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Group of experts boosts Sustainable Development in Bhutan

The Poverty-Environment Initiative

In 2010, a volunteer group of experts coordinated by the Gross National Happiness Commission, decided to come together to encourage different sectors, local governments and private companies to increase investments in green and socially inclusive activities.


The group, better known as the “Mainstreaming Reference Group”, or “the MRG”, is composed of delegates from 19 key public institutions. All the sectors are represented. The National Environmental Commission, the National Commission for Women and Children; the Ministry of finance; the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest or the Department of Local Governance fill proudly their seats in MRG periodic meetings.


Remarkably qualified civil servants discuss over the best actions to take to safeguard Bhutan’s pristine ecosystems, while creating jobs for the most vulnerable.  


Since its creation, the group has trained local governments, line ministries, Civil Society Organizations and Private Companies all over the country on how to plan and conduct activities that contributed to social inclusion and environmental sustainability.


At the local level, trainings and workshops have already led to bigger budgets to green activities. Localities that were suffering from environmental degradation understood their problems and were able to take remediation measures.


Many local governments realized that on the long run technologies such as environmentally friendly roads or buildings resistant to earthquakes were better investments.


Today, the astonishing dedication of the “MRG” has drastically increased technical expertise of different ministries, local governments and private sector on Strategic Environmental Assessments or Environmental Overviews. These are tools that help foreseeing environmental impacts of policies or activities and propose remediation measures. A course on Strategic Environmental Assessments from Griffith University had a snowballing effect and ended up having national wide impact.  


Thanks to the “MRG”, Strategic Environmental Assessments and tools such as Economic Valuation of Ecosystems Services have now been integrated to the teachings of Sherubtse College a renown college under the the Royal University of Bhutan.


Besides, the group influenced greatly the 11th 5 year plan of Bhutan, that sets out activities to be conducted by the country in each sector from 2013 to 2018.


The group is also in charge of revising different policies to ensure they include provisions to promote environmental conservation, gender equality, to reduce poverty, or to build resilience to disasters. For instance, it advised the Ministry of Roads and Human Settlements to increase investments in “Environment friendly technologies” since it would save costs in maintenance and benefit local communities.


Years of hard work have built the reputation of the group. Since its creation it has served as an excellent platform to improve coordination among government agencies in Sustainable Development. Recommendations coming from the “MRG” are now highly respected. Due to its popularity, the group increased its members from 10 to 19 to cope with the demand of support. Given the success of the group, the formation of “Mainstreaming Reference Groups” at the local level is being now decided.

Directed by Marta Baraibar.

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