United Nations, Human Happiness, and Shambhala
by Carolyn Mandelker, Executive Director of Shambhala
More than 600 government leaders, economists and delegates from organizations around the world, including Shambhala*, attended a United Nations conference on Monday, April 2nd, aimed at developing a New Economic Paradigm to be presented at the forthcoming Rio Summit on Environmental Sustainability.
In July 2011, the United Nations unanimously adopted Resolution 65/309, which empowered the Kingdom of Bhutan to convene this high-level meeting on happiness as part of its 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. The resolution states that “happiness is a fundamental human goal and universal aspiration; that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by its nature does not reflect that goal; that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption impede sustainable development; and that a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach is needed to promote sustainability, eradicate poverty, and enhance wellbeing.”
The Honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Thinley, remarks:
Shambhala co-hosted a conference in Nova Scotia entitled “Rethinking Development” in 2005, based on this innovative doctrine of Gross National Happiness. In his letter to the April 2nd gathering, Sakyong Mipham wrote: “We are living through a dreadful, yet passing phase of our history. There is a natural source of radiance and brilliance in the world, which is the innate wakefulness of human beings. This is our birthright. The darkness we are passing through serves ultimately to remind us of who we are, and to reawaken the wisdom that slumbers within us.”
“The conventional and almost universally held belief, globally, is that the more the economy grows, as measured by GDP growth, the better off and more prosperous we are. But consider this…Because the GDP only counts monetary market transactions, it mistakenly and misleadingly counts the depletion and degradation of our natural wealth as if it were economic gain. If we were to cut down all our forests in Bhutan, GDP would mushroom, because GDP only counts the timber value of our forests once they are cut and sold at market….Yet we all know…that our standing forests have immense value — protecting wildlife, biodiversity, watersheds, soils, and sacred places, sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, ameliorating the danger of landslides and much more. Because those values are invisible in GDP, it’s no wonder the world has accumulated a massive ecological debt that appears in no country’s national accounts.”
Read the Sakyong’s entire letter online here.
The U.N. meeting initiated next steps towards realizing the vision of a development paradigm that effectively integrates economic, social and environmental initiatives, that goes beyond the narrow GDP-based model. Thanks are due to the Kingdom of Bhutan, and Mr. Tashi (Ron) Coleman of Nova Scotia, for his considerable work in helping to develop the vision and metric for the Gross National Happiness project.The Shambhala Times intends to run one or more additional accounts from individuals who stayed for two further days to continue to work on the proposal for Rio +20.
What follows here, is a personal account of the UN meeting by Mr. Bob Gailey: please click here to read.
For a more in depth and delightful account by Julia Sagebien on the Chronicles, please click here.
*Shambhalians in attendance were Ashoka Mukpo, Sangyum Valerie Lorig and Michaela Sanford, Executive Director Carolyn Mandelker, Tom Bell, Richard Brown, Michael Chender and Claudia Chender, Bob Gailey, Michelle Laporte, Julia Sagebien, John Sennhauser, Laura Simms, Genevieve Waltcher, Irene Woodard, and The Colman family (who have been deeply involved in this project for many years, were also in attendance – Tashi, Gwen and Dahlia). Apologies to anyone we may have missed!