The Kingdom of Bhutan and the United Nations join forces on Gross National Happiness and the Sustainable Development Goals

Oct 12, 2016

10 October 2016, Thimphu The Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) and the United Nations joined forces today to support the development of the Himalayan Kingdom’s 12th Five Year Plan, set to commence in 2018.

The new project set to guide the collaboration was signed today by Secretary Thinley Namgay of the Gross National Happiness Commission Secretariat, along with the representatives of UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, and the World Food Programme, with Bhutan’s National Statistics Bureau as key partner.

The partnership is designed to support the formulation of a results-oriented, inclusive, and financially sustainable national plan grounded in strong data that will attain measureable progress towards the unique Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) while also contributing to achieving the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 1961, RGOB has embarked on a far-reaching development strategy articulated in a series of five-year national development plans, the framework of which is guided by the GNH development philosophy, which was introduced by the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972.

Since then, the country has achieved remarkable progress in its development trajectory, cutting its poverty rate in half between 2007 and 2012, from 23.2 to 12 percent. Bhutan achieved or surpassed targets within five of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), notably, halving extreme poverty ahead of time, reached gender parity in primary education, and significantly reduced maternal mortality rates.

The tenets of GNH are as relevant today as when first developed, as illustrated by a rapid assessment of Bhutan’s current policy framework against Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, carried out by UNDP in October 2015. The results showed that 134 out of 143 relevant SDG targets are already embedded in the nation’s 11thFive Year Plan.

Looking ahead, while the Royal Government stresses that all SDGs are important and will feature in its development planning, three SDGs have been identified for showcased results:

  • Goal 1: Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere;
  • Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts; and
  • Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

On Goal 1, RGOB is committed to reducing the current poverty rate of 12% this to 5% by 2018, in line with the principle that ‘no one is left behind’. Doing so will require advancing economic growth, which has led to the unravelling of many countries’ environmental resources. Therefore, with a strong focus on SDGs 13 on climate change and 15 on biodiversity and ecosystems, Bhutan can continue to carve its recognized path as a prosperous, carbon negative nation, guided by GNH philosophy, while its economy grows.

A total of US$ 467,050.00 has been committed by the participating UN Agencies to the project, which will run from January 2016 to December 2018.

For more information

Jigme Dorji


UNDP Around the world