The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Local Pathways to Global Wellbeing
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada
June 20 to June 24, 2005
A landmark international conference was held in Nova Scotia, Canada, from June 20-24, 2005. The conference examined successful initiatives world-wide that attempt to integrate sustainable and equitable economic development with environmental conservation, social and cultural cohesion, and good governance.
Addressing the degrading social and environmental consequences of prevailing development trends, the conference confronted the challenge of redirecting global development towards socially and environmentally responsible policy and practices. The goal of these practices is to ensure long-term prosperity and equity for all consonant with care for the natural world.
Innovative, working models of alternative development practices were presented in a way that provoked stimulating and proactive dialogue and supported deep learning. Delegates engaged in a hands-on problem solving approach designed to provide practical guidance to governments, businesses, and non-government organizations that want to take concrete steps towards creating good and sustainable human societies.
Examples of initiatives from Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, India, Kenya, Mali, the Netherlands, the USA, Mexico, Iceland, and other places were profiled. The focus was on how these programs are implemented, why they can work on a global level, how major challenges were overcome, and what challenges remain. Speakers addressed questions of both policy and practice.
More than 30 years ago, the King of Bhutan declared that "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product." Delegates from Bhutan described the challenges they now face in putting that view into practice. Other delegates described innovative means of measuring progress that account more fully for social, human, and environmental realities than the dominant conventional measures that focus on economic growth alone. Business leaders described businesses that practice fair trade, produce sustainably, and promote practices that protect human rights. One busload of delegates toured Nova Scotia’s leading-edge leading solid waste-resource management facilities. And one workshop profiled models of sustainable forestry management.
Delegates in one workshop learned how the Dutch government gave its citizens far more free time and sharply reduced unemployment by encouraging shorter work hours. Other workshops focused on wind power and sustainable energy use, and one examined the innovative solar energy and rainwater harvesting practices of India’s remarkable Barefoot College. The founder of Honey Care Africa presented award-winning sustainable community-based development practices that have been introduced in Kenya. Please see the proceedings pages for summaries of these and many other workshops.
RETHINKING DEVELOPMENT gathered together 450 government, non-government, business, labour, academic, and youth leaders and delegates from 33 countries, including representatives from Canada and from the Atlantic Provinces. There were keynote addresses by His Excellency John Ralston Saul; Ray Anderson, founder and CEO of Interface Inc, who has vowed to make his company completely sustainable; and Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, Home Minister and former Prime Minister of Bhutan, which recently received the United Nations 'Champion of the Earth' award for placing the environment at the centre of all its development policies. Other notable speakers include Marilyn Waring, John Taylor Gatto, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Sanjit Bunker Roy, Ela Bhatt, Krishna Kumar, Mathis Wackernagel, Francisco VanderHoff Boersma, John Helliwell, Farouk Jiwa, Alan Savory, Holly Dressel, Raffi, Elizabeth May, Cindy Blackstock, and Vicki Robin.
The conference was designed to offer practical tools, inspiration, critical understanding, and connection to an international support network, so that participants could leave prepared to implement successfully practical actions in their own countries and communities. The design of the conference was intended to create an atmosphere of open participation that would demonstrate modes of communication practiced in a society devoted to enhancing wellbeing.
In February 2004, an initial conference on this theme was held in Bhutan, which attracted more than 300 participants from Bhutan and 20 other countries to discuss the country's experiment with a "Gross National Happiness" model. It was agreed to continue these discussions and examine other initiatives, with particular emphasis on ways in which humanity can adopt strategies that counteract the consequences of today's global development patterns.
In that spirit, the 2005 conference was held in Canada at St. Francis Xavier University and co-hosted by Genuine Progress Index Atlantic; the Coady International Institute; Shambhala; the Centre for Bhutan Studies; the Province of Nova Scotia; the Gorsebrook Research Institute at Saint Mary's University; and the University of New Brunswick. Funding is from the International Development Research Centre, the United Nations Development Program, the Canadian International Development Agency, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Government of Canada's National Crime Prevention Strategy, and the Province of Nova Scotia. The Atlantic Provinces Economic Council is a conference partner.
We are also grateful for contributions and donations to the conference from the Resource Recovery Fund Board, St. Francis Xavier University, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE), Hewlett-Packard Inc., Maurice Strong, Nova Scotia Health Promotion Highland Region, the MacLeod Group Inc. (Antigonish), the St. Margarets Bay Shambhala Centre, the Town of Antigonish and Aida Arnold.
The financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is gratefully acknowledged.
This website, first built to announce this conference, is now a record of conference proceedings open to all — so that all may catch a glimpse of what actually happened at this remarkable gathering.
What they are saying about Rethinking Development
Overview :: Presenters :: Proceedings :: Papers :: Outcomes :: Home
Conference Scent-free Policy
Please note that some delegates are highly sensitive to scented products and chemicals, and become ill from exposure to them. Therefore please do not wear or bring scented products or regular bug spray to the conference. Unscented soap, shampoo, and other products, and natural bug spray will be available at the conference. Thank you for your consideration.
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