The Prime Minister Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay came back into the country on Friday after attending the 72nd United Nations General Assembly where he met a host of world leaders and networked with a host of influential leaders and people on the international scene.
On 19th September the PM had a bilateral meeting with Donald Tusk, the President of the European Union, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. The EU is an important development partner in Bhutan in the areas of democracy, local government, agriculture and environment and is one of the biggest donors apart from India and Japan.
On the same day he met Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister of India. The two talked about the wide range of development cooperation between the two countries, and discussed hydropower.
The PM on the same day represented Bhutan at the UN Secretary General’s High-Level Meeting on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.
Bhutan has signed a voluntary compact with the UN on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse, and made a voluntary contribution to a trust fund for victims of sexual exploitation and abuse. Furthermore, Bhutan is part of the SG’s ‘circle of leadership’ to fight sexual exploitation and violence.
Lyonchhen then met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and discussed a range of programs to strengthen Bangladesh – Bhutan relations . In particular, Lyonchhen talked about the possibilities of improving connectivity in Bhutan by using Bangladesh’s broadband and satellite infrastructure.
Lyonchhen then met Alice G. Wells, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, US State Department, at Bhutan’s UN Mission offices to discuss issues of mutual interest between Bhutan and USA.
Lyonchhen ended his first day in New York with a dinner with the President and office bearers of United Bhutanese Association of New York. The PM thanked the association and said he was delighted to hear the many success stories of the Bhutanese community here.
The next day on 20th September Lyonchhen spoke at the UN side event on Using Multidimensional Poverty Index to track progress in SDGs. He said that multidimensional poverty in Bhutan was measured at 28.5% in 2010 and dropped to 12.7% in 2012. It is expected to reach 10% by 2018 and fall to under 5% during the 12th Plan.
On the same day he met UNDP administrator Achim Steiner and briefed him about how Bhutan has incorporated the SDGs in the planning process and the goal to graduate from an LDC during the 12th Plan.
The PM discussed the importance and urgency of improving disaster preparedness and response in Bhutan with European Union’s Commissioner Christos Stylianides for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Protection.
The PM met with the Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar to identify areas for bilateral cooperation in the agriculture, forestry and energy sectors between the two countries.
Lyonchhen thanked WFP Executive Director David Beasley for decades of assistance in Bhutan’s school feeding program. Lyonchhen and the Executive Director agreed to step up the program by developing Bhutan’s capacity to produce fortified food in the Kingdom.
Later he caught up with Professor Ricardo Hausmann of Harvard, a development economist who the PM said taught him ‘Why Nations are Poor, Volatile and Unequal’.
Lyonchhen then discussed happiness, wellbeing and GNH with Professor Robert Waldinger of Harvard, who runs The Good Life, 75-year study on happiness.
On 21st September morning Lyonchhen attended the Bloomberg Global Business Forum where he met and invited the Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to do the Druk Path, a trek that was done by his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The PM met and invited Apple CEO Tim Cook to consider building data centers in Bhutan.
He thanked IMF head Christine Lagarde for their support to the Royal Monetary Authority.
Lyonchhen met and requested support from Arundhati Bhattacharya, the Chairperson of the State Bank of India, to set up Bank of Bhutan’s branch office in Delhi.
Lyonchhen also met the former US President Bill Clinton at the forum.
On the same day Foreign Minister Lyonpo Damcho Dorji deposited Bhutan’s Instrument of Ratification to the Paris Agreement at the UN headquarters. With this, Bhutan became formally party to the historic Paris Agreement.
Later the PM called on UN Secretary General António Guterres to thank him for the many years of development support to Bhutan, and to congratulate him for launching a reform of the United Nations that the PM said has been long overdue.
Lyonchhen met Sajeeb Wazed Joy, architect of Digital Bangladesh and advisor to the Government on ICT. The PM sought his views on developing Bhutan’s ICT sector and support in strengthening Bhutan’s infrastructure.
Lyonchhen in the evening attended a diplomatic reception hosted by President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump on the occasion of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly.
On 22nd September Lyonchhen visited and thanked Matt and Jennifer Harris for opening up their home (and hearts) to donors, supporters and fundraisers for Bhutan For Life. The PM said it is because of their hard work, dedication and passion,that Bhutan can look forward to closing the fund and launching the implementation of this unique conservation project this November.
Taking some time off Lyonchhen visited the ‘CBS This Morning’ studio. The PM said he met the famous hosts, toured the facilities and learnt a great deal about broadcasting. The PM said his main objective was to catch up with Charlie Rose, his favorite international journalist. He said that Charlie is another highly accomplished personality whom the PM look forward;s to receiving in Bhutan.
A meeting with Bhutanese working in the United Nations was next. The PM said there are currently 44 Bhutanese working in various agencies of the UN apart from 44 officers serving as UN peacekeepers.
Lyonchen then met Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. The two discussed the World Bank’s development projects in Bhutan and Bhutan’s strategies to eradicate poverty.
The PM also met a classmate Cristiana Pasca, who is the executive secretary of UN Convention on Biological Diversity. The PM said they agreed on how to take Bhutan and the agency’s cooperation forward.
On the same day Lyonchhen addressed the United Nations General Assembly where he talked about climate change, eradicating poverty, terrorism, UN reform and Bhutan’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping forces. ( see full address on page 8).
On 23rd September the PM attended the reception celebrating Nepal’s National Day, and personally felicitated Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on the occasion. The PM later called on the Prime Minister of Nepal, and discussed bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.
On the same day the PM met with Liu Zhenmin, Under Secretary-General of UN DESA. Mr Liu, has visited Bhutan on several occasions. The PM said he committed to help Bhutan improve it’s statistical system, develop human capacity and support Bhutan in the preparation of Bhutan’s SDG review report.
On 24th September the PM hosted lunch for Mr Jean-Pierre Lacriox, Under Secretary General of UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), and his team. The PM said he happy to hear that DPKO is satisfied with the contributions of Bhutan’s Peacekeepers, and that they are working towards the deployment of a military contingent from Bhutan.
Bhutan started contributing to UN peacekeeping in September 2014. 69 peacekeepers have completed their assignments so far, and 43 peacekeepers are currently serving in various missions.
Lyonchhen ended the day with what he said was the extended family, the Bhutanese community in New York, and celebrated Blessed Rainy Day with an evening of ‘song and dance, food and drink, love and joy.’