Bhutan

Bhutan was one of the first countries to pilot LoCAL. Since July 2011, LoCAL-Bhutan was successfully implemented by 6 dzongkhags and 15 gewogs. Through the Local Governance Support Programme, LoCAL is now rolling out to another 13 local governments as part of a national scale-up, in partnership with the European Union and the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative. LoCAL-Bhutan has proved the approach which is now being replicated across 13 countries, with more to follow.

Context

As a least developed, mountainous and landlocked country, Bhutan — and its population and ecosystems — are extremely vulnerable to climate change. Changing weather patterns affect communities in different ways. More intense rains, reduced soil moisture in high altitudes, flash floods and landslides put at risk decades of development efforts, with effects ranging from losses in agricultural production and food insecurity, to water stress and insecurity, climate-related disasters, changes to ecosystems and losses of biodiversity, and impacts on human health. The Government of Bhutan has a strong focus on the environment, climate change and poverty reduction in all operations from planning to implementation; this priority was most recently announced in the guidelines to central and local government agencies for the 11th Five-Year Plan.

The Government of Bhutan has undergone a history of decentralization reforms. In 1981 and 1991, respectively, 20 dzongkhags (districts) and 205 gewoks (blocks) were instituted by royal decree. The role, mandate and capacities of local governments in Bhutan have been significantly strengthened in recent years. Initiated in 2008, the Joint Local Governance Support Programme aims to make finance systems effective and transparent for local government service delivery, while strengthening the central government’s policy, regulatory, supportive and supervisory functions. Its strategy is to assist local governments in implementing block grants allocated for improving local-level infrastructure and in providing public services, while offering training and capacity development for local personnel and officials. LoCAL is embedded in the Joint Local Governance Support Programme.

Objectives, results and activities:

The overall goal of the LoCAL-Bhutan initiative is improved resilience of local government to climate change as a result of increased access to climate change adaptation financing through performance-based climate resilience grants (PBCRGs). The programme’s core objectives are to ensure that dzongkhags and gewogs can accomplish the following:

  • Respond to the increasing impact of climate change in Bhutan in accordance with local prioritized needs and vulnerabilities in a sustainable manner, with sufficient consideration to operation and maintenance of the structures supported
  • Promote robust, transparent and accountable public financial management/public expenditure management systems by providing funds to make the local planning and budgeting process meaningful, efficient, effective and participatory as well as strengthening incentives for climate change adaptation activities
  • Five outputs contribute to the achievement of these objectives:
  • An effective and transparent climate change financing mechanism for local governments (dzongkhags and gewogs) through the establishment, further development and testing of a PBCRG system, based on experiences from Phase I
  • An inclusive, effective and accountable climate change adaptation planning process designed and integrated in the local development planning process of dzongkhags and gewogs
  • Effective and transparent municipal PBCRGs and a climate change adaptation planning process developed and established
  • An effective capacity development mechanism established to strengthen local government capacities for climate change adaptation
  • Efficient, effective and transparent implementation of climate change adaptation activities by participating local governments through the PBCRG system

Achievements

  • LoCAL-Bhutan was initiated in July 2011 in two village groups (Gangtey and Nangkor) within two districts (Wangdue and Zhemgang, respectively) as well as in the Phobjica Valley. It has been successfully implemented by 6 dzongkhags and 15 gewogs. LoCAL-Bhutan has proved the approach which is now being replicated across 11 countries, with more to follow.
  • LoCAL was successfully integrated in the five-year Local Governance Support Programme, together with other initiatives. This has been instrumental in supporting local governments in developing and rolling out guidelines, supporting vulnerability assessments and local planning and raising awareness — particularly within the 6 dzongkhags and 15 gewogs which have received capital development grants for mainstreaming since 2012.
  • LoCAL grants effectively apply existing national capital grant rules and regulations for allocating, channelling and reporting on funds while strengthening the overall inter-governmental fiscal transfer system in Bhutan and piloting innovative features (e.g. for performance measurement).

Adaptation measures and investments:

In 2014, 24 local infrastructure projects were planned and under implementation. These range from improvements to farm roads and bridges; to upgrading of an irrigation channel, drinking water sources and supply system; a water reservoir; slop stabilization and erosion control; and integrated soil management of farmland.

The infrastructure projects currently under implementation by the local governments will directly benefit 10,693 people living in the six participating gewogs and indirectly benefit a wider population of 49,771 people in the surrounding area.

Lessons learned

  • The PBCRGs have proven to be effective in transferring adaptation finance directly to dzongkhags and gewogs and in providing an incentive for local governments to think about and plan for climate change adaptation actions.
  • Using existing government systems and procedures with limited additional requirements has improved efficiency in spending and allowed for low transaction costs, while creating strong ownership.
  • Baseline and monitoring assessments of performance have provided useful information about local government capacity in terms of areas to be strengthened and performance trends in climate change and public financial management.
  • Vulnerability assessments at the local level were useful in supporting the planning and prioritization for using the grants in climate change initiatives.

Way forward

Through the Local Governance Support Programme, roll out LoCAL to 13 local governments as part of a national scale-up, in partnership with the European Union and the UNDP-UNEP Poverty-Environment Initiative.

Contacts

Government of Bhutan

Mr. Wangdi Gyeltshen,
Department of Local Governance
Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs

Ms. Tandin Wangmo
Senior Programme Coordinator
Gross National Happiness Commission

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Facts and Figures

753,947

Population

20

Districts / Dzongkhags

620,000

Phase I: 2011-2014 (USD)

44M

Phase II: from 2014 (USD)

Stories from the Field

Our Team

Thimphu, Bhutan

Ms. Tshering Lham Yanki
Programme Officer

Mr. Fakri Karim
LoCAL Programme Manager