UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director Kanni Wignaraja arrives in Bhutan on a weeklong official mission

September 13, 2022

Ms. Kanni Wignaraja, UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Asia and Pacific


Thimphu, 13 September 2022: The UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Asia and Pacific, Ms. Kanni Wignaraja arrived in Bhutan today on a mission aimed at strengthening the partnership between the Royal Government of Bhutan (RGoB) and UNDP.

During the weeklong mission, she will meet with the Prime Minister, ministers and senior government officials to discuss issues such as climate change, biodiversity, economic growth, and employment.

Together with Lyonpo Namgay Tshering, Minister for Finance, Ms. Wignaraja will also launch UNDP’s annual flagship report Global Human Development Report (HDR) 2022, on Thursday 15 September, at the Royal University of Bhutan. The Asia-Pacific Regional Launch of the Global HDR 2022 will include a discussion with distinguished speakers, on how countries in the region can address serious development challenges, in a world of uncertain times.

Ms. Wignaraja will meet with young entrepreneurs, and people with disabilities to see how UNDP can help assist and empower them. Her itinerary includes visits to projects being implemented in partnership with the Royal Government, in the areas of climate change, renewable energy, and digitalization of health systems.

She will travel to Lunana where she will visit the sites of Bhutan’s first National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) project implemented from 2008-2013. Supported by UNDP and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the project helped drain Thorthomi lake to mitigate Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) risks. The project also installed early warning systems, to help improve disaster preparedness of communities living in the vicinity of the lake, as well as those downstream.

Ms. Wignaraja’s trip includes a visit to the National Center for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) field office that monitors glaciers and glacial lakes. She will meet with staff, local leaders and community members, to better understand the impact of the NAPA I project, and current GLOF situation.

The visit will allow Ms. Wignarja to witness firsthand climate risks facing Bhutan. Located more than 4000 meters above sea level and nestled among glaciers and glacial lakes in northern Bhutan, Lunana is one of the highest human settlements on earth. Despite living sustainably and in harmony with nature, this remote highland community is reeling from the impact of climate change. Lunana houses four glacial lakes – Betsho, Raphstreng, Thorthomi and Lugge – three of which are among Bhutan’s 17 potentially dangerous glacial lakes that could burst their banks. 

Ms. Wignaraja will check out how far and fast glaciers are receding and the cascading risks of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) and landslides, and the threats posed to thousands of lives and livelihoods, in Lunana and downstream communities.


Media enquiries:

Dechen Wangmo, Communications Analyst, UNDP Bhutan, Mobile: +975 1734 3086, Tel: +975 322424 Ext: 135, Email: dechen.wangmo@undp.org


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