40 years of Bhutan – Helvetas partnership
Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay attended the 40 Years of Bhutan-Helvetas Partnership celebration in Thimphu last Friday.
On behalf of His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan, Lyonchhen extended a warm welcome to Mr. Elmar Ledergerber, President of HELVETAS and his delegation, who have traveled all the way from Zurich to celebrate 40 years of HELVETAS engagement in Bhutan.
Speaking to the gathering Lyonchhen said that “the story of the friendship between Bhutan and Switzerland is a unique and fascinating one. It is how personal friendship brought together two different nations from two different continents, but with many similarities, and shaped into an excellent model of bilateral relations. This relationship began in the early 50s through the personal friendship between His Majesty the Third Druk Gyalpo and Her Majesty The Royal Grand Mother, Ashi Kesang Choden Wangchuck, with Mr. Fritz Von Schulthess, a Swiss industrialist, and his wife, Monica”.
HELVETAS started operating in Bhutan since 1975. And their support extends in Bhutan’s priority areas that include livestock, agriculture, for- estry, health, education, rural infrastructure and governance.
The beginning of Swiss assistance to Bhutan dates back to the 1960s through the “Foundation Pro Bhutan”. Helvetas took over the Foundation’s activities in Bhutan in 1975. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Switzerland was one of the most important bilateral development partners for Bhutan through programmes funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation and Helvetas. Swiss assistance focused broadly on four working areas: Health (up to 1986), Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, Education and Culture, and Infrastructure in rural and semi-urban areas (largely suspension bridge building). More recently, Good Governance became an important area of engagement.
Today, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation works mainly in three areas: Rural Economy (livelihood, market chain facilitation), Governance and Peace (local governance, civil society), and Skills Development and Education (vocational skills in the construction sector, formal education). Gender and social equity, capacity building, promoting learning and reflections on programme practices and experiences, and ac- countability towards our primary stakeholders are important cross cutting topics. HELVETAS partner with farmers’ groups and co-operatives, civil society organizations, local governments, central government agencies, and the private sector.
Their programme in Bhutan is based on fiveyear country strategies. Now they are implementing our 6th Country Strategy (2012-2017) and their main goal is to contribute towards equitable development and improved livelihoods through the promotion of effective governance, an active civil society and sustainable economic opportunities.