The 13th Round Table Meeting (RTM) held in Thimphu on 15th and 16th March came to a successful close with development partners reaffirming their commitment and support to Bhutan’s development. Expressing appreciation for the GNH approach and early integration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into the national planning framework, they noted Bhutan’s socioeconomic achievements while also acknowledging important challenges that remained.
Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay in his inaugural address and concluding remarks expressed appreciation and made special acknowledgement of Bhutan’s longstanding Bhutan’s development partners who have supported its journey from as early as the 1960s, and the years thereafter. Appreciation was expressed in recognition of the important contributions made by those development partners who have now phased out, while looking forward to the increasing scope of new partnerships.
The Prime Minister said that Bhutan’s imminent graduation from the group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is an indication of its development successes, but that economic and other vulnerabilities is also a reality that must be dealt with. The upcoming 12th Five Year Plan would be the last mile for overcoming many of the challenges it faces before graduation, and the continued support of development partners would be critical.
With the theme “Gross National Happiness for the Global Goals”, the 13th RTM saw presentations and discussions on the 2015 GNH survey and index, the strong linkages between GNH and the SDGs, state of Bhutan’s environment and international commitment to addressing climate change, macroeconomic performance and outlook, and current socioeconomic development (11th FYP) and the way forward (12th FYP).
The 13th RTM also saw the formal launch of the Guidelines for the Preparation of the 12th Five-Year Plan by the Prime Minister, and the two Co-Chairs for the event Lyonpo Damcho Dorji, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and H.E. Haoliang Xu, the UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, Asia and the Pacific. Side events showcased local products and innovative ideas by several government agencies and civil society organizations.
The two-day event saw the active participation of 150 representatives of Bhutan’s development partners, as well as representatives from government agencies, private sector and civil society organizations.
RTMs were initiated in the early 1980s as an important forum for policy dialogue and aid coordination. Typically held twice over the course of a Five Year Plan (FYP) period, the events are also an occasion for Bhutan and development partners to discuss common interests and issues, and to strengthen cooperation. The 13th RTM was jointly organized by the Royal Government of Bhutan and the United Nations System in the country.