TANDI DORJI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bhutan, said that, ahead of his address to the Assembly, he received a heartfelt appeal from Chimi, a seven-year-old girl in Lunana — a place in one of the country’s northern-most districts, remote and perched at an altitude of 3,400 meters. It is home to a community of 810 people, comprising 185 households of highland nomadic herders. He conveyed the Lunana people’s fear that the melting glaciers and snow on the mountains and the expanding glacial lakes may cause a big flood in their village at any time. Relaying her appeal, he said: “Kindly convey this small message to the world leaders and big and rich nations to help and save our tiny village from global warming.” Chimi’s letter evokes the plain truths of communities standing on the frontlines of the climate crisis, he pointed out, urging deeper emission reductions, adequate and predictable financing, and technological and capacity support, especially for countries in special situations. To safeguard nature, Bhutan’s Constitution requires the maintenance of 60 per cent of its total area under forest cover. Bhutan’s forests are net carbon sinks, he said, highlighting that his country is not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative. Sustainable mountain development should be a global priority, he added, noting the need to build the resilience of mountain communities. To raise awareness and encourage action in that regard, his country is organizing the “Snowman Race” — an annual ultra-marathon event that will take elite athletes from around the world to run across the Himalayas at elevations of 5,000 meters above sea level.
Turning to the pandemic, he highlighted that today, more than 90 per cent of Bhutan’s population is fully vaccinated, acknowledging the support of India, the United States, Denmark, Bulgaria, Croatia, China and other bilateral partners and multilateral agencies in that regard. He welcomed the recognition of the report Our Common Agenda of the need to look beyond GDP. Noting Bhutan’s own approach to balanced and human-centred development that it calls “gross national happiness”, he said measures that consider the full spectrum of human development are needed. One year remains before his country’s exit from the least developed country category, he said, pointing out that those measures will help to ensure that Bhutan’s graduation is smooth, sustainable and irreversible. Major transformational initiatives are under way in his country to strengthen public service delivery. While universal health care is a guarantee enshrined in its Constitution, reforms in the health sector focus on the importance of preparedness for future outbreaks and pandemics, strengthening quality of health care, leveraging technology and a renewed focus on mental health.
Turning to tourism, he said Bhutan’s revamped tourism policy was launched on 23 September, coinciding with the opening of its international border. That sector has been restructured and reformed so that it benefits his country not only economically but socially and environmentally. In the long term, his country wants to create high value, authentic and unique experiences for visitors, and well-paying professional jobs and businesses for its citizens. Regarding peacekeeping, he said his country has prepared for the deployment of its first uniformed military unit, a “Light Quick Reaction Force”, to a United Nations peacekeeping mission, adding that its troops will arrive and serve the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) in the weeks ahead. Stressing that the “do no harm” ethic must drive all aspects of field operations and conduct, he highlighted that when Bhutan’s uniformed contingent deploys, it will do so in an environmentally sustainable manner with renewable energy, waste management and provision of assistance to local communities whom it will serve. The centrepiece of the country’s pledge is the use of solar panels for lighting purposes in the barracks and camp area. It will also plant trees around the company location, in line with a host country’s policies, with a view to contributing to United Nations environmental efforts.