achieves maximum impact and leads to long term political, cultural and economic resilience of the Tibetan community, the Tibetan leadership should take into account the following five key principles when designing development projects:
- Preservation and promotion of Tibetan culture: What separates the Tibetan community from other communities and the essence of the Tibetan freedom struggle and aspiration is preservation of Tibet’s unique culture, tradition and language. This asset, which Tibetans have had for thousands of years, is of benefit to the entire humanity and must therefore be preserved and promoted robustly. Every major development activity must be viewed through the cultural preservation and promotion lens and program designers must ask and satisfactorily answer the basic question of how implementation of that activity advances this cultural agenda. This will require a new approach to designing and implementing development projects. Cultural preservation and promotion should be integrated in all the key projects under Education, Finance, Health and Home departments.
- Digitalization and Integration of technology: The CTA is on the cusp of becoming a transnational entity tasked with the responsibility of providing governance and services to a sprawling refugee and diaspora community residing in over thirty countries across the globe. There is a fundamental need to transform how CTA operates. It needs to pivot from a paper based, offline mode to a digital mode. The digital transformation; where the assessment, high level strategy development and action plan is being funded through the DRL program; will help in the long-term resilience of the CTA, the Tibetan community, identity and culture. Every major project should have a digital strategy and the strong use of technology to achieve project goals.
- Enabling Consolidation: The Tibetan community in South Asia is shrinking. This provides an opportunity to drive projects towards quality and scale. Development funds should not be spread too thin. Special attention should be paid on a smaller number of settlements and institutions and in each development space, deeper and longer time horizon investments should be made so that the advantages of quality and scale can best be achieved. A comprehensive consolidation strategy should be developed for both India and Nepal with a special cross department committee composed of senior representatives from departments of religion and culture, finance, home, health and education. The committee should be supported by external consultants to conduct the need, feasibility and develop the implementation plan Interventions should be designed to retrain workforce and develop facilities and other assets that will be freed up in anticipation of the consolidation. Funds should be set aside to pay for costs associated with the restructuring and retraining of the workforce driven by the consolidation.
- Rebalancing of Development from Welfare to Investment: The Tibetan community in South Asia has come a long way since the beginning of the sixties when the CTA’s immediate priority was to feed, shelter and educate thousands of Tibetan refugees who had fled Chinese persecution in Tibet. For the next four to five decades it was more about survival, taking care of basic needs and less about development. However, the long years in exile combined with migration to the West has lifted the standard of living and many Tibetans are now economically self-sufficient. A smaller percentage of the population who are destitutes and vulnerable must continue to receive full support from the CTA. In this new environment, CTA must pivot from being the primary benefactor to more of an investor, a partner and a facilitator. On a parallel track community members must be educated so that they don’t see CTA programs and services as an entitlement, but more of an investment for starting something bigger where the community members also contribute. Such a shift will not happen overnight, but it must start soon in order to wean members away from this unhealthy dependency mindset and to achieve long-term growth and sustainability of the community and the CTA. Programs that need review and redesign under this rebalancing include Tibetan Medicare System, scholarships, TED, agricultural subsidies, health care services, etc.
- Extension of Programming to the Diaspora Community: Half or more of the Tibetan population outside Tibet now reside in countries outside South Asia. Based on a recent baseline study conducted by SARD, the total population of this diaspora community is over 80,000 the majority of whom migrated from South Asia and are concentrated in countries like the United States, Canada, Switzerland, France, Belgium and Australia. These communities, most of whom are first generation immigrants, have growing needs and it is within these communities where there is the greatest threat of loss of identity, culture, language and eventually community. The CTA simply does not have the resources to support these communities. The CTA should work with foreign government funders and request them to include support for the diaspora Tibetan community. Core programming needs are around cultural preservation, language, early childhood development, education, youth, and leadership development.