Chhewang Rinzin: On the Middle Path. The Social Basis for Sustainable Development in Bhutan. Utrecht 2006 (Nederlandse Geografische Studies 352). 204 S.Bhutan's modified approach to sustainable development features under the unique concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). In CHHEWANG RINZIN's doctoral thesis the author explores the "middle path" in order to augment our understanding of the role of human capacity development in the given social setting of Bhutan. The signifying terms applied are strongly related to Buddhist world views. Nevertheless, Gross National Happiness correlates strongly with concepts of sustainable development by emphasizing on four equally important and equivalent pillars such as equitability in economic development, conservation of environment, preservation of culture, promotion of good governance. All four domains are very important in understanding regional development. Nevertheless, it seems to be a little confusing that tourism, nature protection and the relations between Bhutan and the Netherlands in the framework of a South-South cooperation endeavour are selected as the prime foci of investigation when a holistic approach is attempted. The results which are presented in this publication are based on extensive interviews with representatives of civil society and the government. It is understandable how interview partners were selected. At the same time we should keep in mind that about one seventh of the Bhutanese inhabitants are living in refugee camps outside the country. For more than a decade they have been expelled and are presently negotiating a "third-country-solution". Probably they would not share the notion of "gross national happiness" as it is presented on the "middle path". Their view would be different and does not find representation in the investigation into the "social basis for sustainable development" as the subtitle reads. Even people who presently are living within Bhutan might challenge the "middle path strategy" in this rather top-down approach with rather limited people's participation and obvious inequalities in wealth distribution and access to resources. Human capacity development in its full scope is definitely one of the major challenges for Bhutan in the future.
Under the given circumstances of his academic environment CHHEWANG RINZIN has achieved to introduce the development thinking in Bhutan and specifically to enhance our knowledge about the successful tourism concept of Bhutan. The flowchart on p. 89 shows impressively how Bhutan has managed to create a healthy tourism environment within the country in which different stakeholders are participating successfully. Equally important is the approach to nature conservation and the management of national parks. Given the
natural wealth of Bhutan there are major challenges for preservation. In addition we learn about the Bhutanese-Dutch relations and the bilateral development cooperation. Consequently, this approach to present the "middle path strategy" of official Bhutanese development thinking is an important contribution to an initial perception of social
dynamics in a somehow privileged environment with pending social problems.
Autor: Hermann Kreutzmann