The excellent relations between Switzerland and Bhutan date back to the 1950s and have been developing ever since. Before the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) withdrew from Bhutan at the end of 2016, development cooperation had been the main focus of the two states' bilateral relations. Since then, political, economic and cultural ties between Switzerland and Bhutan have expanded.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Bhutan
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Since 1985, Switzerland has been among the 53 countries with which Bhutan maintains diplomatic relations.
Before the SDC withdrew from Bhutan at the end of 2016, development cooperation had been the main focus of the country's bilateral relations with Switzerland. Since then, political, economic and cultural ties between the two countries have expanded. Switzerland has had an honorary consulate in Bhutan since August 2018. In addition to official bilateral relations between Switzerland and Bhutan, there are other active ties between the two countries – such as the Swiss Red Cross supporting the development of the Bhutanese Red Cross.
Trade between Switzerland and Bhutan is rather modest and mainly covers tourism, renewable energies and advanced agriculture. Switzerland is committed to increasing trade with Bhutan.
In 2018, Swiss exports to Bhutan amounted to CHF 0.5 million and consisted mainly of optical and medical instruments, pharmaceutical products, as well as metals and machinery. Imports from Bhutan – mainly metals and art products – amounted to CHF 0.6 million in 2018.
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland is committed to human rights in Bhutan. It provides part-funding for work undertaken by Helvetas and, since 2019, has been investing in various projects aimed at preventing violence against women and promoting youth entrepreneurship, for example.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Switzerland's development cooperation activities in Bhutan began in 1950 and came to a close in 2016 when the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) withdrew because the country's economic situation continued to improve steadily.
Swiss nationals in Bhutan
According to statistics on the Swiss abroad, 18 Swiss nationals (including 10 dual nationals) were living in Bhutan at the end of 2018.
History of bilateral relations
The special relationship between Switzerland and Bhutan dates back to the 1950s and the personal contact established between King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and the Swiss industrialist Fritz von Schulthess-Rechberg. Von Schulthess funded the first development cooperation projects in Bhutan in a private capacity.
During the 1960s and 1970s, private aid organisations took up these development programmes. From 1978 onwards, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) was also involved. In the 1980s and 1990s, Switzerland was one of Bhutan's four main donor countries.
From 2007 to 2016, the SDC invested over CHF 20 million in the governance sector in order to assist the Bhutanese authorities in the country’s democratisation process. The SDC concluded its activities in Bhutan at the end of 2016.
Bhutan, Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (de, fr. it)