About 300 scholars, politicians, monks, journalists, youth, bureaucrats, and economists from around the world are gathered in Bangkok this week to discuss and give new depth to Gross National Happiness, a concept that is being increasingly sought as an answer to some of the negative global trends today.
The conference theme is that the worldview will make a difference in global transformation. Dozens of papers are being presented on topics ranging from philosophy and spiritual thought to folk tales to statistics and indicators to measure GNH.
Bhutan is represented by 20 participants and 18 youth, who visited northern Thailand for a cultural exchange programme of songs, dances, and prayers with people from the countries of the Mekong region.
At the opening of the conference on November 26, the Bhutanese prime minister, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, talked to the gathering about the democratization process in Bhutan and the development of indicators to assess the progress of GNH policy.
It is important to note that a considerable space exists between the inspirational ideal of GNH and the every day decisions of policymakers, he said, adding that good democratic governance remains dependent on the quality of those in power and their ability to meet the needs of citizens.
Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji said that Bhutan was working on the indicators that would help develop GNH policies in political economy, physical health, human resources, and living patterns.
Thailands prime minister, General Surayud Chulanont, welcomed the participants who, he said, were gathered in concern for the physical, mental and spiritual well being of people. Accepting that well being could not be measured by GDP alone, he said it was important to dig deeper into ourselves to really understand GNH, which was close to the King of Thailands policy of sufficiency economy.
The conference, he said, must find new standards and indicators for development.
As the intellectual momentum of the conference picked up, a unanimous view was that Gross National Happiness had become more vital than ever in todays changing world.