Guided by its development philosophy of “Gross National Happiness,” Bhutan has consistently worked to ensure that the peace, security and well-being of its people always remain at the centre of development, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the South Asian country told the United Nations General Assembly today.
“Bhutan has achieved most of the MDG [Millennium Development Goal] targets. Poverty has been reduced to 12 per cent. Our primary school enrolment rate is nearly 100 per cent and life expectancy has increased to 68 years,” declared Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, adding that Bhutan remains a “bastion of environmental conservation” with 72 per cent of land under forest cover.
“Our effort to safeguard the environment is reinforced by a constitutional mandate to maintain a minimum of 60 per cent of our land under forest cover for all times,” he continued. “Our achievements would not have been possible without good governance.”
In addition, Minister Dorji recalled that Bhutan spearheaded the adoption of the Assembly resolution entitled, “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” in 2011, which led to the annual observance on 20 March of the International Day of Happiness.
“The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal and embodies the spirit of the 2030 Agenda,” he highlighted, referring to the set of 17 Global Goals adopted by the UN Member States last week. “Even though we have contributed least to the causes of climate change, we, like other least developed countries (LDCs) are amongst the most vulnerable to its adverse impacts.”
According to the Minister, expectations are that by 2025, Bhutan – through the sale of its clean hydro-power – would have the capacity to offset approximately 35 million tonnes of carbon per annum in the region, which he said, is “no small feat considering Bhutan’s emissions [are] under 7 per cent of that figure.”
“In moving forward, the first litmus test for our commitment to action on the 2030 Agenda will be whether or not we reach an ambitious and legally binding agreement at COP21 [the UN climate change conference in December],” he insisted. “A second test of our commitment to action would be whether we are able to deliver on our promises and pledges on the means of implementation for the 2030 Agenda.”
On the issue of the UN reform, Bhutan’s Foreign Affairs Minister said the Security Council must reflect current geo-political realities.