Touching lives for 50 years

Bhutan and UNDP celebrate five decades of partnership promoting resilient, inclusive, and sustainable development.

July 28, 2023


Thimphu, 28 July 2023: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) celebrated the 50 years of Bhutan-UNDP partnership today. The celebration was marked by lighting a thousand butter lamps at the Memorial Chorten and a reception showcasing key milestones. The events were attended by ministers, secretaries, senior government officials, development partners, representatives from the civil society and private sector. 



Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji , Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade and UNDP Resident Representative Mohammad Younus light butter lamps at the Memorial Chorten in Thimphu to mark 50 years of Bhutan-UNDP partnership

UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, UNDP along with UN family come together to light a thousand butter lamps at the Memorial Chorten to mark 50 years of Bhutan-UNDP partnership

UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo


Gracing the occasion as the Chief Guest, Lyonpo (Dr.) Tandi Dorji underlined that Bhutan has made major strides in our development under our exemplary leaders in the last 50 years and that UNDP has been a steadfast partner in our development journey. Lyonpo thanked the UNDP family for their contributions to Bhutan’s development.


Lyonpo Dr. Tandi Dorji, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Foreign Affairs in External Trade

UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo


UNDP Resident Representative Mohammad Younus expressed sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Royal Government and the people of Bhutan, international development partners and the UN family whose close collaboration and support contributed to the success of Bhutan-UNDP partnership.   

He emphasized that the 50th anniversary is not only a time to celebrate past achievements but also to work towards deepening our partnership for an even brighter future. “As Bhutan, guided by His Majesty, undergoes a series of historic transformation, and prepares to rollout the 13th Five-Year-Plan and proudly mark its graduation from LDC status soon, UNDP will continue to remain a trusted development partner of Bhutan,” the Resident Representative added. 


UNDP Resident Representative Mohammad Younus

UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo


The partnership between Bhutan and UNDP began in 1973, following Bhutan’s membership to the UN in September 1971. A general agreement was signed on 21 February 1973, marking the start of formal development cooperation between RGoB and UNDP. The partnership was further consolidated through the establishment of the UNDP office in Thimphu in 1979.

The long-standing partnership between UNDP and Bhutan began with the development of the country’s human resources, tourism and energy sectors. Over the years, the partnership grew and diversified involving a range of areas, including poverty reduction, environment and biodiversity conservation, climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Supporting good governance and promoting an inclusive society formed the core of Bhutan-UNDP partnership in the area of governance. Collaborations helped promote innovation, digital transformation, youth engagement and empowerment, innovative financing, gender equality and disability inclusion among others. All in line with the national development priorities of Bhutan.

Key partnership milestones from the last five decades include support towards the launch of national airline Drukair in 1983, transformation of Kuensel into national newspaper in 1986, development of Bhutan’s first Telecommunications Master Plan in 1991, and establishment of the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation (BTFEC) in 1996 and the Anti-Corruption Commission in 2006.  

In 2008, UNDP joined Bhutan and partners to drain Thorthomi glacial lake, preventing a potential devastating glacial lake outburst flood. The mammoth task carried out through the country’s first climate adaptation project marked the start of a series of collaborations in the climate space that continues to date. 

Recent partnership milestones include the country’s first grid-tied, ground mounted 180 kW solar power plant in Wangdue Phodrang. The plant helped prove viability of solar as an alternate renewable energy source as Bhutan works towards enhancing energy security in the face of climate change. Bhutan-UNDP partnership on e-mobility is contributing towards building an electric vehicle ecosystem. 

In response to the heightened need for agility and adaptiveness in governance—a lesson that the pandemic taught, the partnership continues to work on building strategic foresight capabilities in the public sector for anticipatory governance, including through strong emphasis on e-governance. 


Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade and UNDP team at the reception commemorating 50 years of partnership between Bhutan and UNDP

UNDP Bhutan/Dechen Wangmo