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A successful partnership (February 2006)
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Cooperation Bhutan - Switzerland
A successful partnership

February 2006

Describing his tenure in Bhutan as a "fruitful and a wonderful experience" the outgoing resident coordinator of the Swiss Association for International Cooperation (Helvetas/SDC), Mr. Erwin Koenig, said that he was sad to leave Bhutan at a time when the country was seeing major political and development changes.

Swiss delegates Mr Erwin König
Mr. Koenig, who received an audience with His Majesty the King on February 6, said that as long time development partners, Bhutan and Switzerland had come a long way since they established relations in 1975.

Mr. Koenig recalled how Helvetas was initially based in Bumthang which they even called "Little Swiss valley". "It was a bit of a laboratory for us where we carried out many different experiments," said Mr. Koenig. "Now decades later, it is heartening to see those activities spread across the country and doing well too."

Mr. Koenig highlighted the increasing unemployment problem among the educated youth as a grave problem which needed to be solved. "In 1983, there were only five Bhutanese graduates and they had difficulty in choosing their jobs but now the situation is completely different," he said.

The outgoing resident coordinator explained that it was important for development partners to work together for better results. "There is nothing that you can just pick up from your country and place it in another, how well tailored it may be," he said. "We have our own knowledge and capacity which need to be put to work together."

Swiss delegates
Mr E Werner Külling
In an interview with Kuensel the new resident coordinator, Mr. E Werner Kuelling, who had served as the Secretary General of Helvetas/SDC for more than 30 years, said that there was no better way than to end his professional career in international cooperation working in Bhutan. "It was my choice to come to Bhutan," he said, "to the country where I have developed close relationships since my first visit in 1979."

Mr. Kuelling said that although both Helvetas and Bhutan had made mistakes in the past the development relationship was a successful one. "Bhutan has always been the most successful development partner of Helvetas," he said, adding that the success story was because of a good leader and stability in the country.

He pointed out that the development pace in Bhutan was rather too fast. "Bhutan should go a bit slower because development means changes and people will have to adapt to it," he said.

Mr. Kuelling said that creating employment opportunities and development of the private sector were two key areas of focus during his tenure.

Since its establishment in July 14, 1975, Helvetas has assisted in areas like agriculture, animal husbandry, natural resources, forestry and education. Today the bilateral development programme in Bhutan averages about seven million Swiss Franc a year.

contributed by Karma Choden, Bhutan's national nweswpaper, 2006
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