Distinguished Colleagues from the UN System and Other International and Regional Organizations,
Representatives of the Donor Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I regret that I was not been able to attend the inaugural session of the 11th Round Table Meeting held this morning/yesterday. As you all might have known, we were held back due to the landfall of devastating Hurricane Irene in New York during the weekends.
However, I feel privileged and deeply honoured for being able to attend this important Round Table Meeting between the Royal Government of Bhutan and its development partner. This, I understand, serves as an important platform for policy dialogue and aid coordination between the Royal Government and its development partners.
I commend the Royal Government of Bhutan for its excellent arrangement of this meeting; and for its warm hospitality extended to me and to my colleague.
This meeting is taking place at a critical time. Multiple crises have devastated the economy of almost every country of the world. Least Developed Countries bear the major brunt of the impacts. Bhutan, a member of LDCs, is no exception to that. This meeting is also important as it takes place just in four-month’s time since the international community adopted a development compact for the least developed countries at the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries held in Istanbul from 9-13 May 2011.
The Istanbul Programme of Action has identified eight priority areas, which like all other LDCs, are highly important for Bhutan. The eight priority areas of the Istanbul Programme include (i) building productive capacity including in infrastructure, energy, Science, technology and information (STI) and private sector development; (ii) agriculture, food security and rural development; (iii) trade; (iv) commodities; (v) human and social development including women’s empowerment; (vi) multiple crises and emerging challenges such as climate change and sustainability; (vii) mobilization of resources for development and capacity building; and (viii) good governance at all levels that includes democracy, respect for all human rights, transparency and accountability and equitable governance at the international level.
Bhutan’s recent development in the political and socio-economic arena has succeeded in drawing the positive consideration of the international community. High economic growth, significant improvement is socio-economic indicators and continuous advancement in good governance have placed the country on the path of a steady progress and sustainable development. The nascent democracy is firmly and deeply rooted. The country is on track in meeting many of the Millennium Development Goals.
Bhutan as a thought leader of the idea of Gross National Happiness (GNH) receives praise across the globe. Adoption of a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on the theme “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” by consensus is a manifestation of the recognition of this philosophical idea, which goes far beyond the very fundamentals of conventional economic and development models. I believe this innovative idea would be emulated in other comparable milieu.
Despite much potential, Bhutan still faces a number of developmental challenges. This country happens to be a land-locked, mountainous and a least developed one. Having hailed from a similar country, I can understand the challenges that Bhutan has been facing in its development endeavours. Global economic and financial crises, food and energy crisis have also affected the development prospects of Bhutan. This country with a fragile mountain ecosystem is highly vulnerable to climate change that poses serious threat to its future progress and wellbeing. Their economic growth is highly volatile and has high sensitivity to external shocks. High debt burden is another challenge that this small economy has been facing.
Distinguished Development Partners,
Sustainability of Bhutan’s praiseworthy development requires enhanced and continued international support. Besides mobilizing increased resources domestically, Bhutan needs international support in the form of aid, debt relief, trade capacity building through aid for trade, and technology transfer. They need increased international support to build their productive capacity including infrastructure and tourism, diversify their economy and export base as well as markets, and strengthening their democratic institutions. All these priorities have been clearly identified in the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs.
Full, effective and timely implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action can make significant developmental impacts to the economy of Bhutan. The first and foremost task of the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action is its integration into the development strategies and development cooperation framework of Bhutan, its donor countries, UN System and other international and regional organizations as agreed upon in the Istanbul Programme of Action. Since all relevant actors are present here, I would call upon all of you to please mainstream the Istanbul Programme of Action in your respective development strategies and plans as well as development cooperation strategies.
As Bhutan has marked considerable progress in its socio-economic field, it has already fulfilled one of the two criteria required for a country to graduate from the LDC category. It is likely, and we expect so, Bhutan will meet other criteria soon which will qualify Bhutan to reach the stage of graduation. The United Nations has been working hard to develop a smooth transition and graduation strategy so that the countries graduated from LDC list could maintain their development trajectory and do not decelerate. Istanbul Programme of Action has requested the development and trading partners continue to support the implementation of the transition strategy and avoid any abrupt reductions in financial and technical assistance to LDCs.
In conclusion, I would like to mention that one of the mandates of my office is to assist in mobilizing international support and resources for the implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action for least developed countries. I can assure you that my office will continue its efforts for poverty eradication, sustained economic growth and sustainable developed of LDCs, including Bhutan.
I thank you all for your kind attention.