UN Bhutan launches annual results report 2020

The report highlights how the 31 UN agencies in the country – eight resident and 23 non-residents – united as One to deliver results in the country

Yangchen Lhamo

The United Nations in Bhutan launched its Annual Results Report for 2020 on 8 April in Thimphu.

Although 2020 has been a challenging year, the UN in Bhutan responded to the immediate needs of the people and the needs of the most vulnerable, and supported the government in economic resilience and comprehensively building longer-term human capital to find new ways of ‘building forward better.’

To support Bhutan’s recovery, the UN developed a joint response framework aligned with the government’s plans and priorities. 

This was captured in the ‘UN Bhutan Covid-19 Socio-Economic Response Plan’ (UN Bhutan SERP) which includes short-term measures to mitigate negative health, social and economic consequences of the pandemic, along with medium to long-term investments to strengthen the capacity of the country to build forward better and ensure our resilience to future crises.

The report also highlights how the UN designed and implemented projects to support vulnerable women and youth after increasing evidence emerged of their precarious situation in the pandemic’s wake.

For example, the UN facilitated faster access to medical services through introducing an innovative One-Stop Crisis Seal at the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital. This work allowed survivors of gender-based violence to access medical services in a short period by enabling the hospital employees and doctors to prioritize their cases.

Additionally, sensitization workshops for the employees of the hospital were conducted which aided in the successful implementation of the service. The UN’s support to people with disabilities was also the result of agile programming during the pandemic, delivering support within a month of receiving requests.

With Bhutan’s 12th Five-Year-Plan likely to be the last plan before the country graduates from the Least Developed Country category, the UN says the past 12-months represented a critical opportunity to accelerate SDG progress and facilitate a smooth and sustainable transition. 

To support this, in 2020, the UN focused on creative partnerships designed to address priority challenges and leverage skills and resources toward the goals of sustainable development.

To ensure financial resources for both Covid-19 responses and long-term development priorities, the UN and government partnered to launch the joint SDG fund program – ‘Building a Bhutan Integrated National Financing Framework – for the SDGs and Sustainable Development Goals and Gross National Happiness.’  

Running through the end of 2022, the Joint SDG Fund, a multi-partner trust fund administered by the UN system financially supported the program with USD 872,051. 

The program aims to contribute transformative to the way Bhutan finances its development, especially to support Bhutan’s goals of long-term financial sustainability, social spending that benefits all people, and green finance to protect the environment and respond to climate change.

With UN support, the government successfully concluded its first-ever sovereign bond issuance for public subscription in September. This included support to the pre-issuance process and then, with the pandemic bringing an even greater demand for new financing, the launch of the first bond in 2020. 

The first of its kind, the successful launch showed how sovereign bonds can be tools for economic recovery and capital market development and represented a major step to independently finance Bhutan’s fiscal needs.

The year 2020, for the UN, was also a year of supporting the Royal Government of Bhutan with national policies. The National Youth and Child Policies were developed with UN support, promoting more quality integrated services, protection, and empowerment of children, adolescents, and youth.

Also, a National Child Protection and Gender-Based Violence Covid-19 Response Plan were developed and with UN technical assistance.

The UN’s interventions in 2020 contributed to the successful amendment of the 2004 Penal Code de-criminalizing same-sex relations and an increased penalty for rape in the Civil and Criminal Procedure Code because of many years of advocacy and programmatic support to Parliament.

In 2020, the joint work plan between the government of Bhutan and the UN was budgeted at USD 35.7-million, of which USD 31.9-million was utilized. This also includes the additional resources mobilized for Covid-19 response and recovery programs of USD 10.5-million.