Bhutan unveils its new development paradigm

The first meeting of the International Expert Working Group (IEWG), established by Royal Kasho is in session since 28 July, 2012, in Thimphu to work on a New Development Paradigm, a mandate given to Bhutan during a high-level meeting on 2 April, 2011, at the United Nations in New York.

The New Development Paradigm (NDP) is based explicitly on the recognition of the interdependent nature of reality, and the inescapable interconnectedness of human happiness and well-being of all life forms.

At the meet International Expert Working Group (IEWG) contributors will work together with their Bhutanese counterparts to articulate the principles, goals, structures and responsibilities of the new paradigm, so that this alternative perspective on development can contribute to the United Nation’s post-2015 development agenda.

The IEWG comprises 50-60 international contributors with a wide range of expertise. They will help articulate the principles, goals, structures and policies of the new development paradigm.

The first phase of the work which began in August 2012 focuses on the ultimate goal, purpose and context of the new paradigm – namely to promote human happiness and the wellbeing of all life forms – with the aim of providing an interim (first segment) report to the UN by June 2013.

At the first main meeting of the IEWG from 27 January through 2 February 2013, the draft report on wellbeing & happiness emerging from the first phase of the work will be deliberated, along with additional contributions from working group members on what constitutes the new paradigm.

The meeting will also plan, organize and assign specific assignments for the second phase of the work. Cross-cutting issues to be considered for the new paradigm, as well as the key conditions required to achieve the goal of wellbeing and happiness will be identified.

Based on the agreements and outcomes of these deliberations, the second phase of the work following from the IEWG meeting will gear toward producing a comprehensive outcome (second segment) report on the new development paradigm for submission to the United Nations in 2014.

In working on the cross-cutting issues and the details such as the measurement and accounting systems to assess sustainability, and the governance, resource, investment, financial, trade and regulatory policies and mechanisms appropriate for such a development model, the contributors will draw from existing best practices and research and discourses conducted world-wide by progressive thinkers.

There will also be several review processes, both within and amongst the IEWG members, the Steering Committee and a wider cross-section of society. The Bhutanese government will present a draft report on the proposed new paradigm to the UN in June 2013 and a final document by 2014.

“The role of our observers at this meeting is important as we hope that you will come away with a useful understanding of how the inspiration of GNH is contributing to the development of a globally relevant new paradigm,” stated a release from the PM’s office.

The CBS President Dasho Karma Ura will coordinate work on the first phase of the drafting process, a concept document on “happiness and well being”. It will be presented to a larger group of experts today (30 January).

The format and content of the draft will be discussed on 30 and 31 January, co-ordinated by the Secretariat for the New Development Paradigm (SNDP) and eventually approved by the eight-member Steering Committee chaired by the PM, Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley.


The proposed NDP

The NDP is an evolving global initiative led by the government of Bhutan and inspired by Gross National Happiness (GNH). It proposes a holistic and responsible approach to human development based explicitly on the recognition of the interdependent nature of reality and the inescapable interconnectedness of human happiness and well-being with the wellbeing of all life forms on our finite planet.

When His Majesty the 4th King of Bhutan first gave expression to the notion of GNH in 1979, he provided not only Bhutan, but the whole world with a challenge: to redefine development and progress in more meaningful and integrated terms than the current paradigm of unlimited economic growth fuelled by self-interest, competition and unchecked consumerism.

Over the next 30 years, Bhutan sought balanced policies to raise its standard of living without reducing its rich and humanistic quality of life grounded in enduring values of inner contentment, community self-sufficiency, respect for the intricate eco-system and equitable use of the life-giving “resources” it provides.

Why a New Development Paradigm?

On 17 May 2012, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, spoke of the multiple economic, ecological and social crises facing our world, and of the urgent need for “a revolution in our thinking” and for “a new paradigm.”

He said “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”.

Six weeks earlier, the UN Secretary-General had addressed another high-level meeting, also at UN headquarters, this one convened by the government of Bhutan. There, on 2 April, 2012 800 distinguished delegates from many countries and fields gathered to launch a new development paradigm.

This landmark meeting was convened in response to UN General Assembly resolution A/65/L.86, introduced by Bhutan in July 2011, calling for a “holistic approach to development” to nurture human happiness and the wellbeing of all life on earth.

The new development paradigm now in progress aims to do just that, seeking a healthy balance among thriving natural, human, social, cultural and built assets, and recognizing ecological sustainability, the fair distribution and efficient use of resources as key conditions.

The 2 April, 2012 meeting at the UN requested the Kingdom of Bhutan to convene an International Expert Working Group to elaborate the details of this new paradigm. And so, on 28 July 2012, His Majesty the King of Bhutan issued a Royal Edict to formally convene that group, the report of its work to be presented during the 68th and 69th Sessions of the General Assembly in 2013 and 2014.

The starting point for the first IEWG meeting is to define clearly the ultimate goal, purpose and context of the new paradigm, namely, to promote human happiness and the wellbeing of all life forms, then to examine the key conditions required to achieve that goal, including the measurement and accounting systems, policies and mechanisms for such a model to work in practice.


Why now?

The Bhutanese King was not alone in questioning the dominant model of unlimited economic growth. People around the world were beginning to challenge its unsubstantiated claims for globalised “wealth creation”, and evidence for its limitations and short-comings was already growing. In recent years, that evidence has become incontrovertible with rising inequality and lack of economic inclusiveness, intractable economic crises, serious infringements of human rights and freedoms even in countries doing “well” economically, and, above all, increasingly destructive impacts on the natural world.

With this growing evidence has come the recognition that a new system based on different principles, goals, purposes, institutions, structures, regulations and policies is urgently needed.

But to be effective, such a “system” will require a shift in the underlying values and perspectives by which we organize our understanding of the world, others and ourselves. In other words, we will need a paradigm shift, away from narrow self-interest, material acquisition and resource exploitation towards a more enlightened self-interest that recognizes the goal of development as human happiness contingent on the wellbeing of all life forms.



The adoption of a new global development paradigm is now widely acknowledged as an urgent necessity. The present GDP-based system was devised prior to any knowledge of climate change or the finite limits of the earth’s resources. It prioritizes material growth and consumption – frequently at the expense of nature, people, community and culture.

This present system, fuelled by consumerism, has depleted resources, degraded ecosystem services, accelerated greenhouse gas emissions, diminished biodiversity, and now threatens the survival of humans and other species on the planet. It has created yawning inequities, and is generating global economic insecurity, indebtedness, instability, and conflict.

At the same time, the world has never possessed greater knowledge, technical capacity, material abundance and productive potential to create a sane, secure, socially and ecologically responsible global order. No one need go hungry or live in grinding poverty. We can live well in full harmony with nature.


Basic Approach

The concept document is scheduled to be submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September this year and a final detailed proposal for a new paradigm to be submitted to the UN in 2014. The final draft will recommend policies that are aimed at helping governments achieve development that goes beyond the current GDP-driven goals, a paradigm that is increasingly seen as being inadequate and unsustainable.

The meeting, organised by the Steering Committee which was also established by Royal Kasho, will be attended by internationally acclaimed experts in fields covering the four pillars and nine domains of GNH as well as areas that are seen as the most important cross cutting issues that face human existence.

Prime Minister Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley will deliver the keynote address at the first IEWG meet on the New Development Paradigm (NDP) at the convention centre/ banquet hall today.


Sonam Pelvar / Thimphu


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