| What is heavier than the mountains, more precious than gold? For participants, who attended the third international GNH conference in Bangkok, it is the responsibility to translate the concept of Gross National Happiness into national policies and priorities.
It is interesting that GNH has been adopted by numerous organizations in the region and beyond, a mixture of NGOs and volunteer groups, seeking and promoting alternatives to mainstream policies that are focused on GDP. It is a little surprising to see many individuals from the region talk about their organizations in a GNH perspective, some even planning their activities within the four pillars.
These organizations are based in several countries including Thailand, Japan, Canada, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and India. The GNH conferences are also involving religious figures to encourage inter-faith dialogue.
But the movement is not yet large scale and the interpretation of GNH is varied and undeveloped. As GNH watchers point out, there is the risk that the concept could be spreading too far and too thin before it has been operationalised in Bhutan.
The 43 youth that took part in the third GNH conference are excited by GNH and that is a much-needed new energy. If GNH is to survive, youth must be involved to provide continuity and ensure GNH is sustainable. For Bhutan it is a race against time, as Thimphu tries to become a little Bangkok.
With the focus on quality education in Bhutan, it is a good time to inject some GNH values, including spiritual education, in our schools, starting with the early classes.
While it is a positive development that the spirit of GNH is gaining momentum, it is time that we take a closer look at GNH at home, where we have not yet even convinced skeptics, who believe that GNH is a good catchphrase to attract wealthy tourists. We also need to listen to comments that the focus should be on internal intellectual discourse rather than on spreading GNH at this stage.
As the path to happiness, GNH is both a means and an end. It is a long journey. We are at the beginning and there is no end. Today we need practical solutions and must encourage scientists, who are developing GNH-related indicators, organizations like CBS, which is working on GNH indicators in Bhutan, and thinkers to take a deep focus on the philosophy.
Bhutan is one country where this profound concept cannot only be an inspiration to intellectuals, but the basis of the mainstream development process. A growing number of people are waiting to see it happen.
GNH, like charity, begins at home