Address by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on WELL BEING AND HAPPINESS at the UN Head Quarters, New York

Address by The HON’BLE JIGMI Y. THINLEY, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and Host of the of the High Level Meeting on WELLBEING AND HAPPINESS: DEFINING A NEW ECONOMIC PARADIGM at the UN Head Quarters, New York

2nd April, 2012.

Mm. Chairperson, President of the General Assembly, Mr Secretary General, Mm. President Laura Chinchillla of Costa Rica, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

The Kingdom of Bhutan and her people are honoured by your presence.

I believe an economy is not an economy if, at the very least, it does not cause economy. It ought to promote prudent use and management of scarce resources to make life stable and secure.


The GDP led development model that compels boundless growth on a planet with limited resources no longer makes economic sense. It is the cause of our irresponsible, immoral and self destructive actions. Irresponsible, because we extract, produce, consume and waste ever more, even as natural resources are rapidly depleting. Immoral and unethical because having consumed far beyond our share of natural wealth, our reckless profligacy amid unconscionable inequities comes at the cost of what belongs to generations unborn. Self destructive, because, aided by technology, we are bringing about the collapse of our ecological life support systems. Having far outlived its usefulness, our fundamentally flawed economic arrangement, has itself, become the cause of all problems. Within its framework, there lies no solution to the economic, ecological, social and security crises that plague the world today and threaten to consume humanity.

Mankind is like a meteor, blazing toward self annihilation along with all other innocent life forms. But this course can be changed if we act now.

Bhutan’s role in the global search for a rational economic system has to do with the growing acceptance of our former ruler the 4th King’s idea of GNH (Gross National Happiness) as an alternative development paradigm. 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. In short, GNH is a sustainability based, wellbeing centric, inclusive economic model.

I wish to submit that, contrary to what many mistakenly believe, Bhutan is not a country that has attained GNH and it is not from a pedestal that we serve as a humble facilitator today. Like most developing nations, we are struggling with the challenge of fulfilling the basic needs of our people. What separates us, however, from most others is that we have made happiness, the most fundamental of human needs as the goal of societal change.
The growing interest in GNH, discontent with the existing metrics, understanding of happiness as a measurable good and the multiplicity of natural and manmade calamities, compelled Bhutan to take the initiative that led to the unanimous adoption, last year, of the resolution on ‘Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development’. This resolution calls on Bhutan to convene a discussion “on the theme of happiness and wellbeing” while “acknowledging the need to promote sustainable development and .. the MDGs”.
I am awed, humbled and, indeed, inspired by the response to our call for this gathering under the auspices of the UN General Assembly. This extraordinary constellation of great minds, nations, civil society, business and industry, spiritual leaders and concerned citizens gives me tremendous hope. It rekindles my faith in humankind; in its goodness and innate wisdom; and in the enormous potential to build a sane, secure and happy world. Together, we must share the vast knowledge, wisdom and the will to break away from the tenacious grip of mindless consumerism.
We desperately need an economy that serves and nurtures the wellbeing of all sentient beings on earth and human happiness that comes from living life in harmony with the natural world, with our communities, and with our inner selves. We need an economy that will serve humanity, not enslave it. It must prevent the imminent reversal of civilization and flourish within the natural bounds of our planet while ensuring the sustainable, equitable and meaningful use of precious resources.
Business as usual cannot go on and tinkering with the existing system will not do. We need a fundamental transformation that the Tellus Institute calls The Great Transition.
Our goal today is to launch the initiative for such a transition. To that ambitious end, concrete outcomes and action steps are what must come out of this meeting. In this regard, I am deeply moved by the offer of more than 200 participants to kindly stay behind for two more days of follow-up meetings to synthesize today’s deliberations into clear outcomes and implementable processes. They include, inter alia:
Compiling a report to the Secretary-General along with a set of policy recommendations that governments may choose to voluntarily adopt at their own pace and on their own terms to move towards the new economy;
fleshing out details of the four dimensions of the new economy by a commission of eminent experts for the consideration of the 67th session of the General Assembly in 2013;
preparing a strategy to carry this process forward to Rio + 20 and UN General Assembly deliberations on what must replace the MDGs after 2015 and
outlining initiatives to promote a global movement for the new sustainability based economic paradigm.
Challenging as these aspirations may appear to be, I am confident that we will, at the end of this day and two days hereafter, find reasons for pride and satisfaction in having contributed to the crafting of a new and bright chapter in human history.

I thank you and pray for the success of our historic endeavour.