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Towards a new development paradigm

Bhutan has begun work on a GNH-inspired global initiative, “Wellbeing and Happiness: A New Development Paradigm” with an international working group of experts and a steering committee formally established by Royal Decree (kasho) issued by His Majesty the King on July 28, 2012.

“Gross National Happiness reflects and is produced by integrated material, relational, and spiritual development,” the decree states. “Bhutan’s practical experience in pursuing this multidimensional path of integrated social and personal development may contribute and be beneficial to other nations and to all sentient beings.”

The International Expert Working Group, comprising 50-60 top economists, scientists, philosophers, and accomplished professionals with a wide range of expertise, will draft the new global development paradigm to promote wellbeing and happiness as a global goal through effective and pragmatic international public policies.

They will draw from existing best practices and research and discourse conducted world-wide by progressive thinkers, broadly based onfour fundamental principles defined at a high-level meeting organised by Bhutan at the United Nations in New York on 2nd April this year: wellbeing and happiness as the fundamental goal and purpose, and ecological sustainability, fair distribution, and efficient use of resources as necessary conditions to achieve that goal.

Bhutan will present the first segment of the report to the United Nations in 2013, outlining wellbeing and happiness as the ultimate goal, purpose, and context of the new development paradigm. Meanwhile, the experts will focus on key conditions required to achieve that goal, including the measurement and accounting systems required to assess sustainability, appropriate governance systems, and the resource, investment, financial, trade, and regulatory policies and mechanisms needed for such a development model. A comprehensive outcome report (second segment) on the new development paradigm will be presented to the UN in 2014.

The steering committee appointed by His Majesty the King is headed by the Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley, and includes Dasho Karma Ura, Dasho Kinley Dorji, Karma Tshiteem, Tashi Choden, Tashi Ron Colman, Mark Mancall (all appointed in their personal capacities), and the Foreign Secretary as an ex-officio member,.

The royal decree states that the working group is convened and the steering committee appointed “to promote and foster wellbeing and happiness as a global goal through various means including international public policies and their instrumentalities, and to the end of creating a high-impact, and effective submission to the UN, based on the learning and insight derived from research and practices from around the world”. By learning from practical policy-relevant best practices around the world, the work will help bring GNH more directly and practically into the economy and society of Bhutan.

Starting with a grant of about Nu. 9 million from the Danish government for the establishment of a secretariat for the new development paradigm to serve the steering committee, governments and international organizations are being approached for financial support and are also being invited to participate in the substantive work.

The steering committee will coordinate the work of the international experts and provide key administrative services for the two-year project. It will also work with different sections of Bhutanese society to ensure a clear understanding and implementation of the new paradigm, at the same time deepening discourse on GNH in Bhutan and keeping abreast of GNH-related international discussions and activities.

The work of the expert working group and steering committee is the evolution of the global initiative that began with the Bhutan-sponsored UN resolution 65/309, titled “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development,” which was co-sponsored by 68 countries and adopted by consensus on July 19, 2011. It stated that “happiness is a fundamental human goal and universal aspiration; that GDP by its nature does not reflect that goal; that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development; and that a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing and profound happiness”.

The resolution was followed by the April 2 meeting, attended by more than 800 distinguished participants including the President of Costa Rica, the United Nations Secretary-General, the Presidents of the UN General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, the UNDP Administrator, government ministers and ambassadors to the United Nations, leading economists and scholars including Nobel Laureates, and prominent civil society, business, and spiritual leaders.

Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley urged all heads of state or government to adopt specific policy recommendations made by the conference to move towards a holistic path of development. He presented an official report of the high-level meeting to the United Nations Secretary-General on June 15, 2012, and discussed Bhutan’s mandate to develop a new development paradigm with potential funders and partners at the Rio + 20 conference in Brazil in June, 2012.

In July, Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley briefed the government and people of Bhutan on the new initiative in his State of the Nation Report to the 9th Session of the Bhutanese Parliament.

“Bhutan’s role in the global search for a rational economic system has to do with the growing acceptance of His Majesty the Fourth King’s concept of Gross National Happiness as an alternative development paradigm,” said Lyonchhen Jigmi Yoezer Thinley. “Founded on the belief that happiness can be achieved by balancing the needs of the body with those of the mind within a peaceful and secure environment, it requires that the purpose of development must be to create enabling conditions through public policy for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of happiness by all citizens.”

The new steering committee will also coordinate the work of the expert working group with a high-level advisory panel and a sustainable development solutions network established by the UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to work on sustainable development goals for the world after 2015.