Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness, Bhutan
Alexis J. Passadakis, April 2012
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The world is desperately seeking change. People sense that important social, economic and environ- mental shifts are afoot. There are now over seven billion people on the planet. Technology is helping us to communicate, organise and learn on a global scale. Emerging economies are rising in all conti- nents and the ?global middle class? is larger than ever before.
Yet inequality between the world?s rich and poor continues to grow, both between and within coun- tries. Extreme weather events are more frequent and severe, and adapting to changes in climate is now a reality. Demand for natural resources is increasing and contributing to the degradation of the environment. food and oil prices set new records and acute debt crises cascade through the global economy.
Resolution 65/309 welcomed the offer of Bhutan to convene a panel discussion on happiness and wellbeing and invited member states ?to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and wellbeing in development with a view to guiding their public policies.?
On 2nd april, 2012, the Royal Government of Bhutan convened the High-level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. More than 800 participants including political and government leaders, representatives of governments, international organizations, civil society organizations, media, and business, as well as leading economists, scholars, academics, and spiritual leaders from the world?s major faiths participated in the proceedings. The full programme is attached as annex Vi.
The High-level Meeting included an inaugural session that was chaired by H.E. Ms. Helen Clark, administrator, United Nations Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand. The Prime Minister of Bhutan, H.E. Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, delivered the opening address on the mission and purpose of the meeting. UN Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon delivered the inaugural address, and supportive statements were delivered by the President of the 66th Session of the UN General assembly, H.E. Mr. Nassir abdulaziz al-Nasser, and the President of the Economic and SocialCouncil, H.E. Mr. Milo? Koterec. H.E. Ms. laura Chinchilla, President of the Republic of Costa Rica, delivered the keynote address. Transcripts of the remarks delivered during the inaugural session are available in annex V.
Following the inaugural session, the meeting proceeded with panel discussions on four themes: well- being and happiness, ecological sustainability, efficient allocation of resources, and fair distribution. a total of 20 panellists delivered remarks across these four dimensions if the new economic paradigm, including Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Under Secretary-General and Director of UN Women and former President of Chile, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Venerable Matthieu Ricard, lord Richard layard, Professor Robert Costanza, and Dr. Vandana Shiva.
Following a working lunch, Dr. Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the European Environment agency, moderated the afternoon session. it began with a video message from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, prepared specially for the High-level Meeting. This was followed by interactive discussion with participants. The first part of the session was oriented toward gathering views from the participants on the four dimensions. The second part of the session concentrated on interven- tions intended to build links across the themes and to move towards action to build the new economy.
The meeting closed with a concluding statement on the next steps by H.E. Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan, followed by concluding prayers by spiritual leaders of the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist faiths.
More than two hundred of the 2nd april participants continued discussions on 3rd and 4th april in order to advance the outcomes of the High-level Meeting and to begin creating concrete implementation plans. These follow-up meetings were structured around four working groups: Experts and Scholars; Communications; Planning, and Civil Society and Spiritual leaders.
On 4th april, all four working groups convened in plenary sessions that were chaired by the Prime Minister of Bhutan. These plenary sessions provided an opportunity for each of the working groups to report on key outcomes, strategies, and recommendations, and to coordinate with each other.
United Nations Sustainable Development knowledge platform sustainabledevelopment.un.org