As Bhutan strides into the last mile of its graduation from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category, the country needs to share its stories and innovations that allow policy makers around the world to take happiness seriously, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said during the Round Table Meeting that concluded two days ago.
The Gross National Happiness (GNH) Survey 2015 that reaches out to the people in an effort to gauge their well being, the drive to protect the country’s unique but vulnerable culture, the fact that Bhutan is ahead of the world when it comes to the environment; fighting climate change, free education and health care facilities despite the limited resources, are all but examples of local innovations that must be shared with the world, according to the Prime Minister.
While LDC graduation could result in reduced concessional loans, higher membership fees to global organisations and limited assistance, if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) are truly sustainable then Bhutan is on the right track.
This is because the country’s development plans are closely integrated with the SDGs, which in turn are in resonance with the principles of GNH.
The SDGs, officially known as “transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” is a set of 17 aspirational global goals with 169 targets.
Speaking on the linkages between the GNH principles and SDGs during the Round Table Meeting, the foreign ministry’s director of the multilateral affairs department, Doma Tshering said Bhutan’s transition from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) to the SDGs and integrating those into the national plans has been a fairly seamless process as there is much complementarity between the SDGs and GNH.
She said that both advocate a holistic, people and planet centric, and poverty eradication approach. One SDG goal that does not fit directly into the national plan is pertaining to the goal of protecting oceans, seas and marine resources. “But the country fully appreciates that goal,” she said.
As far as the 11th Plan is concerned, she said that the rapid integrated assessment conducted by the United Nations reveals that 143 of 169 SDG targets are relevant for Bhutan in 11th Plan. Of the 143 targets,134 were found already integrated into the 11th Plan, illustrating a high level of alignment.
“It is not surprising that the GNH survey also revealed an increase in the level of happiness among the people,” she added.
The 16 national key result areas of the 11th Plan are also harmonised with 14 SDGs.
More synergies are pointed out in the 12th Plan as the 16 national key result areas are directly correlated to 16 out of 17 SDG goals.
For Bhutan, she said GNH is clearly the way forward as it enables the country to work resolutely in realising the SDGs.
While the country may face development challenges as it graduates from the LDC category, participants attending the meeting said this approach ensures a transformative change that is sustainable.
The country’s national plans, which is GNH based, are not only aligned with SDGs but other global development agendas such as the MDGs, Istanbul Programme of Action (IPoA), the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the Beijing Platform, among others.