Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bhutan spreads happiness to the United Nations

Graffiti in Thimphu
Recently, Bhutan has put the politics of happiness on the UN's agenda with the support of 66 countries such as the UK. The UN General Assembly has adopted a non-binding resolution that aims to make happiness a "development indicator". Bhutan's ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk said the next step was to help UN members better understand the concept. He also said that UN diplomats should sleep more and spend more time with their families to be happier. Read the article HERE.

In Bhutan Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a national development framework with key progress indicators different to those related of Gross National Product (GNP). Based on Buddhist values, the GNH indicators include nine dimensions:

1. Psychological Well-being
2. Time Use
3. Community Vitality
4. Culture
5. Health
6. Education
7. Environmental Diversity
8. Living Standard
9. Governance

On paper, this is an excellent approach to development that aims to overcome the weaknesses of our global material-centered, or 'stuff-based', economic and social system. However, as I saw it in Bhutan, practicing GNH is not without challenges. Rapidly changing Bhutanese society is currently facing new issues such as stress, diabetes, crime, drug abuse, consumerism and pollution, just to mention a few. The BIG QUESTION for me is how GNH, political leadership, and lessons from abroad will help society cope with these issues. 

I believe simply copying what others have done in the past would not help and Bhutan needs to come up with new solutions that work at least for this small country, if not for all of us.  I think Bhutan needs a quick, small, but inevitable dose of globalization and consumerism now in order to develop longterm resistance to them for the future and then re-create its own culture, value system and happiness. 

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