UNDP: Bhutan stands a good chance to gain from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the United Nations will adopt next month.

SDGs are the new global development goals, which will guide development for the next decade and beyond.

United Nations Development Programme’s Resident Representative Christina Carlson said that SDGs represent a remarkable opportunity for the country because Gross National Happiness (GNH) is close to some of the SDG goals.

“Bhutan already has a leg up and can take leadership roles in the international community to show others how to tackle these multi – sectoral goals,” she said. “I am thinking specifically of SDG 2015, which is concerned with the interaction between ecosystem health, biodiversity and land degradation.”

Goal 15 of the 17- SDGs commits to, “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss,” by 2030.

The goal mirrors GNH’s pillar of environmental conservation and has direct impacts on critical services such as water and energy.

Balancing development and environmental conservation, SDG 15 has10 target areas, that include among others integrating ecosystem and biodiversity values into local and national development processes and reducing poverty.

It also highlights mobilising more financial resources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity.

A press release from the UNDP stated that some countries in the region have proven that local reforestation efforts or full-fledged green growth strategies can facilitate win-wins for environment and economic development.

For instance, following the 2008 financial crisis, the Republic of Korea shifted focus from carbon-intensive industries to innovative, low-carbon technology to reduce pollution while generating employment.

About 50 percent of all jobs worldwide are linked to agriculture, fisheries and forests and these will be directly affected if biodiversity is not protected from deforestation and fragmentation. In Bhutan, 69 percent of the population depends on agriculture for livelihood.

She said that Bhutan is miles ahead of many other countries and can truly show leadership among the international community.

“We at the UN are discussing the possibility for Bhutan to become a pilot country for engaging in the global dialogue and proving that the concept of SDGs work,” she said. “Specifically because of Bhutan’s already robust experience of the GNH principles.”

The SDGs are multi-sectoral in nature and address the complexities in the international development.

The Millennium Development Goals were sectoral for instance improving child development and decreasing maternal mortality.

The Sustainable Development Goals look at the interaction between sectors for instance, the influences of the environment on the health.

“This will revolutionise the way we work,” the UNDP Resident Representative said.

The system has measures against likely problems that could crop up among ministries and agencies in collaborating. The data collection will undermine the sustainability of the development goals.

The UN is working with the GNHC to look at the data that Bhutan already holds, assess its gaps, and see what needs to be done to fill those gaps.

With constant robust analysis of the progress across sectors, she said, that this data element would stop things from falling in to those gaps when no one truly owns the goals.

Tshering Palden