Lyonpo Om Pradhan, Advisor, Interim Government
Integrating Material and Spiritual Development
For an Economy of Greater Wellbeing
In the Land of GNH (Gross National Happiness)
Organized by the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) and the GNH Centre, Bhutan
June 6 – 9th, 2013
" Ladies and Gentlemen:
Thank you for inviting me and giving me this great honor and privilege of being in the midst of this august company.
I am part of the current Interim Government established as per our Constitution by His Majesty the King. It consists of the Chief Advisor, who as per the Constitution is the Chief Justice of Bhutan, His Lordship Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye. There are six other Advisors who together form the Interim Government, and which will have an existence of not more than 90 days during which the elections are being organized. We started our work on the day the first elected government resigned to take part in the free and fair election campaign. We will automatically relinquish our position on the day the new elected Prime Minister enters office.
This being the present situation, on behalf of the people, the Chief Advisor and the Interim Government of Bhutan I extend a warm welcome to everyone participating at this event. Our special warm and hearty welcome goes to guests coming from abroad, some of whom have travelled long distances to be here in this blessed land of Gross National Happiness.
I would like to congratulate and highly praise the organizers of this event.
The Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) is making a great impact the world over in promoting understanding amongst different peoples, religions and cultures. The objectives are most laudable and also compatible with GNH. In this world of widespread intolerance, hostility amongst religious beliefs, races and cultures, such efforts as that of the Global Peace Initiative is critical. We need to give all the backing we can to promote peace and non-violence.
Before I go on further I would like to quote His Majesty the King. His Majesty said that:
" There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent – if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings." Unquote.
We must appeal to the higher consciousness of human beings that leads to peaceful and harmonious societies. We must shun policies and paths that promote violence, discrimination of women, discrimination amongst ethnic groups, and cruelty in any form. Religions must preach peace, non-violence and tolerance – and altogether avoid hatred and sense of superiority over others. I believe that these are some vital requirements for promoting Gross National Happiness.
I recently came to know about the establishment of the Bhutan GNH Centre. It is a civil society initiative, and I believe that it is yet to take concrete shape. However, under the guidance of Dr. Saamdu Chetri the work of the Centre has been initiated. I have noted that it has joined hands with the Global Peace Initiative of Women in the organization of this event. I am sure that the partnership will evolve into meaningful collaboration towards benefiting life and humanity.
Perhaps because of the growing recognition of the reality of our interdependent world - made more visible by recent ecological, social, and financial crises - the international community has begun to show increasing interest in Bhutan's development approach. Not only are the growing threats to life on earth, such as global warming, resource depletion, species extinction, and loss of biodiversity, being attributed directly to our obsession with consumerism and economic growth, but research and study reveals that higher levels of income and wealth are not making people any happier.
The search for genuine, viable development alternatives has brought Bhutan a surprising level of attention.
It is because of this heightened interest of the international community, which is in search of a more holistic development paradigm, that Bhutan has attempted to define, explain, and even measure GNH.Bhutanese started to speak about GNH and share our beliefs with the wider world since 1989. We have been explaining that GNH is about balancing the needs of the mind with those of the body. It is about the pursuit of material wants, not coming at the cost of neglecting cultural, societal and spiritual needs. Bhutan seeks to balance equitable and sustainable economic development with environmental conservation, cultural promotion, and good governance. To that end, we have now developed a GNH index with nine domains and several indicators. It measures our efforts to chart a holistic path that integrates social, economic, and environmental objectives. I understand that Dr. Saamdu Chetri, the Executive Director of the GNH Centre will elaborate on this later.
The first resolution that the Kingdom of Bhutan ever sponsored at the United Nations was titled: " Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development." In July 2011, 68 countries joined the Kingdom of Bhutan in co-sponsoring this resolution, which states that happiness is a fundamental human aspiration and goal. GDP, by its nature, does not reflect that goal, and falls short when it comes to human hopes, equity and social justice. GDP per capita is a simple average that can mask major disparities between rich and poor. Our patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development. Hence, a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing and happiness. The resolution initiated by Bhutan was passed by consensus, without a dissenting vote.
Soon after the resolution a United Nations High Level Meeting took place in April 2012. About 800 distinguished leaders and representatives of governments, academia, business, and civil society, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Nobel Laureates participated. They joined Bhutan to construct a new economic paradigm – one that has, as its goal, human happiness and the wellbeing of all life forms. The main outcome of the meeting requested Bhutan to convene an International Expert Working Group, which would elaborate the details, structures, and working mechanisms of the new development paradigm. Since then, His Majesty the King initiated the establishment of a group of eminent persons representing all continents and spheres of knowledge. 65 top experts are now at work; and their reports shall soon be presented to the United Nations. It is hoped that the entire international community will support the implementation of this new development paradigm after 2015 when the UN MDG program comes to a close.
This growing global movement to search for genuine development alternatives is truly inspiring - and since His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan's proclamation 40 years ago, we have now arrived at a crucial phase in GNH development. It is what brings you together here this week. Even though we have pursued GNH at the national policy and planning levels, we still feel the need to put GNH fully into action. We need to bring GNH into the very fabric of our society. That is why Educating for GNH initiative was launched three years ago to bring GNH into the classroom and into the consciousness of our young. This is why we understand that a GNH Centre is being established to demonstrate in practice how GNH works.