A golden era in Bhutan’s modern history

This year marks 50 years of Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations

By Tashi Dendup

On September 21, 1971 His late Majesty Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck remained up late into the night on excitedly waiting for the news from New York and giving instructions for the celebrations in the following days after the formal announcement of admission into the UN.

It was stated that one of the court officials of the Third King was tasked to follow the news on BBC radio on one of His late Majesty’s two Zenith transistors. His Majesty rose early that morning to listen to BBC news about Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations.

On September 21, 2021 Bhutan’s admission to the United Nations had reached the 50th year, a golden era marked by significant socio-economic development and stressing Bhutan’s sovereignty as an independent 21st century nation.

Speaking at the 26th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations after Bhutan’s Admission to the UN, His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck spoke of how it all began from a visionary leader’s noble aspirations for peace and prosperity for His subjects and the country.

HRH Prince Namgyal Wangchuck said: “It is important to emphasize the fact that all the radical changes in the country have been initiated by the King himself.”

Further, BS Das, the representative of India in Bhutan, in his address during the celebrations held at Lungtenphu on September 22, 1971, said that the occasion was one of the most important occasions, if not the most important, in the history of Bhutan.

“Your Majesty, you have been the architect of modern Bhutan. It is rare that a leader of a country interprets the trends and hopes of his people so judiciously and correctly. You have been wedded to the idea of peace and progress and it was only in the fitness of things that Bhutan should have reached this position under your wise leadership,” BS Das then said.

His late Majesty cautioned the leaders in the country of the challenges ahead in His speech to the 35th session of the National Assembly.

His Majesty the Late King said that with the UN admission having been attained, it was necessary to develop relations with other countries of the world, whatever their size and whatever different policies they adhere to. Thus, His Majesty advised the National Assembly to come to a detailed resolution as to the kind of aid which should be accepted and that which should not be accepted later this will be of great value to our country.

Over the years, Bhutan had been involved in the numerous bodies of the UN. Bhutan has served on many important posts such as Vice President of the UN General Assembly, President of the Trade and Development Board, UN Conference on Trade and Development, two terms as a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights, and two terms as a member of the Economic and Social Council. Bhutan chaired the Third Committee during the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of the UN, and it is today a member of the Bureau of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries.

His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo was recognised as Laureate for the Champion of the Earth in 2005 for His Majesty’s leadership in protecting Bhutan’s environment through numerous policy initiatives through decades.

In 2019, UNDP presented a Special Recognition Award to His Majesty The King for his leadership in advancing human development and the wellbeing of Bhutanese people.

Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the longest-serving goodwill ambassador for UNFPA, was also recognised as the laureate for the 2020 UN Population Award.

Bhutan worked with other Member States to realise the objectives of the UN. Among others, Bhutan has committed to promoting international peace and security. In September 2014, Bhutan joined the UN peacekeeping operations and since then peacekeepers have been dispatching regularly.

To mark the occasion, the Prime Minister hosted a reception this week. The event would also marked with the launch of a commemorative stamp and a coffee table book followed by a screening of a documentary on Bhutan and the UN at Royal Institute of Tourism and Hospitality in Thimphu.

In addition,  Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering participated in the Leaders Roundtable on Climate Change held by UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Lyonchhen spoke on behalf of Bhutan as well as the 46 Least Developed Countries in the capacity of the group’s chair.

“In a way, I am speaking on behalf of over one billion people who are the most impacted by climate change and suffer the most because of poor resilience and low adaptation capacity,” he said.

Lyonchhen asserted the importance of supporting countries that are already affected on one hand and the need to assist and sustain countries that have made successful conservation efforts so far.

“Bhutan for instance, has made serious environmental efforts and sacrifices by maintaining high standards,” he said. “Our King’s vision is clearly reflected in our Constitution, which mandates 60% of the country to be under forest cover for all time and maintain intergenerational equity when it comes to natural resources.”

And then there was the principles of the Gross National Happiness, which ensured that the environment was not compromised for immediate economic and developmental gains.

“That is why we are carbon negative today, and yet we are not spared by the effects of climate change,” he said. All LDCs faced similar dilemmas as they put in as much effort despite limited resources.

Therefore, Lyonchhen insisted on the delivery of the ambitious NDCs, Longterm Strategies in line with 1.5 degree of the Paris Agreement and delivery of USD 100 billion commitments.

“The LDC group is looking forward to a practical financing window at COP26,” he said. “I would like to emphasize that the fund must be easily accessible and flexible for our needs.” 

About 27 heads of state and government attended the session. In addition, a High-level General Debate of the 76th General Assembly began from September 21 and will end on 27th of this month.

The theme for this year’s General Debate is “Building resilience through hope – to recover from Covid-19, rebuild sustainably, respond to the needs of the planet, respect the rights of people, and revitalise the United Nations’’.

Besides the General Debate, lyonchhen participated Live in the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on September 20, and the UN Food Systems Summit (virtually) on September 23, among others.

Leave a Reply