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It was a proud and solemn moment for Bhutan when the United Nations (UN) formally admitted the country as its 128th member state at the UN Headquarters in New York on 21st September 1971.  His Royal Highness Prince Namgyel Wangchuck led the Bhutanese delegation. The historic occasion was marked with three days of jubilant celebrations in Thimphu.

Five decades later, as Bhutan marks the 50th anniversary of its membership to the UN, the occasion is no less special. The partnership between the UN and Bhutan has grown over the decades with collaborations expanding into a diverse range of fields contributing to Bhutan’s development goals.

The Royal Government of Bhutan in collaboration with the United Nations (UN) Country Team in Bhutan, will hold a series of activities and events in 2021 to mark this historic milestone. The launch ceremony to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bhutan’s membership to the UN took place on Monday, 22 February 2021 coinciding with the celebrations of His Majesty The King’s 41st Birth Anniversary. In keeping with the COVID-19 protocol, the launch was marked amid a simple ceremony attended by a small gathering comprising of senior government officials, Heads of resident UN Agencies and the diplomatic community in Thimphu. Members of Bhutan’s diplomatic missions and embassies were invited to attend the event virtually. The launch ceremony was broadcast live through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Facebook page. The launch ceremony began with the offering of prayers and butter lamps at the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu in honour of His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo under whose leadership Bhutan’s membership to the UN was realised. 

Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering graced the launch ceremony as the Chief Guest. Speaking at the event, Hon’ble Prime Minister paid tribute to Their Majesties The Kings for the visibility and goodwill that Bhutan has earned, as a responsible and credible member of the international community. “Their wisdom and foresight have enabled Bhutan to constructively engage with the international community and work for the collective wellbeing of humanity.” Hon’ble Prime Minister also took the opportunity to reaffirm the Royal Government’s commitment to uphold the values and principles as enshrined in the UN Charter and thanked the UN for their commitment to Bhutan’s development. 

“As we launch the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bhutan as a member state to the United Nations, we are recognizing the history of a unique relationship. The past five decades tell the story of a strong and enduring partnership between the Royal Government of Bhutan and the UN – especially the 31 UN agencies that work for Bhutan. Now is not a time for the UN to rest on any laurels. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to work together for a self-reliant, innovating and sustainable Bhutan,” said Mr. Gerald Daly, Resident Coordinator, UN Bhutan. 

The launch ceremony saw the unveiling of the official 50th anniversary logo and the commemorative theme song. A national essay competition for the youth was also announced. The competition calls on young people to reflect on the 50 years of partnership between Bhutan and the UN and share their thoughts and perspectives on its future. Social media accounts for the commemoration were launched at the event. These social media pages will feature content on the 50th anniversary related activities.

The UN-Bhutan Joint Programme on the SDG Fund, ‘Building a Bhutan Integrated National Financing Framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and Gross National Happiness was also launched at the event. The programme is a joint initiative of UNDP and UNICEF under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO) developed with the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC) and the Ministry of Finance. It aims to facilitate the development and implementation of critical building blocks towards an Integrated National Financing Framework (INFF), a transformative contribution to the way Bhutan finances its development priorities. This includes supporting financing solutions aligned with both responses to COVID-19 and longer-term investments in a sustainable future.

While Bhutan became a member of the UN in September 1971, formal cooperation in development began only in 1973, following the arrival of its first two agencies, the United Nations Development Programme and Food and the Agriculture Organization. The United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Food Programme came the following year, followed by other agreements with the United Nations Population Fund, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Capital Development Fund and other specialized agencies. Today, The UN Country Team comprises eight resident UN agencies and 14 non-resident UN agencies.

As a responsible member of the UN, Bhutan has always worked constructively with other member states to realize the noble objectives of the UN. Among others, Bhutan remains committed towards promoting international peace and security, which is one of the key mandates and objectives of the UN. In September 2014, Bhutan joined the fraternity of nations participating in UN peacekeeping operations.

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