With all 21 members present voting in favour, the National Council (NC) unanimously ratified the multilateral agreement for the establishment of think tank for landlocked developing countries (LLDC) yesterday.

The agreement will now be submitted to His Majesty The King for royal assent to complete the ratification process.

Foreign minister Damcho Dorji introduced the agreement for ratification and the NC’s foreign relation committee chairperson Kaka Tshering presented it to the members.

The NC endorsed the 15 articles of the agreement, with changes proposed by the National Assembly (NA).

Lyonpo Damcho Dorji said that one of the main purposes of the agreement was to establish an international think tank.

“The agreement is aimed at establishing an international think tank for LLDC to be used for quality research and advocacy in enhancing the capacity of landlocked countries,” he said.

The minister said this would not have any impact on the trade relations with the immediate neighbours such as India and Bangladesh.

“Thirty-two LLDCs from Africa, South America, Europe, and Asia have signed the agreement.”

As a member, Bhutan is expected to produce and disseminate research and studies on trade-related topics; aid-for-trade, transport and transit, as well as database on issues of interest to LLDCs; share information and network to better understand the challenges of LLDCs, contribute to the formation of strategies and policies for the effective implementation of LLDC development agendas and processes, and participate in meetings on government sponsorship.

Bhutan will have to pay a voluntary contribution for its membership.

Kaka Tshering said that there is neither much benefit from ratifying the agreement nor harm from not ratifying it.

The idea of establishing a think tank for LLDC originated at an LLDC ministerial conference held in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in 2003.

The idea became Mongolia’s initiative after the president of Mongolia proposed establishing an international think tank (ITT) in an LLDC capital at a meeting of LLDC Heads of States in Havana in 2006. ITT was launched in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in July 2009. The Almaty Programme of Action was replaced by the Vienna programme of action for LLDCs in 2014.

The agreement was presented for signature from November 1, 2010, until October 2011. So far 10 countries have signed the agreement and completing the 60 days period has come in to effect recently, the minister said.

Mongolia has approached Bhutan to ratify the agreement and become a member. The foreign ministry consulted relevant agencies such as Gross National Happiness Commission, economic affairs ministry, information and communications ministry, and the works and human settlement ministry.

The Cabinet approved it in March this year. On March 23, the National Assembly ratified the agreement after 41 members voted ‘Yes’ while two members voted ‘No’ and one abstained from voting.

Tshering Palden