Hon’ble Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y Thinley’s opening address at the first meeting of International Expert Working Group for the New Development Paradigm in Thimphu

Honourable Jigmi Y. Thinley

Prime Minister, Kingdom of Bhutan
Opening remarks at the meeting of the International Expert Working Group on the
New Development Paradigm
30th January 2013

Convention Center
Thimphu, Bhutan.

Most distinguished friends,
On behalf of His Majesty the King, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the Royal Government and people of Bhutan, I extend to you a very warm welcome to the Kingdom. It’s not easy to reach this remote and chilly corner of the Himalayas, but having travelled long and hard to get here, I pray you will find some warmth in our collective endeavour to build a happier world and in our modest hospitality.
All of you are eminent scholars, accomplished practitioners and world leaders in your fields of expertise. I am fully aware that you have enormous demands on your time and that you turn down far more requests than you accept. Yet, you have chosen to partner us in this undertaking even though it carries no material reward and requires major sacrifice. We are indeed, bound together by a common vision for humankind and an overwhelming sense of urgency to bring that vision to fruition.
I believe, our partnership in what must become a historic and world-changing endeavour, will be successful.
The first reason for my optimism is simply timing. The time has never been more ripe and ready for genuine change from our current materialist obsession to a much broader and deeper view of human happiness and the wellbeing of all life on earth; from our current alienation from nature and from each other to a return to our essential one-ness with all life; from an economic structure founded on greed, competition and profit to one based on sufficiency, cooperation, and fairness.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, has recently spoken of the urgent need for “a revolution in our thinking” and for “a new paradigm.”:
“The old model is broken. We need to create a new one…. In this time of global challenge, even crisis, business as usual will not do…. It is time to invest in people…. Clearly we must unite around a shared vision for the future ― a vision for equitable human development, a healthy planet, an enduring economic dynamism.”

We are no longer talking of isolated or narrow sectoral actions designed to accomplish this particular objective or that, but of a true change in world view – of a new development paradigm.

But there is a second reason I believe we will succeed. And that has to do with our own unique partnership.

The partnership between your extraordinary knowledge and expertise and our own sovereign status as a member of the United Nations will enable this initiative to succeed where efforts by great scientists, active NGOs, and respected agencies have foundered.

But saying this is not to underestimate the challenges. Ours is a daunting undertaking. We in Bhutan do run major risks in defying vested interests and sticking our neck way out. And we are not so naïve as to presume that we can successfully pursue a separate way of life.

As I’ve said before, even if we were to do everything right, greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles, Beijing, Delhi, and Sydney would still melt the glacial lakes here in Bhutan to cause devastating floods in our river valleys. And  since opening up to the world, and as you’ll see even during your short stay here  our people are no more immune than people elsewhere to the temptations of consumerism, materialism, automobile fetishism, rural-urban migration, and all the social ills those trends bring. We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t be a GNH bubble in a GDP world and that we can’t build a GNH society in one corner of the Himalayas surrounded by a world obsessed with accumulation of material wealth at all costs.

Our collective endeavour is to present to the United Nations a new development paradigm to promote human happiness and the well being of all life forms within a sustainable environment to be considered for implementation in the post MDG (2015) world. To this end, our detailed and complete report must be submitted in the spring of 2014 well in time for the active deliberations on the post millenium development agenda. This gives us a little over a year. In the meanwhile, the Royal Government has followed a strategy of discreet but methodical advancement of the idea before the international community. In July of 2010, Bhutan successfully steered a resolution on happiness that was adopted without a vote. Then in April 2012, Bhutan hosted the High Level Meeting at the United Nations in New York on Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. This was followed by a UN resolution declaring 20th March each year as the International Day of Happiness.

These successive events have helped to bring about a deeper understanding of the term happiness as a possible societal goal and softenend, ever so slightly, the powerful resistance to any suggestion of a paradigm change. The OECD search for and adoption of alternative indicators for societal progress has been particularly supportive.

This is not to say that the idea of a paradigm shift will find easy acceptance by the world community. On the contrary, the resistance to any change from the conventional GDP led development model continues to be as unyielding. Therefore, while our objective must remain the same, it would be expedient not to use the term ‘new development paradigm’ in our report.

The heartening thing is, the UN is actively engaged in the search for a global development vision and strategy to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The High Level Panel of the UN Secretary-General is working in parallell with our group. I have informed the Secretary General that the two groups should share information and interact with each other. Likewise, the intergovernmental open-working group of the UNGA has just been formed to work on a set of Sustainable Development Goals.

Our proposal for a new development paradigm must be a part of this ongoing global debate and search. It is imperative that our first year’s efforts get global buy-in, are well accepted, and are not side-lined. To that end, we intend to present this year the broad conceptual framework of the new development paradigm to the UN. Likewise, we wish to present the same report in varying detail at other related fora so that our work becomes an integral part of the concurrent ongoing discourse on the global development agenda. The director of the ministry of Foreigh Affairs will explain this in greater detail. The objective is to gain acceptance of the conceptual framework as a follow up to the resolution and the High Level Meeting and to prepare the ground for an open-minded deliberation on the detailed and more contentious recommendations in 2014.

And so, our first task might be to develop the conceptual foundation for our work  including what we mean by development and by a new paradigm that must comprise clear statements of vision, goals, intended outcomes and strategies. We might, likewise, find it necessary to discuss as to whether the nine dimensions of the Bhutanese model are appropriate or adequate. Indeed, we need to determine that conceptual basis and framework clearly and unambiguously for ourselves  before we assign tasks and divide into specific sub groups to flesh out the details of the new paradigm in respect of each dimension and how it will work in practice.

In this regard, I wish to thank Dasho Karma Ura and all the members of his research group for working so intensively in recent months and in the last three days to take the first crucial step in that direction by discussing what we mean by wellbeing and happiness. The detailed policy recommendations you have developed in the nine domains you have examined will greatly facilitate our work, and I am hopeful that you will remain with us actively as we continue onward with this project. I am eagerly looking forward to being informed of your work and findings later this morning.

While these next two days will establish the conceptual basis, core principles, framework, and cross-cutting issues for our work together, it is our last two days together on the 1st and 2nd of February that will actually be the real test of our commitment, resolve, and capacity to succeed. That is where we will divide into task groups and take on the awesome individual responsibilities while meeting our very demanding timelines.

And here I want to make a direct personal appeal to you all, and also to those esteemed members of the working group not able to come to this meeting. Ours is indeed, a bold and daunting mission. To succeed, we need to be able to demonstrate the practical viability of our recommendations in the most convincing ways and with the best of evidence. This will require major time and resource commitments and involve tremendous hard work from all of us over the next one year.

Dr. Suzuki, with us here today, notes in the following words, the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, released in 1992 and signed by over 1700 senior scientists from 71 countries including more than half of all living Nobel laureates that:
“No more than one or a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats we now confront will be lost and the prospect for humanity immeasurably diminished…. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”
The world cannot wait. The window of opportunity to turn things round is too narrow. The time has never been more opportune. His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan are prepared to do everything in their capacity to ensure that this country will implement the new development paradigm in practice.

And this historic partnership can, will, and must succeed in its noble endeavour.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank deeply those agencies that have enabled us to get this initiative off the ground  the UNDP, Danida, and the International Development Research Centre of Canada. I wish to also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the two representatives of the Alerce and Maitri Trusts who are with us today for their splendid support to the Educating for GNH initiative and for the reform of our National Accounts to include measures of natural, social and human capital  both of which are integral to implementing the new development paradigm at home.

Once again, I would like to thank you all so much for being here. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on your appointment by His Majesty to this esteemed working group of scholars, and my deepest wishes for the full success of our coming four days of deliberations. I will be here listening and learning.

I trust that you will enjoy your stay in the Kingdom and that you will kindly let us know if there is anything we can do to make your time here as productive and satisfying as possible.

Thank you, Tashi Delek!

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