The Bhutanese delegation to the United Nations General Assembly returned home satisfied by its contribution to the global community despite its smallness.
Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering who spoke about multilateralism in his address to the UN on September 28, said that there is no alternative to multilateralism. “At a time when multilateralism is often questioned, Bhutan’s faith in the United Nations remain unwavering,” he said. “I return with renewed confidence that Bhutan continues to enjoy goodwill and support from the international community.”
However, he said challenges confronting the global community are numerous and multifaceted for individual states to tackle on their own. To keep pace with the changing times, Lyonchhen said the UN must also evolve.
From Bhutan’s perspective, he conveyed to the global leaders that existing structure and composition of the Security Council do not reflect the ground realities and circumstances of the world.
“The reform of the UN Security Council must go hand-in-hand with the wider reforms of the UN system in order for the organisation to remain legitimate, effective and credible,” the Prime Minister said.
He also said that Bhutan realise that peace and security is a shared responsibility and that the country joined peacekeeping mission since 2014, despite limitations. The number is seen to have gradually increased.
With deep appreciation to the country’s monarchs, Lyonchhen said GNH has not only enhanced the principles of inclusive development and put Bhutan on the right footing to achieve the SDGs, but also prevented the country from exploiting its natural resources.
“When climate change has become the greatest threat to humanity today, isn’t it a wonder that a small country like Bhutan has the foresight to take this path from early days,” he said.
He told the global leaders gathered in New York that the government has launched the package to procure 300 electric taxis with the support from Global Environmental Facility. In absolute numbers, he said this might sound meager. But for a small nation, this is almost 10 percent of the taxi fleet in the country. “Ironically, these contributions are rendered futile by the choices of others. Those who can are not doing enough,” he said.
In an interview with Kuensel, he said the UN has high regard for Bhutan despite its smallness. “From the UN lens, if there is one country that champions the environmental conservation, it is Bhutan,” he said.
Lyonchhen said that the UNGA agenda resonates well with the government’s priority. “For a resource constrained country, providing free healthcare and education is not easy. But it is the best investment,” he said.
He told Kuensel that he did not come to the UNGA with just talking points and neither with high hopes to get deals done. However, he said the delegation took part in every meeting and side events that are relevant to the country and is of national priority. It is for the government to now materialise the talks into action.
In the next four to five years, Lyonchhen said the graduation from the LDC category would happen by any means without the government doing much. “Localising SDG will be the biggest challenge in preparing for graduation,” he said adding that the concern is declining donor assistance on which most social sector development depends.
To enhance financing and human resource development needs, Lyonchhen also met with the Singaporean Prime Minister, Foreign Minister of Canada, Federal Chancellor of Austria and the high-level officials of Credit Sussie. “We are looking for sustainable financing and assistance in developing the skills in the TVET and education,” he said.
He said that the government is approaching education from a totally different perspective to impart skills and knowledge to children instead of educating them to get jobs. To do so, he said relevancy of courses offered in the institutions must be examined and quality of teachers enhanced.
However, in his address to the UNGA, Lyonchhen said that Bhutan is faced with challenges to eradicate poverty, address income inequality and ensuring vulnerable sections of the population do not fall back into poverty due to natural disaster and climate change. This, he said would come hard on resource-constrained countries without institutional capacity.
“We are mindful that Bhutan has been found eligible for graduation based on social and income indices,” he said adding that the country has not met the economic vulnerability index.
Tshering Dorji | New York