Diplomacy: The possibility of extending some of the current Swiss supported development programmes until 2018 was discussed during bilateral consultations held between Bhutan and Switzerland in Thimphu, yesterday.

Swiss development assistance to Bhutan is currently in its exit phase and will terminate in 2016.

Between 2013-2016, Swiss cooperation with Bhutan has focused on achieving three outcomes: strengthening core institutions of democracy at central and local levels, fostering civil society and civic participation, and ensuring community forest management groups practise inclusive decision-making.

The Bhutanese delegation led by officiating foreign secretary, Sonam T Rabgye, and the Swiss delegation led by Assistant State Secretary for the Asia and Pacific of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Johannes Matyassy, also discussed Switzerland’s proposal to appoint an Honorary Consul in Bhutan after the closure of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) here in Bhutan, according to a foreign affairs press release.

An SDC cooperation programme office was opened in Thimphu in 2012 to ensure a smooth and sustainable phase out, and to maintain good relations.

The two countries also decided to institute regular bilateral consultations to further strengthen relations. Fostering institutional and academic linkages, people-to-people contacts, private sector partnerships, increasing cooperation in regional and multilateral fora were also identified as other means to enhance bilateral relations, it is stated in the press release.

Bhutan and Switzerland will also mark the 30th anniversary of relations today in Thimphu.

Diplomatic relations were established between the two countries in 1985.

The financial volume of SDC’s programme in Bhutan during the exit phase amounts to a maximum of three million Swiss Francs a year, that reduces gradually until 2016.

Informal relations between Bhutan and Switzerland date back to the 1950s and since then Switzerland has been assisting Bhutan in its socio-economic development efforts, it is pointed out in the press release.

By Gyalsten K Dorji