Bhutan+10 Conference Sets New Agendas for Gender-Positive Change in Sustainable Mountain Development

Over 200 women and men from all over the world gathered in Thimphu, Bhutan to set new agendas for gender-positive change in natural resource management in rapidly changing mountain contexts. A decade following the success of the ‘Celebrating Mountain Women’ conference in 2002, participants at the Bhutan+10 Conference, which was held 14–19 October, reflected on gains, innovations, and best practices in achieving gender equality in the region and beyond, as well as the persistent challenges and resistance that continue to face mountain women. A comprehensive new framework for gender-positive change was presented, embracing strategies for gender-focused research, strengthening of women’s leadership skills, actionable policy and outreach, and the development of networks and new partnerships across the greater Himalayan region and beyond.

The international conference was co-organized by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the National Commission for Women and Children, Bhutan, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan.

The week’s activities included an informative and engaging high-level panel of Ministers from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Norway, and Pakistan, including a debate on the pros and cons of affirmative action and quota systems. A second high-level panel reflected on the outcomes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in terms of gender impact. Both panels ended with strong messages renewing the focus on gender equality. Six plenaries and eighteen parallel sessions brought together senior experts, researchers, policy makers, and grassroots practitioners on gender and natural resource management from around the world to reflect, debate, and develop new strategies on gender issues in areas such as livelihoods, climate change, governance, ecosystems, and water and hazard management. The conference, which was honoured by the presence of Her Royal Highness Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck and the Honourable Chief Justice of Bhutan, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye, provided a vital networking opportunity where new friendships, linkages, and bilateral relations were forged that will last into the next decade. 

At the closing of the conference, the creation of a new global network on Women, Gender, Environment and Mountains was announced, to ensure that researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and grassroots women will be connected on a regular basis. The Bhutan+10 conference declaration was presented in video form, recited by diverse participants ; it calls for better integration of mountain perspectives in all sectors and scales of international development, sufficient human and financial resources for gender analysis and transformative change, affirmative action, recognition of women and men as active players on a level playing field, and the promotion of wellbeing and happiness in mountain countries. 

In addition, two publications – an important report on women’s participation in the 2011 national elections in Bhutan and the ICIMOD study ‘Gender and Biodiversity Management in the Greater Himalayas’ – were launched on the opening day of the conference. Women environment leaders were interviewed for a video to inspire future generations of girls and women.