Legal Needs Assessment(LNA)

JSW Law launched a major interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research project in late October of 2018. This project actively engages with individuals across each of Bhutan’s twenty districts. The study focuses not only on traditional notions of “vulnerability,” but also focuses heavily on sources of resilience. The LNA will capture the strategies, both legal and otherwise, that communities and individuals across Bhutan have found to be effective in helping them address their social vulnerabilities. Designed by academics with extensive backgrounds in law, conflict resolution, human security and vast prior research expertise, this project is the first of its kind in Bhutan.

Through the use of a range of methodologies, the LNA intends to capture contemporary Bhutanese perceptions and definitions of justice, broadly defined. Researchers will document how individuals and communities make use of either the traditional or more formal dispute resolution mechanisms. The study will also explore how Bhutan’s historically unique recent history has influenced understandings of “justice,” and how these definitions may still be shifting as a result of the country’s push towards modernization and development. Of particular interest will be the impact of Bhutan’s now almost four decades-old official embrace of an “alternative’ and more holistic development philosophy, and whether that has had any impact on how individuals and communities in Bhutan understand their rights and responsibilities as Bhutanese citizens.

15 senior dispute resolvers and a select number of local government officials from across Bhutan’s western Dzongkhags gathered in the historic Olathang hotel in Paro.

The LNA is designed and conducted by JSW Law faculty and researchers. Those researchers have been working closely with partners at the University of Vienna (Austria) and the Fletcher School at Tufts University (USA) to refine their methodology and ensure that the study’s results are relevant not just in Bhutan, but also more globally.

The initial study, which is inspired by a mixed-methods, ethnographic methodology, will subsequently feed into a second stage of the project, which will build on existing rule of law indicators (for example those associated with the UN Sustainable Development Goals relating to the Justice Sector) to develop a robust and empirically validated set of justice, fairness, and social equity. This set of indicators, once finalized, will eventually become a long-term evaluation tool that JSW Law’s Research Centre plans to administer periodically – in line with Bhutan’s development planning cycle – to measure the country’s progress with regard to efforts to strengthen its Justice Sector. In this way, JSW Law will play and essential role informing relevant Bhutanese stakeholders as to ongoing Justice Sector development priorities, as well as the evolution of legal needs across the country.

LNA Report

The LNA is generously funded by the Ford Foundation and the Royal Government of Bhutan.

For further enquiries or questions regarding the Legal Needs Assessment, please contact Ugyen Thinley at