Resident Representative Gerald Daly's opening remarks during the launch of the UNDP- GEF-LDCF Project

Your Excellencies, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests,

Lyonpo Dorji Choden, Minister, Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, and head of the National Commission for Women and Children,

Ms. Naoko Ishii, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson for the Global Environment Facility (GEF),

Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Forest and Officiating Secretary of Gross National Happiness Commission,

Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to start today by offering the sincere condolences of the United Nation’s to Dasho Tshering Tobgay, the Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, on the death of his father yesterday morning. Lyonpo’s, I would most appreciate it if you could convey to Lyonchen that our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family at this time.

We are gathering on a very special day here in Bhutan – the birth anniversary of His Majesty the 4th King. Bhutan is blessed by vision and commitment of their Majesties to the relationship between the land and the people. Coming from a farm in Ireland, this vision and commitment has special meaning for me.

At home the complex, cultural relationship between the land and the people permeates Irish identity, Irish poetry, our art, our history in fact even our deepest hearts.

In Bhutan today, that relationship between the natural landscape and the happiness of people’s lives is profound. So as I stand before you today, representing the United Nations of the world, it is truly a self-learning to see how something that defines my historical identity has been harnessed by Bhutan into a vision of a sustainable future and thus a role model for the rest of the World.

Dasho Karma Ura of the Centre for Bhutan Studies writes ‘…the Environment is more than the Domain of plants, animals and human beings…. There are other beings to whom geo-sensitive areas of our country have been ascribed, and to whom, beyond human ownership, they belong. Nas dag (Lord of the soil or earth), Zhi dag (Lord of settlement) and Yulha (local deity) are immortal owners or landlords, while successive generations of communities are ephemeral travelers, passing through their territory’.

Lyonpos, Dashos, friends,

Protecting the environment from climate change and biodiversity loss and strengthening peoples identity and livelihoods go hand-in-hand in this country. And long may it remain the case.

That is what we are here to celebrate today in launching this project, entitled “Enhancing the sustainability and climate resilience of forest and agriculture landscapes and community livelihoods in Bhutan, which was officially signed between the Royal Government and UNDP on 30th October, 2017, and which is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund for Sustainable Forest Management incentive fund, the GEF Trust Fund for Biodiversity and Land Degradation, and the  GEF Least Developed Countries Fund.

It is our great privilege to be joined today by Ms. Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, who I know deeply shares Bhutan’s vision for a sustainable future for all.  

The project we are launching today is rather unique in terms of design, and sets a new standard for delivering integrated development results. It showcases three of the Royal Government’s priorities from amongst the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: improving people’s livelihoods to eliminate poverty, most especially women, taking action on climate change, and conserving this nation’s unique and abundant biodiversity. It ensures we follow-through on Leaving no-one behind

It is the third in a trilogy of successful partnerships between UNDP, the GEF, and the Royal Government in implementing Bhutan’s NAPA, which sets out the nations most immediate and urgent climate action needs.

The development results achieved in Bhutan’s adaptation journey, supported by this partnership, are impressive.

 The level of one of Bhutan’s most dangerous glacial lakes – the Thorthomi lake - was artificially lowered to cut the risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Flows.
 Communities are better prepared to react to flooding with early warning systems in place along the Punatsangchu river basin.
 The capacity of Bhutan’s National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) to deliver real-time flood warnings and national weather forecasting has dramatically increased, with 99 real-time automated hydromet stations now in place across the country.
 Water harvesting systems are in place in some of the remote villages in Bhutan’s Eastern and Southern regions, and provide communities access to clean water without spending hours trecking up and down Bhutan’s mountainous slopes to the riverbed, with a drop in disease and an increase in school attendance as visible results.
 Significantly, the threat of devastating landslides along the Thimphu – Phuntsholing highway - the primary economic corridor with India and the lifeline for goods and services to wider Bhutan – has been addressed through cutting edge engineering and slope stabilization techniques, with new flood protection systems in place for Phuntsholing city and its important industrial estates. Protecting Phuentsholing, this powerhouse of the National economy ranks amongst one of the best works the UN is doing in Bhutan
 In addition to the NAPA journey, through the UNDP-implemented GEF Small Grants Programme, 156 projects worth of USD 4.00 million spread across 20 districts of Bhutan have brought sustainable change to people lives:
 The fertile agriculture fields of 68 families of Yangmalashing village, Pemagatshel are now secured from hazardous monsoon landslides;
 Young people recovering from substance use are earning a decent living through an innovative egg-tray manufacturing business outside Thimphu;
 The highland village of Sakteng is protected from river erosion that used to wash away bridges, livestock and homes, cutting off children geographically separated from their schools.

These are just some of the many stories of success, and this new project with the continued support of the GEF, and the continued leadership of the Royal Government, will deliver many more.

Remoteness, limited access to markets, and climate-induced droughts and floods, present significant challenges to building resilient farming systems in Bhutan, where the majority of people still depend on the land for their living. In total, 100,000 people across 12 districts in the 3 project landscapes will benefit over the next 6 years from the interventions of this project, which is also known as NAPA 3. This is tangible evidence of the work we will be doing to combat Rural-Urban migration, one of the large challenges Bhutan is facing at this point in its history.

With oversight from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission, the project will provide direct support to communities, demonstrating how climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation and sustainable forest management support local development. It will invest in a range of adaptation measures, including climate-resilient irrigation and road design, crop diversification; creation of biodiversity and conservation-oriented jobs, enhanced markets and market accessibility, and sustainable land management.

It will help to make it possible for the relationship between the land and the people to be a positive force for change and progress towards the ultimate pursuit of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan.

Lyonpos, Dashos, friends,

In addition to launching this project in it’s own right, today is also a celebration of another new initiative of the Royal Government, in partnership with our friends at the World Wildlife Fund: Bhutan for Life.

UNDP, through this project, is committed to count amongst the many partners who will contribute to the conservation goals of Bhutan for Life. Partnership is inherent to our organizational DNA.

To this end, I have been requested by the Administrator of UNDP, Mr. Achim Steiner – a fellow lifelong conservationist, -  to read out a few words:

"It is my great pleasure to congratulate the Royal Government of Bhutan and our friends and partners in the World Wildlife Fund for Bhutan for Life, the first Project Finance for Permanence in Asia. BFL establishes a clear and predictable investment path for Bhutan’s protected areas for the years to come. As a longstanding partner of Bhutan's development journey towards Gross National Happiness, UNDP understands how deep the commitment to the environment runs in Bhutan. Bhutan's history of effectively managing trade-offs between conservation and development has set the nation on a path to eradicate poverty, to lead on climate action, and to deepen respect for life on land. UNDP is therefore proud to be a Bhutan for Life investment partner, through our collaboration with the Global Environment Facility. I am confident that such innovative approaches to partnership and development finance will be the hallmark of success in meeting the SDGs by 2030. Congratulations, and Tashi Delek".

Lyonpos, Dashos, friends,

I am mindful that Luncheon (our Prime Minister) emphasized the challenges and opportunities around Climate Action in his recent speech at the General Assembly in New York. Significant Climate Action work is needed both here in Bhutan and in the World for the forseeable future. Given this future allow me to say that we the UN will stand shoulder to shoulder with the RGoB and other Development Partners in building capacity for Climate Action. Bhutan depending on its own people for Climate Action expertise is a key foundation stone for sustainability.

Allow me not to thank the key RGOB counterparts who have made this what it is and also the colleagues within UNDP, including Tshering, Chimi, Ngawang, all so ably led by Niamh.

Permit me to close by expressing our continued appreciation for our strong partnership with the Global Environment Facility, and our firmest commitment as the United Nations to supporting the  development journey of the Royal Government of Bhutan. At a time when the world needs positive role models, you demonstrate what is possible. We look forward to working together over the years to come. 

Thank you and Tashi Delek.

Last Updated: 11 Nov 2017