UN reflect on progress in Bhutan 

Phurpa Lhamo

Highlighting the importance of partnership and innovation in development, the United Nations (UN) agencies in Bhutan would focus on digitisation, trade and ensure financial resources in the coming years while continuing support on all fronts sectors.

Launching the UN Bhutan annual report 2019 yesterday in Thimphu, the UN country team members spoke of their achievements and major activities in the country.

UN Resident Coordinator Gerald Daly said that the prime minister during a meeting spoke of import substitution amid the pandemic, employment challenges, trade, education and health.

“Building into next year, which is also our 50th anniversary, is making sure we are listening even better to the Royal government of Bhutan. We’ve to be able to help the government on all of these fronts and do a good job.”

A timely achievement has also been in the strengthening of the medical lab in Bhutan and increasing its level.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative Dr Rui Paulo de Jesus said that in the regional level, the South East Asia Regional Health Emergency Fund (SEARHF) was also established.

The fund in the first immediate request would release USD 175,000 in times of emergency upon request from its members.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) representative, Will Parks said that UNICEF’s emphasis on reaching vulnerable children was one of the major successes in Bhutan.

“Last year, we supported the Ministry of Education to get 800 more children with disabilities into 18 schools across the country.”

The representative also highlighted the introduction of micronutrient powder for children aged between six and 23 months.

“Bhutan is now one of the only three countries in the region to achieve control of Hepatitis B infection among children under five,” Will Parks said.

The members also discussed the importance of addressing climate change-related issues such as water and agriculture.

“One of the proudest moment is supporting the government in accessing the Green Climate Fund (GCF),” said Azusa Kubota, UNDP Resident Representative.

With support from GCF, there are 26 irrigation schemes in the country today.

Another major achievement in 2019 was the endorsement and launching of the Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which was pending for about four years.

“Following that we trained the first batch of the local government leaders and community-based volunteers from Thimphu, Paro and Haa. As a result, in the global ranking, Bhutan moved from tier 3 to tier 2 watch list,” said Tandin Wangmo, national coordinator of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Tier 2 ranking reflects countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance.

Bhutan’s earlier tier 3 rank meant that the country’s government didn’t comply with the minimum standards and were also not making significant efforts to do so.

Further, strengthening Bhutan’s judicial system, greenhouse gas emissions management, climate-resilient irrigation schemes, gender equality programmes, and climate-resilient agriculture programmes were part of the achievements.

The UN has committed to Bhutan more than USD 120 million in grants through the 2019 to 2023 Sustainable Development Strategy.

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