40 years of Bhutan – Hel­ve­tas part­ner­ship

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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.

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