Governance: Parliament plays its role in giving impetus towards domestication, implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), for which parliamentarians need to be familiar with the Goals.

The UNDP office in Bhutan yesterday organised a workshop on the role of parliamentarians in adopting and implementing the SDGs.

The workshop was held at a time when the national process for the implementation of the SDGs are being put in place. The SDGs will be aligned with GNH.

Speaker Jigme Zangpo, who presided over the seminar, said Bhutan is familiar with the SDG targets. He said that the Bhutanese people should be proud that happiness has been adopted as one of the UN development goals and that it was the country’s responsibility to promote the idea.

On governance, the Speaker said that transparency and corruption should be among the priorities of the government. He was of the view that mechanisms for transparency and accountability should also be strengthened.

One of the participants, MP Khandu Wangchuk, said the Agenda 2030 was timely and appropriate. He highlighted the former government’s achievement to make sustainable goals a global agenda. “We are very happy with this Agenda,” he said.

He added that it was a challenge for the UN to implement the SDGs especially in development countries. “Countries need political will to implement SDGs. Mere lip service is not enough,” he said.

Another MP Yeshey Zimba said the SDGs are about the future of the world, which currently is plagued by crises. “SDGs is the way forward. All GNH goals are here,” he said.

Since the introduction of democracy in Bhutan in 2008, UNDP’s resident representative Christina Carlson said that the agency has been supporting the country’s transition through strengthening of institutions, capacity development and financial support. “Today, our partnership continues to grow,” she said.

Highlighting some of the millennium development goals (MDGs), she said poverty in Bhutan was reduced from 36 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2012. The mortality rate of under-five children was reduced by half between 1990 and 2012.

At the same time, she said Bhutan maintained its reputation as a global leader in environmental policy and conservation, with negative CO2 emissions per capita.

Christina Carlson also highlighted some of the principles of “Agenda 2030” and said development problems are by their nature multi-sectoral, and therefore demand a ‘whole-of-government’ response.

The Agenda requires that “no-one is left behind” as nations progress, so that national statistics do not mask sub-national inequalities.

The Agenda, which contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 169 targets, and more than 200 indicators, presents the world with the challenge and the opportunity of a lifetime.

“The question now for each nation; for Bhutan; for each person in this room, is ‘what next’?” she said. She added that the answers should be explored after having a review of the achievements made during the MDG period.

An assessment of Bhutan’s legal and policy framework against the SDG targets was carried out. She said the assessment showed a high level of integration between the SDG targets and the country’s laws, policies and plans.

The UNDP found that of the 169 targets, 134 are already found in Bhutan’s policy frameworks. This, she said, illustrated the philosophical alignment between GNH and the principles of Agenda 2030, and is a reflection of the skill with which Bhutan participated in the Agenda 2030 negotiations.

On the role of parliament, Christina Carlson said ensuring a pro-poor, gender sensitive, human rights-based enabling environment for SDG implementation is a critical step. “Parliaments should use this ability to facilitate the implementation of the SDGs, reviewing existing legislation, proposing amendments, or, where necessary, drafting new legislation required to meet the Goals,” she said.

Christina Carlson also said utilising all available resources for the best possible results will be critical to the successful implementation of the SDGs. She said achieving the goal that “no one is left behind” will depend heavily on whether resources are allocated towards the most vulnerable and marginalised, taking into account issues of gender, social standing, geography and other demographic factors.

Parliamentarians, she said, can both generate political will and leverage space for a wide range of stakeholders, including women and youth, vulnerable and marginalised groups to be engaged in the decisions that affect their lives. She said with the workshop it is hoped that the parliamentarians would become more aware of the day-to-day concerns of their constituents such as jobs, education and healthcare, which are issues that are included in the post-2015 development goals.

However, she added that the data and reporting requirements of Agenda 2030 are far more challenging to nations like Bhutan than the ones that were needed for the MDGs. “If a key role of the Parliament is monitoring and implementation of the Agenda, MPs will need to attend to the issue of measurement, data collection and policies for open sources of data and information,” she said.

Given the wide variations of data in Bhutan, standardisation of data in measuring progress will be all the more important at national and local levels.

MB Subba