Mrs Calmy-Rey, Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Mr Thinley talked for about an hour, during which the Federal Councillor congratulated the Bhutanese Prime Minister on the recent developments in the kingdom with regard to democracy, such as parliamentary elections in 2007 and 2008 and the introduction of the country’s first constitution.
Mrs Calmy-Rey reminded her visitor that Switzerland had been involved in development aid in Bhutan since the 1960s. From 1983 to 2006 Bhutan was one of the priority countries of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). At present the SDC’s work in Bhutan is focussing on good governance projects aimed at helping the country in its transition to a democratic state. A sum of some 8 million francs has been budgeted for the period 2008-2013. The SDC’s projects include in particular setting up a judicial system (training for judges and administrative staff) and a committee for fighting corruption, as well as a decentralisation programme.
In view of the fact that respect for human rights is closely linked to the introduction of democracy, Mrs Calmy-Rey expressed her pleasure that the death penalty had been abolished in Bhutan in 2004. This Himalayan kingdom is one of the first countries in Asia to join the group of nations that have abolished capital punishment. The situation of minorities and refugees was also addressed.
During their talks, Mrs Calmy-Rey and Mr Thinley also discussed the environment and the consequences of climate change in mountain areas. For the past 20 years Switzerland has been helping to fund the ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development), based in Katmandu (Nepal), which monitors sustainable development in mountain areas in eight countries within the Himalayas region, including Bhutan. A budget of CHF 5 million has been earmarked by the Confederation to support this institute for the period 2008-2012.
Following his meeting with Mrs Calmy-Rey, the Bhutanese Prime Minister met with Swiss President Doris Leuthard for a courtesy visit. A courtesy visit was also planned with the President of the National Council Pascale Bruderer Wyss.
After his talks with Mrs Calmy-Rey, the Bhutanese Prime Minister met Federal Councillor Moritz Leuenberger in Zurich on Sunday, Mr Jigme Thinley took this opportunity to present the concept that his country has drawn up, entitled “Gross National Happiness”, an indicator that goes beyond the economic figures that determine gross national product and encompasses additional aspects such as the promotion of culture and protection of the environment.
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