Dechen Dolkar 

Bhutan has been ranked 127th out of 191 countries in the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI).  The 2022 report was launched yesterday. Bhutan’s ranking has moved up by two ranks from 129 from the previous year.

Bhutan is among some of the countries that have improved their standings. There has been a consistent rise across all human development indicators that include life expectancy, education, and gross national income.   

Among the SAARC countries, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are ranked above Bhutan, 73 and 90, respectively.

Bhutan falls under the medium human development category together with neighbouring countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan.

Titled “Uncertain Times, Unsettled Lives: shaping our future in a transforming world”, the report argues that layers of uncertainty are stacking up.   

UNDP Bhutan’s resident representative, Azusa Kubota, said that this year’s report promotes investment, insurance, and innovation.

She said that the report comes at a time when the global community is grappling with compounding challenges: the pandemic, a climate emergency, conflicts, rising inflation that is causing a global cost of living crisis, and increasing stress on mental health.

“The pandemic exposed existing tensions and weaknesses of our systems and institutions that continue to be tested time and again. The human development index has experienced an unprecedented reversal,” said Azusa Kubota.

Over 90 percent of countries registered a decline in their HDI score in either 2020 or 2021 and more than 40 percent declined in both years, signalling that the crisis is still deepening for many. 

During the launch, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering said that the task in front of us is urgent. Bhutan as a small landlocked nation is also impacted by Covid-19, displacing people economically and socially, and climate change and global warming are making Bhutan more vulnerable than ever to climate and economic shocks.

“We are truly being tested in our commitment and ability to address the multitude of challenges that demand us to work together,” said Lyonpo.

UNDP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Kanni Wignaraja, said that we can accomplish a lot by working together towards shared goals.

She said that by doubling human development investments, protecting the planet, and providing people with the tools they need to feel more secure and thrive in an uncertain world, countries can create futures of prosperity, opportunity, and hope. “Where we go from here is up to us.”

The report recommends implementing policies that focus on investment from renewable energy to preparedness for pandemics and insurance, including social protection to better-prepared societies to face uncertain times.

The Ten-Drel, an online platform to enhance citizen engagement in decision-making was also launched.  

The locally-developed platform is a joint initiative of the National Council of Bhutan and UNDP and will serve as a space for vibrant public debate and discussion on key national issues.