On June 8, Their Majesties King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden will commence a three-day State visit to Bhutan at the invitation of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
On this first State visit to Bhutan since establishing diplomatic relations in 1985, their Majesties will visit two United Nations projects—one on preparedness for and reducing the risks from climate-exacerbated forest fires, and one on empowering Buddhist nuns to provide sexual education —reflecting Sweden’s longstanding partnership with the United Nations on achieving sustainable development results.
“Sweden provides critical support to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in developing countries through its contributions to the UN,” said Christina Carlson, UN Resident Coordinator in Bhutan. “Sweden is determined to lead by example, taking on critical issues such as climate change, gender and rights both at home and through foreign policy.”
In addition to Swedish funding to the UN, which supports UN offices and programmes globally and in Bhutan, the Swedish National Committee for UNICEF contributed USD 2.1 million for improving the quality of education in Bhutan, including through establishing early childhood care and development centres.
Their Majesties will first visit a section of the multi-use fire access trail that rings Thimphu city, constructed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests with help from volunteers. Thimphu experienced 25 forest fires during the fiscal year 2015/2016, more than double the number in 2014/2015. While such fires tend to be human-induced—the result of burning agricultural debris, land clearing, or negligence—they are exacerbated by rising temperatures and prolonged dry periods resulting from climate change.
The United Nations Development Programme and Global Environment Facility (GEF) supported construction of 5 km of the trail. Covering Debsi, Ramtokto, Kuenselphodrang and Namseling, the trail is designed as a fire buffer and to improve access and response time for firefighters.
“Sweden’s contributions to the GEF and the Green Climate Fund are consistent with its commitment to combat climate change, and its aspiration to become the world’s first fossil-free welfare nation,” said Ms. Carlson. “Through this visit Their Majesties will learn more about Bhutan’s similar commitment to remaining a carbon-negative nation, as caring for the environment is part of its philosophy of Gross National Happiness.”
Their Majesties will also visit the Sangchen Dorji Lhendrup Nunnery in Wolokha in Punakha, one of 26 nunneries in Bhutan where the United Nations Population Fund in collaboration with the Bhutan Nuns Foundation works to advance education on sexual and reproductive health and gender based-violence prevention. Given nuns’ trusted role in Bhutanese society, they can effectively extend their learning to the communities and schools where they live and work. The training has reached more than 1,200 nuns and monks to date.
“Early marriage, teenage pregnancy and low use of contraception are common among young people in Bhutan,” said Ms. Carlson. “Nuns are on the front line for providing accurate advice to young women in many parts of Bhutan, and can have a real impact on teenagers’ choices.”
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Note to the Editors:
For more information on the UN’s work in Bhutan including background on or audiovisual material from the projects, please contact:
· Caroline Aberg, UN Sweden, [email protected], +975 77375769
· Pushkar Chhetri, UN Bhutan, [email protected] +975 17793375