Bhutan and UNDP mark more than 40 years of Partnership

March 12, 2019

UNDP Administrator and UN Under-Secretary General, Achim Steiner & Bhutan Prime Minister, Dr. Lotay Tshering (Photo: UNDP)

Thimphu, Bhutan­­­­­
– The UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator and UN Under-Secretary General, Achim Steiner assured UNDP’s continued partnership with the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) during his meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering this morning.

“UNDP remains as committed to advancing Bhutan’s development as we were in the past as Bhutan prepares to graduate from the Least Developed Country (LDC) category,” Mr. Steiner said.

The meeting was held at the Gyalyong Tshokhang in Thimphu shortly after the Administrator’s arrival, this morning.

Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering thanked UNDP and other UN agencies for their contribution to Bhutan’s development. While he expressed his appreciation for Bhutan’s rise on social indexes, he warned that Bhutan still needs to diversify its economy that is dependent on income from hydro-electric power.

Mr. Steiner said he is optimistic about Bhutan’s graduation because of the wisdom that informs the transition. “Bhutan clearly is thinking about the risks and managing them, and UNDP will not shy away from supporting Bhutan,” he added.

The two also held discussions on a range of issues including hydropower, youth unemployment, urbanization, rural-urban migration, and private sector development.

Mr. Steiner’s visit marks a historic moment for Bhutan. The last visit by a UNDP Administrator was 46 years ago, when UNDP opened its office in Thimphu. Mr. Steiner is also the highest-ranking UN and UNDP member to participate in the country’s 14th Round Table Meeting (RTM) that opened this evening.

“The philosophy of Gross National Happiness is about new ways of doing development, with more emphasis on empowering the marginalized and the poor,” said Mr. Steiner. “Meeting GNH targets and the Sustainable Development Goals requires a redoubling of efforts to tackle issues such as gender inequality, youth unemployment, loss of biodiversity and environmental degradation. Bhutan is well on its way to meeting these commitments.”

The partnership between UNDP and the Royal Government of Bhutan began in 1973, almost 50 years ago, with the development of the country’s human resource, tourism and energy sectors.

Over the years, the partnership has grown and diversified involving issues such as poverty, environment, climate change, disaster risk reduction and inclusive governance to address priorities of the Royal Government.

The partnership helped launch Bhutan’s first airline, Drukair, in 1981 and establish the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) in 1996.    

It has helped develop the country in the areas of climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction through several successful projects, including the most recent National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA).

Some of the outcomes of the NAPA projects include stabilization of four critical landslide prone areas in Rinchending, Phuntsholing and protection of Bhutan’s largest industrial estate in Pasakha from recurrent flooding, securing the main economic corridor. It has also helped strengthen community resilience to drought in four districts through water harvesting system installations.

The partnership has also helped mitigate potential disasters from Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) in Lunana between 2008 and 2013, and supported the formulation of the National Disaster Risk Management Framework RGoB.

UNDP continues to work together to further strengthen partnership to enhance climate action by building forest and agriculture landscape resilience and implementation of sustainable low emission transport system; poverty reduction and livelihood improvement through nature based solutions and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship through youth engagement.

In the areas of governance, it has supported the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2006, and launched Justice Sector Strategic Plan, first of its kind in Bhutan, providing a high-level framework to guide co-ordination and integration of sector – level development in the justice sector that will specifically help the achievement of SDG 16.

Accelerating and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains a priority as UNDP continues to work with the Royal Government through innovative partnerships, cutting-edge global knowledge, technical and financial assistance.

Last year, the UNDP and other UN agencies, advocated mainstreaming and integration of SDGs in the 12th Five Year Plan. Fourteen of the 16 National Key Results Areas are linked to the SDGs.

Contact information:

Dechen Wangmo, Communications Analyst, UNDP Bhutan, tel: +975 322424 ext: 135, email:; Twitter: @UNDP_Bhutan