The foreign minister said at the 71st session of the UNGA

UN: Bhutan hopes to expand its contribution to the UN peacekeeping effort in coming years, foreign affairs minister, Damcho Dorji said during his address to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24.

“Peace and security is a shared concern and responsibility. Bhutan is committed to supporting UN peacekeeping endeavours to maintain peace, protect civilians and to create the conditions necessary for lasting and durable solutions to conflicts around the world,” the foreign minister said. “Despite our limitations and constraints, we joined the fraternity of troop and police contributing countries in 2014,” Lyonpo added.

“This is a reflection of our commitment to share the burden along with other member states. Today, we have a presence in 10 peacekeeping missions and we hope to broaden and deepen our peacekeeping engagement in the coming years.”

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji also urged the international community not to squander the historic opportunity presented by the recent land mark global compacts including the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Together, he said, the agreements present a historic opportunity to secure collective resolve to advance peace, security, human rights, and sustainable development. He called for urgent, focused, and comprehensive action to translate the agreements into real and meaningful dividends for all peoples and for all countries.

He recognised terrorism as the most flagrant violation of human rights, and strongly condemned it in all its forms and manifestations.

“Over the last five years, at least 15 major conflicts have erupted around the world,” Lyonpo said. “Today, we are witness to the largest displacement of people fleeing violence and conflict since the founding of the UN.”

Lyonpo pointed out that the value of arms trade and global military expenditures has exceeded Cold War levels. “The current stockpile of nuclear weapons is enough to destroy our planet hundreds of times over,” he said. “This unimaginable destructive power still looms as a grave threat. All these are an acute reminder that our quest for peace and security remains unfulfilled.”

Lyonpo also pointed out the risk of climate change is no longer an abstract and long-term threat. “Climate change is real and countries in special situations such as LDCs and SIDS are the most vulnerable,” Lyonpo said. “We have all experienced the devastating and de-stabilising impacts of climate change both in their frequency and intensity.” As an example, Lyonpo pointed to the extensive destruction and damage to property and infrastructure caused by unprecedented flash floods that took place in the country in July.

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that Bhutan has successfully aligned the SDGs with the country’s national priorities. “The next decade remains critical as we seek to consolidate development gains and work towards realising our national development goals of eradicating poverty, promoting inclusive and sustained economic growth, achieving self reliance and eventual graduation from the least developed category,” he said. “This is particularly important as Bhutan faces immense challenges as an LDC and as a landlocked country,” he added. “In this endeavour, the role of our development partners is critical.”

Lyonpo said the emphasis needs to shift from expressing approximate broad support measures to LDCs as a group to what is necessary at the country level. “Financing for development, particularly ODA commitments, must be disaggregated to the country level so that they can be expressed in national budgets to finance short, medium and long-term investment plans,” he said. “Without such predictability, it is impossible for LDCs to formulate integrated and effective strategies and plans necessary to achieve the SDGs.”

Lyonpo pointed out that as a result of predictability of funds, projects such as the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, Health Trust Fund, and Bhutan for Life Project (BFL) had been created.

The foreign minister called on the UN to evolve, specifically asking for the UN Security Council to be reformed. “Effective multilateralism requires an effective United Nations – a UN that is ‘fit for purpose’,” he said. “Since the founding of the UN, the world has undergone profound changes. Its membership has increased fourfold and the challenges we face have become more complex,” he said. “Institutions cannot be static and must evolve and adapt to remain relevant and effective,” Lyonpo said. “The UN and its principal organs such as the Security Council must be reformed in keeping with contemporary realities to make it representative, transparent and accountable, and to enhance its legitimacy and credibility.”

The foreign minister led the government’s delegation to the 71st session of the UN General Assembly. The theme of the 71st session is The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform our World.”

While in New York, Lyonpo also participated in the Annual Meeting of the Ministers of Least Developed Countries, the Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77, meets on the Asian Cooperation Dialogue and of SAARC, as well a high level event on Innovative Public Service Delivery through South-South and Triangular Cooperation. As one of the Vice Presidents of the Bureau of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, Lyonpo chaired the Fifteenth Meeting of LLDC Ministers on September 22.

Bilateral discussions were conducted with a number of partners, including Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Maldives Mongolia, Singapore and the United States. The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations. It is traditionally one of the largest annual gatherings of governments at the level of Heads of State, Heads of Government, and Foreign Ministers.

Staff reporter