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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bhutan’s Poverty Environment Initiative on the right track

A common understanding was that environment conservation and poverty reduction should not be left out at the cost of development

 To ensure that the existing Poverty Environment Initiative goal of sustainable development inclusion or poverty environment linkages is met in the region, participants from six countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Philippines, Lao PDR, and Thailand) attended the regional Poverty Environment Initiative (PEI) meeting held in Paro last week.
The PEI program aims to mainstream pro-poor environment and climate change issues into planning, budgeting and economic decision making at national and sub-national levels. It is geared toward preservation of valuable natural resources through improved planning processes and increased benefit sharing with local communities.
Speaking at the PEI meet, the senior chief program officer of the Gross National Happiness Commission (GNHC), Karma Jamtsho, said Bhutan has a lot of PEI promises and interventions which were achieved in 2011 and has been a successful period for Bhutan.
“We are very optimistic and there are rich ideas and knowledge on PEI,” said Karma Jamtsho.
The two-day event saw participants from each country presenting their PEI programs, success stories, challenges and the way forward based on experiences.
During the event, the labor and human resource minister, LyonpoDorjiWangdi, said poverty and environmental mainstreaming should be as much a political and institutional change process as a technical one.
“It should be dependent upon leadership and catalytic organizations to forge the necessary links and processes and it should be a continuing and long term process, not a one off project,” said LyonpoDorjiWangdi.
Some of the challenges that all the six countries faced were in the key areas of capacity development, effective coordination among various government sectors, budgetary constraints and finding innovative funding mechanisms, and the lack of concrete implementation of mainstreaming work.
A common understanding was that environment conservation and poverty reduction should not be left out at the cost of development
The PEI in Bhutan has formed the ECP Reference Group which conducted several capacity building programs and has come out with a framework to mainstream environment, climate change and poverty in the eleventh five year plan (11th FYP).
This framework aims to integrate environment, poverty and climate change programs into activities of the coming five year plan.
The framework provides alternatives or options that each ministry can undertake which has less or no environmental impact.
Karma Jamtsho said the mainstreaming steps of the ECP would for the first time “green” the 11th FYP.
He said environment is linked with poverty reduction and enhancement of livelihood as the poor are the most dependent on natural resources and are also the most affected by climate change and that the coming five year plan would have adequate green elements.
The PEI is a global program of the UNDP and UNEP. The Asia Pacific PEI provides financial and technical assistance to improve environment and climate outcomes that matter to poor women and men in Asia Pacific.
In Bhutan, PEI strives to establish the case that environmental protection and poverty reduction measures can be mutually reinforcing objectives considering that the vast majority of rural people derive their livelihoods from natural resources.
The Gross National Happiness Commission coordinates the implementation of the PEI which has been implemented in the country since August 2008.

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