At the United Nations Summit held in late September 2015, the UN member states unanimously agreed on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is the compilation of the global issues for the whole world to work for by 2030, defined as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs consist of 17 goals and subordinate 169 targets and call for comprehensive approach to address the triple bottom lines for sustainable development: economic, social and environmental.
Observing the agenda setting process for SDGs, I came up with a special feeling about Bhutan as it had already started the endeavor to develop an alternative concept of subjective well-being measured in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH), instead of income per capita. Bhutan has already introduced the practice of screening all the development works by their expected impact on GNH. Target 19 of the SDG 17 says "By 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product […]." I think that Bhutan is in the best position to lead the whole world in the efforts to work on this specific target. In addition to that, it's one of the few countries which take culture and traditions positively, expecting they play a key role in the efforts to assure sustainability.
Bhutan has developed steadily since the early days of modernization in the 1960s. In more recent years, it has been recording huge revenue growth from the hydropower plants that contributes to rapid economic growth. Even so, its status as a landlocked developing country caught between two major emerging economies, and its geographical conditions in the Himalayan mountains call for greater amount of investments for sustainable development and incremental cost and time for transportation and communication. Furthermore, there are emerging issues such as widening disparity between rural and urban sectors, and joblessness for the Bhutanese youths. It seems that sustainability of the development is now reaching the crucial stage in Bhutan.
Bilateral relationship between Bhutan and Japan has a long history, dating back to the arrival of the famed agricultural specialist Keiji Nishioka in 1964. Since that time, Japanese presence and reputation have increased as we expanded our scope of bilateral cooperation from agriculture and rural development, to infrastructure, public services, environmental management and further to climate change mitigation and adaptation, by combining financial grant/loan assistance and technical cooperation. I believe our past efforts in the bilateral cooperation have been designed and implemented in accordance with the priorities and principles of the government of Bhutan and therefore been contributing to the enhancement in GNH. They have also been well accepted by the people and helping to strengthen the friendly relationship between the two countries.
The visit of Their Majesties the King and Queen to Japan in November 2011 ignited the interest of the Japanese people in the Himalayan Kingdom. Tourist arrival from Japan reached 7,000 in 2012, ranked 2nd to India. Business partnerships with local stakeholders have been explored more enthusiastically than before by the Japanese corporate sector. Sympathizing with the ideas on the GNH, more Japanese local governments, universities and NGOs have been seeking opportunities to collaborate with the Bhutanese partners.
Bilateral partnership between the two countries is not defined as unilateral donor-recipient relation. Instead, it should rather be reciprocal in that Japan also has something to learn from the partnerships and that would help us to achieve sustainable society in Japan, too. We, JICA, will facilitate these bilateral and inclusive partnerships together with multi-stakeholders from both countries, so that we could achieve sustainable development on both sides and hence deepen the friendships of the two. I'm feeling so much honored to be part of the mission and work for the endeavors.
JICA Bhutan Office
April 1, 2016