| The third international conference on Gross National Happiness is going on in Bangkok, attended by about 300 people. Meanwhile the question we are asking at home is Another conference? To a number of Bhutanese people, including senior civil servants, GNH is the rhetoric we use to impress foreigners.
This skepticism is good. It is necessary that we keep asking these questions. If we do not, GNH will become just another conference. And that is something Bhutan does not want.
An expression of the system of values that kept Bhutanese society together in the past, GNH is the inspiration that His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo presented to todays generation of leaders. It is what sets them apart from other leaders in other countries. Thats why we are trying to make sure that GNH remains the guiding principle for change.
As an inspiration it has worked. The challenge is for us to construct the academic structure around GNH and to make it a practical basis for our planning process. As development experts say, we must operationalise GNH. Because Bhutanese people in general, and that includes the so-called educated section of society, do not read academic papers, GNH has to be operationalised by the small community of academics and decision-makers.
When His Majesty the King addressed the university graduates of 2007 in October, he said that Bhutanese must not just love our country but love our country with intelligence. That is it.
GNH must stir conscious intellectual thought. It is the use of reason to find reasonable solutions to the problems we face. We are essentially trying to make educated decisions in our policies. We are using common sense and ethics and imagination in our decision making process.
As we sit in an international conference, Bhutanese participants are acutely conscious that we are not going out to preach Gross National Happiness. We are not out there to solve the worlds problems. As much as Bhutan is praised for its enlightened development approach, we are not yet in a position to offer the alternative development paradigm that the world is seeking.
We are out there to learn from others so that we are better able to deal with our own problems. As GNH reaches a wider circle of scholars and thinkers, it does not mean that we are enlightening more people. It means that we are getting better feedback.
We want, and we need, to make GNH a success in Bhutan. In the end, GNH is what makes us different from other societies, from other countries. And, as His Majesty also said, failure is not an option for Bhutan.
Happiness is not an ideal of reason but of imagination