8th Biennial Virtual Cultural Officers’ Conference

Subject:                      8th Biennial Virtual Cultural Officers’ Conference

Date and time:           1 May 2020, 8 am at the Conference hall of Department of Culture

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up the whole world within a short period of time. In spite of tremendous efforts and measures to contain the spread and minimize the impact of this virus, it is obvious that this pandemic will leave a huge impact on the social and economic scenario all across the globe.  However, here in Bhutan we are different with His Majesty the King leading from the front in overseeing and managing the response efforts, with, of course, the unstinted support of the Government lead by the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues, medical professionals, armed forces personnel, Desuups, volunteers and in fact people from all walks of life. This has made every Bhutanese feel ever more grateful of being born in a country like Bhutan. Such inspiring leadership and selfless act by His Majesty the King has managed to fuel deep feelings of encouragement and sense of duty among every Bhutanese thereby compelling everyone to revisit our personal roles to contribute towards safe, happy and harmonious Bhutan. 

Obviously, one of the immediate impacts of COVID-19 felt in the culture sector is constrained access to cultural events such as tshechus and drubchens, closure of museums, cancellation and postponement of activities/events related to culture, and restrictions to and at heritage sites across the country. Besides these social impacts, the tourism industry in Bhutan, which is hugely reliant on the cultural sites and activities, have suffered the most from this crisis.

The Cultural Officers in the twenty Dzongkhag have been playing a crucial role in their respective Dzongkhag managing and mitigating the effect of COVID-19. During the current trying times, the Cultural Officers have had the opportunity to see it for themselves at the ground level, the COVID-19 impact to the cultural sector, especially at the local community level. Therefore, it has become important that the main parent agency for the Cultural Officers, the Department of Culture, provide unstinted strategic support to the Cultural officers to manage and avoid long lasting impact in the field of culture from which we could take several years to recover. Further, it has become crucial to collect information from the Cultural officers for further analysis to build better effective policies and programs in the culture sector. This is to ensure that culture, one of the main mediums of social harmony and economic development in Bhutan, continue to thrive and contribute to the growth of the country irrespective of being affected by such pandemic situations.

In this connection, rather than cancelling the scheduled Biennial 8th Cultural Officers’ conference in this fiscal year, the Department of Culture in consultation with the Cultural Officers’ have decided to host virtual Cultural Conference starting from 1st of May 2020 over the next two months (on a weekly basis) to discuss the impact of COVID-19 situation to the culture sector. This virtual platform will be used to take stock of the challenges and issues faced by the Cultural officers in the current situation, and discuss a way forward to manage these problems. The Department of Culture will also be using this virtual platform to provide all the necessary technical backstopping to the Cultural officers by keeping them updated and equipped with tools to manage the changes brought about by the current situation. The virtual conference will also provide access to crucial publications as the base reference to take forward awareness, research and implementation of works related to culture.

Therefore, on 1 May 2020 coinciding with the start of 8th Biennial Virtual Cultural Officers’ Conference, a book titled “Arts and Culture of Bhutan-Reflections on Bhutanese Cultural Wisdom Overtime, which was generously donated by Khenpo Phuntshok Tashi to the Department of Culture to revitalize the Cultural Trust Fund will be launched as a tribute to His Majesty the King.