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Development Guidelines

[Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGIE). July 17, 2000]

These Guidelines were compiled by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (TGIE) to foster sustainable development in Tibet1 that will enhance the capacity of the Tibetan people to fully participate in the development of their land and to control the use of their natural resources. These Guidelines seek to encourage active international engagement that will improve the Tibetan people’s quality of life and to address the existing imbalances in the development of Tibet. Through responsible development and investment, the international community has the ability to make a major, positive impact on the lives of the Tibetan people. Throughout Tibet today, resources for promoting local businesses, education, and healthcare are extremely limited.

The socio-economic situation in Tibet is on par with some worst areas in the third world. While the specific needs of the Tibetan people in Tibet may vary from region to region, all Tibetan communities are disadvantaged. We therefore encourage the involvement of the international community in sustainable development and prodective investment in all regions inhabited by Tibetans. Despite living in economically and socially depressed conditions, Tibetans have attempted to build schools, monasteries, initiate development projects and develop their own enterprises (such as textile, carpet, handicraft manufacturing, dairy and grain processing). But it has been difficult for the majority of Tibetan communities to benefit from and expand these projects because they have received little or no assistance from the Chinese government, and they have very limited access to capital. Furthermore, rural infrastructure is very poor and prohibits development.

By providing the resources necessary for the Tibetans to be actively involved in their own development, and to become business and civic leaders in their communities. International organisations and individuals can play a critical role in empowering the Tibetan people to become self-sufficient and to protect Tibet’s unique way of life.

Historical Background

Ever since 1949, even though the Chinese government initially made some efforts to improve the standard of living of the Tibetan people, China’s development strategy was largely geared towards imposing the People’s Liberation Army-led administrative superstructure, and later, towards assimilating Tibet into the People’s Republic of China.

From 1950 until 1979, economic and structural measures such as co-operatives and communes were introduced in Tibet. These measures disregarded Tibetan culture and traditions: nomads were forced to be sedentary farmers; pasturelands became arable lands; winter wheat replaced native barley (Tibet’s staple foodcrop); and huge state taxes were imposed to achieve unreasonable regional production targets. All these measures resulted in declining productivity, the degradation of grassland, and foodgrain shortages unknown in the history of Tibet.

The then Chinese Communist Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang, recognised this decline in conditions of the Tibetan people at the First Work Forum on Tibet in 1980. As a result, the Household Responsibility System (HRS) was introduced, reversing the policies of the previous 30 years. By the end of 1982, decollectivisation was implemented and more social and religious freedom was granted in Tibet. Living conditions began to improve as the revenue and taxation systems were decentralised.

However, the positive impact of the HRS was short-lived because the emphasis was placed on Tibet’s integration with China rather than on local self-sufficiency. Tibet was providing China’s rich coastal region with energy, minerals and timber. In return, Tibet was receiving Chinese “skilled” settlers who brought “technical, managerial and business skills” to the region and helped open Tibet’s market for Chinese manufactured goods. This massive influx of Chinese settlers further marginalised the Tibetan people, economically and socially.

In 1984 the Chinese government initiated 43 development projects, following up with 62 additional projects in 1994. These projects aimed to “develop the Tibetan economy and society” in Central Tibet. However, these initiatives did not result in the development of any significant Tibetan-run projects. Instead they have mainly benefited Chinese urban dwellers and strengthened China’s control over Tibet. For example, the projects initiated in 1984 alone brought 60,000 Chinese into Tibet, causing 30,000 Tibetans from 18 work units to lose their jobs. Rural areas in Tibet still have no access to electricity, education, healthcare and safe drinking water facilities.


The priority of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile is for the Tibetan people to be able to achieve their optimum economic and cultural potential. Thus, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has sought to enter into negotiations with the Chinese government in order to achieve a settlement, which would grant Tibetans genuine autonomy within the framework of the People’s Republic of China.

As a political solution to Tibet is being pursued, international aid and development agencies, as well as investors, can and should be involved in raising the standard of living for the Tibetan people and in assisting Tibetans to become self-reliant.

Basic principles:

* To enhance the capabilities of Tibetans to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of the future.

* To transform the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace with a democratic society.

* To create a future economic system based on a non-violent and equitable society.

* To restore and conserve Tibet’s extensive, fragile resource base and the environment.

* To reverse the process of marginalisation of Tibetans in Tibet and empower Tibetans to take control of developing Tibet.

* To support not only the economic well-being of Tibetans, but also their social, cultural, spiritual and environmental welfare.


* All development projects should be implemented only after conducting a thorough need-assessment of the Tibetan people through field visits and interviews.

* All development initiatives should be preceded by cultural, social and environmental impact assessments.

* Development projects should foster self-sufficiency and self-reliance of Tibetans.

* Projects should promote accountability of the development agencies to the Tibetan people and active participation of Tibetans in all project stages.

* Projects should respect Tibetan culture, traditions and the vast Tibetan knowledge and wisdom about their landscape and survival techniques.

* Agencies should have a local presence at all stages of the project to ensure that the intended target group benefits.

* Tibetan should be used as the working language of projects. It will be important for the development project staff to know the Tibetan language.

Prioritised Areas for Aid and Investment

Given the vast needs of the Tibetan people, we would like to highlight the following priorities for international development and investment programmes in Tibet:

1. Education

* Provide increased opportunities for primary, secondary and tertiary education in rural areas, including the building of schools;

* Provide adequate teaching materials in Tibetan to promote spoken and written Tibetan language;

* Develop learning centres for Tibetan language, culture and traditions to ensure the survival of Tibet’s unique way of life;

* Provide professional training and skill development for Tibetans, preferably in the Tibetan language;

* Provide pre-service and in-service teacher training;

* Develop adult-literacy programmes;

* Provide opportunities for Tibetan language media, including television, radio and print.

2. Culture and Traditions

* Restore and protect Tibet’s sacred places, historical monuments, and institutes of learning;

* Develop Tibetan cultural and traditional schools of learning;

* Preserve Tibetan relics and manuscripts; and

* Promote Tibet’s unique arts and crafts, such as thangka painting, wood carving, metal crafts, handicrafts, music and dances.

3. Healthcare

* Establish primary healthcare centres in villages;

* Train doctors and health workers;

* Provide essential medicines and vaccination to the rural areas;

* Train village health workers in primary care and first aid;

* Ensure safe drinking water and decent rural sanitation;

* Develop community healthcare action programmes and publications to prevent diseases, especially infectious diseases such as tuberculosis; and

* Preserve and promote Tibetan medical knowledge.

4. Environment and Biodiversity

* Train Tibetans in sustainable management of natural resources;

* Protect and rehabilitate vulnerable ecosystems;

* Prevent water, air and land pollution;

* Pursue reforestation programmes and cultivation of medicinal plants;

* Protect rare species of animals and plants;

* Promote environmental education and awareness;

* Develop eco-friendly tourism; and

* Promote culturally sensitive ecological research and information sharing.

5. Agriculture

* Encourage sustainable crop farming;

* Ensure basic food needs and alleviate Tibetan poverty;

* Promote ownership of land by Tibetans;

* Create water conservation and irrigation programmes;

* Promote agro-forestry and soil conservation techniques;

* Promote use of appropriate technology in agriculture;

* Encourage use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind; and

* Promote agro-based local enterprises.

6. Pastoral Nomadism

* Prevent grassland and pasture degradation;

* Protect and improve winter grazing-land;

* Provide emergency relief and humanitarian aid;

* Create veterinary and animal disease prevention facilities;

* Support skill training in livestock breeding and improvement;

* Provide training in agricultural management;

* Give training in modern dairy processing and preserving techniques;

* Provide small-scale hydropower for rural Tibetan communities;

* Strengthen the traditional economy and livelihood of rural Tibetans; and

* Facilitate marketing of traditional products.

7. Employment Enhancement

* Promote rural-based vocational skills, education and training;

*Introduce self-help and small development enterprises;

* Support projects which provide business management and entrepreneurial training to achieve self-reliance;

* Develop Tibetan-run charitable organisations which can more effectively articulate the needs of their local communities;

* Provide access to information, training, funding sources and project facilities for Tibetans;

* Provide loans and credit facilities for Tibetan-run businesses;

* Promote youth entrepreneurship; and

* Promote cooperation among Tibetan communities.

8. Business Development

* Encourage business and development projects run and managed by Tibetans;

* Spur sustainable economic growth in Tibet;

* Provide equity, credit and forms of guarantee for Tibetans in order to encourage business initiatives;

* Provide information about business projects and economic sectors in the Tibetan language;

* Provide details on privatisation issues, such as how to start an independent business;

* Offer business plan development assistance;

* Provide assistance in locating soft funding for technical, environmental, community development and training work related to projects.


With international development assistance and investment, the Tibetan people have the potential to become economically self-sufficient and to preserve their unique way of life. While their needs are great, coordinated international involvement can have a major impact on Tibetans’ standard of living. We strongly believe that the Tibetan people must be intricately involved in their own development. They must be consulted at all project stages and be allocated key roles in the design, implementation and supervision of projects. We encourage international development agencies to coordinate and cooperate with each other by sharing information and resources. Furthermore, we encourage those who are interested in helping Tibetans inside Tibet to seek the views of the Tibetan people, particularly His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the TGIE. For obvious reasons, any formal involvement of the Tibetan leadership in exile may not be acceptable. However, it is critical that the views of the Tibetan people, and the exile leadership, be taken into full consideration. This will ensure that the Tibetans are the primary beneficiaries of development and investment in Tibet and that they will have the ultimate say in their own development.

Lastly, we encourage agencies and individuals interested in helping Tibetans in Tibet to keep the TGIE apprised of their activities, progress and difficulties.

A Final Note of Caution

We request that all individuals and agencies working in Tibet make efforts to ensure that their participation in Tibet does not:

a) Deplete natural resources; with little or no benefit to the Tibetan people.

b) Facilitate the erosion of Tibetan culture and traditions.

c) Facilitate the migration and settlement of non-Tibetans into Tibet.

d) Negatively affect the sustainability of Tibet’s ecosystems.

e) Transfer ownership of Tibetan land and natural resources to non-Tibetans.

f) Operate projects without the participation of affected Tibetans.

g) Facilitate large-scale, capital intensive, and commercial projects.

For further information and for discussion of specific project proposals contact:

Environment & Development Desk, Department of Information & International Relations, Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala-176215 H.P. India. Tel: +91-1892-22510/22457/24662; Fax: +91-1892-24957; E-mail: ecodesk@diir.gov.tibet.net; website: www.tibet.com

1 Tibet comprises the three provinces of Amdo, Kham and U-Tsang (called Cholka-sum by Tibetans), with a total area of 2.5 million sq. km. It includes the present day Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai and other Amdo areas incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Gansu, and major parts of Kham taken by Sichuan and Yunnan. China today acknowledges only the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (1.2 million sq. km) founded in 1965 as "Tibet."

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