Norwegian Minister of International Development, Heikki E. Holmås, visited Bhutan from 14th October to 16th October.
According to the press statement released by the Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi, Minister Holmås discussed about further cooperation with Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley, Minister of Agriculture and Forest, Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Minister of Education, Thakur Singh Poudyel and the members of Gross National Happiness Commission.
The statement notes that the key element of the discussion was continued cooperation and capacity building on energy and hydropower.
“Norway is also a constitutional monarchy founded on many of the same values as Bhutan’s. Norway stands ready to strengthen our commitment to Bhutan within the renewable energy sector through the Energy + partnership”, the statement quotes the Minister as saying.
Bhutan is a member of International Energy and Climate Initiative – Energy+, which was launched by the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, in presence of UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon at a conference entitled “Energy for All: Financing Access for the Poor“ on 10 October 2011 in Oslo, the capital city of Norway.
Norway will help Bhutan achieve its target of providing access to electricity for the entire population ensuring that the country’s substantial hydropower revenues are used to benefit all the people of Bhutan. Norway is ready to provide up to NOK 100 million (USD 20 million) over 5 years towards achieving these goals in Bhutan.
The Minister expressed his admiration for the important leadership Bhutan is showing, both in the region and internationally. In addition he noted that Bhutan’s efforts on climate change, environment and energy, and on Happiness as a new development paradigm, were inspiration to all.
Minister Holmås also took part in the Ministerial High Level Panel “ Investing and Setting the A-Gender in Mountains” during the international conference on “Gender and Sustainable Mountain Development in a changing world”.
This event, which saw an inspirational debate on issues such as gender quotas in public offices, was held in cooperation with “The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD)”, to which Norway is one of the main financial contributors with NOK 75 million (approximately 13 million USD) from 2011-2015.
Norway’s goal in cooperation with ICIMOD is to contribute to a stable political development in the region through improved living conditions and stimulating regional cooperation.
Norway aims to contribute to more knowledge about the consequences of climate change and possibilities for adaptation in the Himalayas.
During the inauguration of the ICIMOD conference, Minister Holmås also launched a UN Women report on women’s political participation.
He mentioned that promotion of women’s political participation and leadership was a central element in all collaborations Norway have with Bhutan and in the region.
Bhutan and Norway has a long history of cooperation for more than 20 years on areas like hydropower, health, environment and gender equality. Two new three-year agreements of NOK 36 million (equivalent to 6 100 000 USD), were signed in May 2012.
Amounting the direct annual support to institutional cooperation with Bhutan to 12 million NOK (equivalent to 2 060 000 USD) now, Norway emphases on three-fold focus in strengthening the energy sector and support hydropower plants, preventing landslides and other threats to infrastructure (primarily hydropower plants) and studying the possibility for Bhutan’s first tunnel.
As of July 2012, Norway also homes 513 exiled Bhutanese who opted the third country resettlement as an option to begin a new life.
Heikki E. Holmås, who is a politician of the Socialist Left Party, has been serving as the Norwegian Minister of International Development since March 2012.