Nestled in the Himalayas, sitting between India and China, the Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the least populous and most stunning nations in South Asia.  The 8th May 2017 held special significance for the Kingdom as the Bhutan Red Cross Society was officially launched by Her Majesty the Gyaltsuen.

The ICRC New Delhi’s Alex Munai, who, as Cooperation Coordinator, is responsible for relations between the ICRC and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in India, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal, shares some reflections on the emergence of the new Society.

“I have to say it was quite a privilege to witness the official launch of the Bhutan Red Cross Society (BRCS) recently. There are no words to describe the feelings that we all went through that morning – witnessing this historic milestone, as BRCS officially embarks on its journey to recognition by 2020.  Not only was the occasion graced by Her Majesty, who is also the President of the Society, but there was strong support and representation from across the Bhutanese government. That was truly remarkable and indeed quite encouraging for the Society. The commitment of the BRCS Working Committee was quite obvious – all its eight members were involved in every aspect of the event, from planning, to logistic arrangements right down to taking part in some of the traditional blessings that were held as part of the religious ceremonies heralding the birth of the Society. It was also such a special day for all components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement present i.e. the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Swiss Red Cross. Personnel from all 3 components played a major role in supporting the BRCS and making this official launch a reality.

In 2015, the ICRC and IFRC jointly organised an orientation workshop for BRCS Working Committee.


Making it happen

Personally, it was quite an occasion for me as well as I’d been involved with the process since 2015, picking up where my predecessors left off. I understand reflections on the consideration of the possibility of establishing a National Red Cross Society in Bhutan date back to 2008. However, it was only about two years ago that a Working Committee was commissioned by Her Majesty to make it actually happen. Due to the commitment and overall support this Committee received from all stakeholders, the  Bhutan Red Cross Society Act was passed in Parliament in late 2016 and received the Royal assent in 2017.

My first interaction with the Working Committee dates back to November 2015 – when all its members were invited to New Delhi for a week-long orientation jointly organised by the ICRC, the IFRC and the Swiss Red Cross. What immediately struck me, even then, was the individual and collective determination that they showed.  It should be noted that they are all quite senior officials in their own right, with extremely busy schedules, but they were all committed to making the Bhutan Red Cross a reality – and in the shortest possible time. They took the time to listen and ask questions to make sure they had full understanding of what membership of the Movement would mean, and the process it would entail.

The first ever joint visit of Movement Partners to Bhutan took place in June 2016 to further enhance development and establishment of BRCS.


Perfect fit for Bhutan and its principles

I am quite pleased to note that the establishment of the Bhutan Red Cross Society offers another platform, in addition to existing ones in the country, through which its members could promote mutual understanding, friendship, cooperation and lasting peace amongst all people—especially from the standpoint of its principle of Humanity. To me, this is a perfect fit for Bhutan and its principles related to Gross National Happiness. The subsequent launch of the new Society as witnessed on May 8th 2017 is thus a reassurance of the expanse and relevance of the Seven Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to humankind. It is gratifying to note as well that the Working Committee of the Bhutan Red Cross Society has very quickly identified niche service areas that it would work on – proving that it could start making an immediate impact in Bhutan!

However, this is only the beginning.  What lies ahead for the BRCS is fulfillment of the 10 Conditions for the Recognition of National Societies whose achievement should lead to granting of the formal recognition by the International Committee of Red Cross, followed by subsequent application to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for membership.  Going by the commitment by BRCS that I have witnessed so far, I have no doubt that this will be achieved within the scheduled time. The leadership of the Bhutan Red Cross Society is motivated, committed & have the support of the Movement partners as they work towards their first General Assembly and ultimately, formal acceptance into the RCRC Movement. I wish the BRCS and its membership all that is required to deliver on this noble cause, and do look forward to a major announcement in this regard in the not so distant future.”