Launch of ABS Products

Opening

“There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent, if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the Earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings, all of whom have an equal role and stake in the state of this planet and its players.”- His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

Kuzoozangpo La

Your Excellency, Lyonchhen Dasho Tshering Tobgay, Honourable Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonpo Tandin Wangchuk, Honourbale Minister for Health, Lyonpo Lekey Dorji, Honourable Minister Economic Affairs, Dashos, Representatives of the business community and beneficiary representatives of communities from Dagala, Lingshi and Langthel Communities and gewogs, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Background

Bhutan has been fortunate to have visionary leaders who have tirelessly advocated and demonstrated global leadership on the importance of environment conservation. The outstanding diversity of flora and fauna in Bhutan demonstrates the timeless value attached to the environment. By enshrining in the Constitution of Bhutan a forest cover of 60% for all times to come every Bhutanese is a trustee of the Kingdom.

Globally, over-harvesting species for food and medicine is a major driver in biodiversity collapse and extinctions. It is estimated that about 15,000 medicinal plants are threatened by extinction. On March 20th this year, World mourned the death of the last surviving male northern white rhino in Kenya.

In contrast, Bhutan has been a leader with its rich biodiversity, but as we know, it is threatened by a number of factors such as: overharvesting of natural resources; transformation from a subsistence economy to a consumer-based economy; competitive land uses for urbanization and infrastructure development; poaching along the porous borders; human-wildlife conflicts as a result of crop and livestock depredation by wildlife; and climate change exacerbating the risks of forest fire, pests and diseases.

69% of the population live in the rural areas subsisting on an integrated farm-based livelihood system that combines crop agriculture, livestock rearing, and use of a wide range of forest products. The strong culture of ethno-botanical uses, even to this day, remain significant, and rural communities have vast stores of traditional knowledge on the use of more than 200 species of medicinal plants that exist in the country.

It is against this backdrop that the 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted in September 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly, setting ambitious objectives to end poverty and hunger, protect the planet, and ensure health, education, and prosperity for all.

To counter the various threats to biodiversity, Bhutan has in place various strategies supported both by policy and legal instruments. The access to genetic resources and benefit sharing mechanism supported through this project (which is often called ABS) is just one example of innovative approachss to compliment the ongoing efforts of the Royal Government of Bhutan. The ABS mechanism puts “people” both at the center of conservation efforts by ensuring economic benefits.

UNDP is, therefore, pleased to partner with the National Biodiversity Centre (NBC), Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Menjong Sorig Pharmaceuticals Corporation Limited and Bio Bhutan to develop a national ABS framework and strengthen national capacity in bio-prospecting through the financial support of the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund.

Brief overview of the Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS) project

As many of you are aware the Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS) project started its implementation in 2014, focusing on key areas of support:

  1. Firstly To operationalize the national regulatory and institutional framework of ABS through the formulation of Access and Benefit Sharing Policy of Bhutan 2015, which was recently approved by the Government, and the revision of Biodiversity Act 2003 (although it is yet to be approved by the Parliament). These legislations ensure a sustainable utilization of biological resources and protects the local and indigenous communities.
  2. Secondly To enhance and strengthen the capacity of the key institutions through trainings, workshops, seminars and procurement research equipment to support the implementation of the ABS framework. Such capacity strengthening is at the heart of what the UN does best and over the immediate years we need to do even better as we assist the RGoB on the last mile of LDC graduation. In this regard, I trust we will have increasing opportunities to work with the Royal University of Bhutan and its constitutent colleges.
  3. And Thirdly, demonstrate the best practices of the ABS framework through the development of nature based products by engaging the local communities. In this regard I wish to again welcome and applaud the representatives of communities from Dagala, Lingshi and Langthel Communities and Gewogs …. The products they demonstrate stand as evidence of the practical results being achieved on the ground.
  4. Good development invariably needs a policy-legal dimension but it also has to be about delivering results that are also felt at the ground level by real people.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At this juncture, I would like to congratulate the NBC, MSPCL and Bio Bhutan for developing nine nature based products: such as anti-wrinkle cream, balm, liniment, massage oil, perfume, soaps, and hand sanitizer to support sustainable livelihoods of the communities of Zedokha, Namthar, Lingshi and Dagala. The launch of the products today is an important addition to the Brand Bhutan initiative and most importantly, it sets the carbon neutral development objective very much into motion. This work is also an critical value add to the important tourism sector we have here in Bhutan. It’s great to see members of the Private sector here today and engaging with their support.

Closing

In conclusion, the ABS project is very special to UNDP as it is a first of its kind in supporting the Government, private sector and local communities to develop nature based products through the sustainable use of the country’s rich biological resources.

For UNDP, this means growth and development are inclusive and sustainable. It also means incorporating productive capacities that create employment and livelihoods for the poor and vulnerable people of Bhutan.

We are privileged to partner with the Government and people of Bhutan in achieving this success.

Gross National Happiness embodies a strong commitment to realizing the equal rights of all, including those less privileged. Bhutan’s concept of GNH is a leading example of the progress that we have made towards the goal of ‘leaving no one behind’.

Projects like this enables people to empower themselves with innovative ideas for income generation opportunities through sustainable harvesting, domestication and commercialization of wild plants and biological resources. The project has also renewed the appreciation of people to the natural environment, reinforcing the benefit of biodiversity conservation.

UNDP will continue to partner with the Royal Government of Bhutan through its ongoing and pipeline projects for sustainable management, restoration and equitable benefits sharing of biodiversity and ecosystems to support local, national and global food security to help the achievement of SDGs goals. We look forward to doing so in close collaboration with all our partners as we know that such partnership is at the heart of sustainable development.

Kadinchey and Tashi Delek!

Statement by Mr. Gerald Daly, UN Resident Co-ordinator/Resident Representative, UNDP

April 5, 2018

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