Senior professors, research fellows, journalists,
lawyers, medical professionals, Buddhist monks, managers,
environmentalists, economists, social activists, financiers, and
academicians made 15-minute oral presentations of about 45 papers during
the seminar from February 18 -20 which was attended by more than 300
people, mostly young students, graduates and civil servants. The
presentations were cablecast in two separate rooms for people who could
not fit in the main hall.
“Although the concept of GNH was first pronounced by
His Majesty the King in his speeches soon after acceding to the throne in
1972, it was, however, only in the last two decades that the concept was
formally incorporated as a guiding principle in development policies and
plans,” said the president of the Centre for Bhutan Studies and prime
minister Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley inaugurating the seminar.
“While conventional development models stress economic
growth as the ultimate objective, the concept of GNH is based on the
premise that true development of human society takes place when material
and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce
each other,” he said. “The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of
equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and
promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and
establishment of good governance.”
The concept of GNH was first metioned to the
international community in the autumn of 1998 at the Asia-Pacific
Millennium Summit in Seoul. This was followed by a bilateral seminar “GNH
- as challenged by the concept of decent society” held in January 2001 in
Zeist, the Netherlands, co-hosted by the CBS. More recently, the SAARC
economic and planning ministers adopted the concept of GNH and its four
pillars among the principles and strategies for the eradication of poverty
in South Asia.
Putting GNH in an historical perspective Mark Mancall,
a Professor of modern history at Stanford University, USA, referred to the
arrival of Zhabdrung and the subsequent establishment of a “diarchic”
regime where the political and the religious domains were intensely
intricated with each other. This intrication of Buddhism and politics, he
said, continued to the present time.
Comparing GNH to the western conservative, liberal and
socialist ideologies, Professor Mancall said that GNH is an ideology, a
programme of social and economic change and development. “If GNH is an
ideology, the Bhutanese State is and must be the ‘subject,’ the primary
actor in the programme of change that we call GNH,” said the Professor.
Some papers persuaded on why Bhutan should be cautious
in joining WTO and hinted that the unchecked onslaught of globalisation
could choke the concept of GNH. Others argued that GNH revived the
forgotten element of Adam Smith school of thought, ‘compassion’ as an
intricate element of market economy.
Still others said that happiness is primarily
subjective and usually confined to an individual.
Some papers explained economic techniques of measuring
GNH. A paper by Dr Prabhat Pankaj and Tshering Dorji, lecturers at
Sherubtse college in Kanglung presented their findings of the field survey
of 612 individuals which used econometric technique to measure happiness.
“Our study found out that the rural people are slightly happier than the
urban ones and that cultural participation and identity have emerged as
the strongest variable influencing happiness both in rural and urban
areas,” said Dr Pankaj. “We also found that religious people tend to
People who attended the seminar found the presentations
and discussions exciting and enriching. “It was a very rewarding
experience, the papers were all well researched and the presenters gave
fresh ideas about specific concept and indicators of happiness,” said
Yeshey Lhendup, a civil servant with the National Assembly.
An IT expert working with Sherubtse college thought
that discussions often revolved on abstract orbits. “The world is a
complex tapestry with all colours and what some papers did was painted it
just black and white,” said Graeme Foster.
His Highness the Crown Prince Dasho Khesar Namgyal
Wangchuck, who graced the closing of the seminar, said that even if the
philosophy of GNH is inherently Bhutanese, its ideas may have a positive
relevance to any nation, community or peoples.
“I feel that there must be some convergence among
nations on the idea of what the primary objective of development and
progess should be - something that GNH seeks to bring about,” he said.
“There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in
this world if our aims are so seperate and divergent especially as the
world shrinks to a global village.”
For Frank Bracho, former ambassador of Venezuela to
India, who presented a paper on happiness as the greatest human wealth,
the seminar has given the world a basis to work on. “The concept has an
profound motive of coming out with helpful solutions to problems that
scourge the world today.”
Organised by the centre for Bhutan studies (CBS) the
seminar was assisted by the sustainable development secretariat, Bhutan
programme office of save the children federation (USA), the UNDP, the
world food programme and the Nike foundation.