The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness 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
  Media Coverage: Before :: During :: After :: Related :: All

After the Conference

February 3, 2006

Radio Free Asia, Washington, D.C. — Richard Finney
Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Policy: Is it Working?

“  Proclaimed by Bhutan’s king in 1972 as a standard for the country’s well-being, Gross National Happiness (GNH) has been proposed as a model for other countries as well. A conference last year in Nova Scotia drew participants from as far away as South America, Africa, Iceland, and India. In a paper presented in Nova Scotia, Bhutanese Home Minister Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley described the four supports, or “pillars,” of GNH: socioeconomic development, environmental preservation, cultural promotion, and good governance. “GNH recognizes that happiness can be realized as a societal goal,” Thinley said. “It cannot be left as an individualized goal… as yet another individual, competitive good.”  ”

December 26, 2005

Asian Tribune, Bangkok,Thailand — Sankar Ray
Will democracy blossom in Thimpu?

“  The million dollar question is whether the democratic system – however limited by Royal bounds it may be – will pave the way towards diplomatic relations between China and Bhutan, thanks to their Mongoloid proximity. It will weaken the protectorate status in favor of Thimpu. But what will happen to the so-called "Gross National Happiness, guiding philosophy of Bhutan's development process, enunciated by the King immediately after being enthroned in 1972". On June 21, 2005, Jigmi Y. Thinley, Bhutan's minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, presented a paper at an international conference on GNH at Halifax in Canada. Defined as the "constant theme in Buddhist social and economic thought", GNH unifies development process including "poverty alleviation and other material development measures". But GNH is ridiculed by economists, despite pliant ministers such as Thinley "evidences on desirability and feasibility of happiness as the dominant goal of a society has (sic) been bolstered by findings of and upsurge in contemporary happiness research."  ”

December 10, 2005

Kuensel Online, Bhutan — Kinley Wangmo
CBS to set GNH indicators

“  Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said that the indicators would be used as a benchmark for national development plans and policies. “Indicators, particularly for Bhutan’s rural population will help guide development priorities in terms of resource allocations in the 10th and subsequent plans while the index will be a benchmark for good governance and for pursuing holistic development goals,” he said. The forum, Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said, will begin with members of the Bhutanese delegation to the second GNH conference in Canada and slowly reach out to other national and international experts, thinkers and practitioners. “The Bhutanese delegation to the international conference on GNH in Canada returned home overwhelmed by the interest and the importance given to the concept,” said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley. “Unless we take the concept seriously and apply it in specific policy and planning situations, it may remain attractive both at home and abroad only as an idea,” he said. Lyonpo Jigmi Y Thinley said that it was important the youth of Bhutan had a good understanding of GNH and the new political system which will be introduced once the Constitution is adopted. “The project will enhance awareness among the youth through national youth meetings which will be attended by hundreds of students from middle secondary schools to tertiary educational institutions around the country,” he said. ”

November 6, 2005

Business Report & Independent, Johannesburg, South Africa — Sherilee Bridge
Bhutan: a Shangri-La where GDP doesn't count

“  Governments have started waking up to the fact that economic achievement is no replacement for a happy nation but still they cling desperately to gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of national prosperity. But soon they may be convinced that GDP should be scrapped for an indicator that includes human well-being as a measure of economic prosperity and national development. Already there is a growing interest in the genuine progress indicator, which, in stark contrast to GDP, considers both the quality and distribution of economic growth, and in gross national happiness (GNH), a project aimed at developing more appropriate and inclusive indicators that truly measure the quality of life in nations and organisations. Thinley, the keynote speaker at a conference on wellbeing and qualitative economics held at St Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, believes that the conventional development or economic growth paradigm is "seriously flawed".  ”

November 2005

ode magazine 29, USA — Stephan Herrera
Zen and the art of happiness

“  A national conference on the theory and pursuit of GNH has been spun out of a series of academic lectures on the topic. Last year’s first annual GNH conference was so popular, in fact, that the second installment, held this past June in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in an effort to make it more accessible to the global observers who have become intrigued by GNH, attracted some 400 academics and policy-makers from 35 countries. There is talk of inserting a panel discussion on GNH into the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Reporters who cover the developing nations of Asia on a regular basis say Bhutan is one of the bright spots on their beat.  ”

October 20, 2005

Freezerbox, USA — Alexander Zaitchik
Papa Smurf

“  The New York Times recently reported on a curious conference held in Nova Scotia. The pow-wow brought together economists, social scientists, CEOs and government officials to inquire into the sources of human happiness, and why there seems to be a shortfall of this precious product in so many countries. Discussion focused on how governments might quantify and increase this contentment, once its elements were isolated and some sort of formula worked out. Participants all shared the assumption that the metrics of traditional economics—G.D.P., rates of growth and employment—were useless in gauging well-being. In determining quality of life, as opposed to mere standard of living, they agreed that the usual stats hid as much as they revealed about a society. The star of the conference was thus the only current government attempt at such a project—the Gross National Happiness Index maintained by the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan, which was heavily and happily represented in Nova Scotia. The idea of a Gross National Happiness index—of measuring such economic "externalities" as a healthy environment, time spent with family, enjoyment of work, quality health care, spiritual life—is, as the Times writer pointed out, straight from the playbook of the German-born British economist and social critic E. F. Schumacher, most famous for his bestselling 1973 book, Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.  ”

October 18, 2005

EL PAIS, Madrid — José Vidal-Beneyto
Bhutan as a model (133K PDF)

“  At the recent Conference on Well-being and Quantitative Economics held at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, the interior minister of Bhutan said that we cannot go on confusing the idea of producing, consuming and possessing with that of being happy. And the Canadian political scientist John R. Saul concluded that, for the signers of the American Declaration of Independence, the pursuit of collective happiness, thus understood, was a goal as fundamental as the conquest of liberty and the defense of life itself. In a country such as Spain, what political party, what public leader, what social forces might conceivably lend support to such a conception of our real interests?  ”

October 4, 2005

Reveries Magazine, USA — Tim Manners
Happiness Quantified

“  “Medieval peasants worked less than you do,” read a T-shirt worn by one attendee at a meeting by some 400 representatives of about a dozen countries “to consider new ways to define and assess prosperity,” as reported by Andrew C. Revkin in The New York Times. The meeting, held at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, was largely inspired by “the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan,”, whose king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, decided in 1972 “to make his country’s priority not its G.D.P. (gross domestic product) but its G.N.H., or gross national happiness.” The king’s experiment — which he, himself, describes as a “work in progress,” apparently has inspired “a growing number of economists, social scientists, corporate leaders and bureaucrats — to develop measurements that take into account not just the flow of money but also access to health care, free time with family, conservation of national resources and other non-economic factors.”  ”

October 4, 2005

The New York Times, USA — Andrew C. Revkin
A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom (1.1MB PDF)

“  What is happiness? In the United States and in many other industrialized countries, it is often equated with money. Economists measure consumer confidence on the assumption that the resulting figure says something about progress and public welfare. The gross domestic product, or G.D.P., is routinely used as shorthand for the well-being of a nation. But the small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan has been trying out a different idea. [...] In Canada, Hans Messinger, the director of industry measures and analysis for Statistics Canada, has been working informally with about 20 other economists and social scientists to develop that country's first national index of well-being. Mr. Messinger is the person who, every month, takes the pulse of his country's economy, sifting streams of data about cash flow to generate the figure called gross domestic product. But for nearly a decade, he has been searching for a better way of measuring the quality of life. "A sound economy is not an end to itself, but should serve a purpose, to improve society," Mr. Messinger said. The new well-being index, Mr. Messinger said, will never replace the G.D.P. For one thing, economic activity, affected by weather, labor strikes and other factors, changes far more rapidly than other indicators of happiness. But understanding what fosters well-being, he said, can help policy makers decide how to shape legislation or regulations.  ”

September, 2005

CSR Journal, Thailand — SVN (Asia)
Gross National Happiness and Public Policy Development

“  It is amazing that the structure of the Four Pillars is offered as a healing strategy to a world struggling with globalization, by the government of Bhutan, Bhutan being one of the poorest and least developed countries of the world if measured according to official, mainstream criteria! The conference in Canada offered an optimistic signal that globalization could gradually crystalize in a process of consensus towards a cooperative pattern based on common understanding of three sustaining a fourth, autonomous domains of interaction. This common understanding of the process of globalization will only work out if based on groundwork at the community level. The Corporate Social Responsibility movement has the potential to become a significant force towards Sustainable and Equitable Economic Development. If it links up with other contributors in this field and if it engages with the holistic perspective including all sectors.  ”

August 16, 2005

Kuensel Online, Bhutan — Siok Sian Pek-Dorji
Interview with Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

“  These days what’s happened is that we have tended to, for governmental reasons and political reasons, split spirituality and the worldly, but the worldly and the spiritual have to come together. A lot of people who begin to separate their lives begin to separate their physical world and, in a way, they realize they are unhappy. In the same way spiritual people need to have the support of worldly things as well. I think this is a subject that we’ll be forced to reconcile or reconciliate with.  ”

July 31, 2005

The Independent on Sunday - UK — Ed Halliwell
The Smileometer — forget measuring a country's success by its GDP — there's a much better system that takes happiness into account, as Ed Halliwell explains

“ ... it was King Jigme who first coined the term ‘Gross National Happiness’, declaring in 1972 that acquisition of contentment rather than capital would be the official economic driver of his reign. They were no empty words - the Bhutanese prime minister annually reports to Parliament on ‘the four pillars of happiness’ — social and economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, environmental conservation and establishment of good governance. And now, more than 30 years on, western economists, psychologists, business gurus and governments are beginning to give serious thought to the Bhutanese model.  ”

July 7, 2005

Kuensel Online, Bhutan — Siok Sian Pek-Dorji
GNH: doing something right?

“ Most of the 400 participants of the second international conference on GNH said that they were inspired and, judging by the response of development workers, environmentalists, scientists, youth, media professionals, academics, and other intellectuals, the concept of GNH was being “exported”. ”

July 7, 2005

The Coast, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada — Hillary Lindsay
Happy meter

“ In today’s high-tech, fast-paced, free-market society, calling Gross National Happiness ‘rational’ may seem counterintuitive. Most politicians don’t talk about happiness, but economic growth, as the rational approach to development. GNH considers conservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, and promotion of good governance—as well as sustainable and equitable economic development—as key indicators of progress, and is turning the conventional concept of development on its head. ”

July 2, 2005

Halifax Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada — Jim Meek
The nation's laggards, or its leaders? (8K PDF)

“ A University of British Columbia professor (John Helliwell) applies an internationally approved set of indices that make up — are you ready for this? — Subjective Well Being (SWB). This index looks at connectedness to family, friends, community and work. And guess what? Atlantic Canada is the best place to live in Canada, even as Canada is one of the best places to live on the planet. Now, I know some really smart people who would tell you that this kind of thinking is dangerously delusional. For while we raise a glass to our Gross Regional Happiness and salute our Genuine Progress, the region's economy continues to trail the nation in terms of GDP growth. ”

July 1, 2005

Vancouver Sun, British Columbia, Canada — Don Cayo
Gross National Happiness index flawed (8K PDF)

“ So, although we ought to understand the limits of conventional measures and not treat them as more than they are, I'm skeptical that Coleman and colleagues will come up with anything more useful. In fact, I'm not sure we need their index at all. What we do need, in public forums as well as our private lives, is to constantly weigh a lot of considerations — pros and cons — and try to ensure that life, on balance, gets better. We must each do that according to our own values, not some academic's, or the king of Bhutan's. ”

Juin 30, 2005

L'Acadie Nouvelle, Canada — Le Bouthillier, Claude
Tempus fugit (Le temps fuit) (8K PDF)

“  Au lieu du PIB, produit intérieur brut, on parle de plus en plus du BNB, bonheur national brut, mis de l'avant par le Bhoutan, pays plus petit que l'Acadie, coincé entre l'Inde et la Chine. L'écrivain John Raston Saul en a parlé récemment dans une conférence à Antigonish: Repenser le développement. Certains mentionnent que pour mesurer la qualité de la vie, il y aurait 22 indicateurs palpables. On ne pellette plus des nuages. Même les économistes s'intéressent au bonheur... qui a un lien fondamental avec... le temps.  ”

June 29, 2005

The London Free Press, Ontario, Canada ~ Letters to the Editor
Happiness Meeting Waste of Time, Money (8K PDF)

“ I was stunned when I read the article, Well-being can mean more than just money (June 20), about the latest "think-tank" that was meeting in Nova Scotia to discuss, of all things, "a way to calculate a country's gross national happiness." Tell me that can't be happening. Imagine 400 people from 35 countries meeting to discuss such an inane and asinine topic, not to mention the cost of hotels, meals and transportation for such a group. What a supreme and utter waste of time and funds — when the political will is non-existent today to implement whatever recommendations they might come up with. It's almost as ridiculous as allowing SUVs and buses and diesel trucks to spew their pollution into the air, causing smog alerts — and then banning cigarette smoking. ”

Juin 28, 2005

L'Acadie Nouvelle, Canada — Nadeau, Jean-Marie
Bonne fête Canada (8K PDF)

“  Le Canada mérite d'être célébré parce qu'il est définitivement l'un des meilleurs pays au monde. Il nous reste à mieux apprendre à soigner nos enfants et nos aînés, à mieux concilier travail-famille, à donner autant d'importance au BNB (bonheur national brut) qu'au PNB (produit national brut), comme une conférence internationale tenue en Nouvelle-Écosse, la semaine dernière, nous a incités à le faire. Il nous reste à apprendre à mieux harmoniser nos rapports entre les différentes communautés et les différentes régions du pays. Célébrons ce que ce pays est déjà, mais travaillons à ce qu'il devienne meilleur! Bonne fête Canada!  ”

June 27, 2005 The Hour Video for WMP and QuickTime runs 6:11
Measuring happiness, rather than wealth
featuring interviews with Dr. Ronald Colman and Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley.

June 26, 2005

Halifax Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada — Editorial
A happy occurrence (8K PDF)

“ But the 400 or so health professionals, academics, farmers, environmentalists, business folk and entertainers who attended this powwow weren't of the kooky variety. These were serious people who were trying to make the world a better place, in the finest tradition of the Antigonish Movement. ”

June 26, 2005

The London Free Press, Ontario, Canada — Opinion
You Can't Buy Happiness (8K PDF)

“ It makes perfect sense, but will if ever fly? There's a movement afoot to get governments to decide policy based on happiness, rather than the economy. ”

June 25, 2005

Halifax Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada — Monica Graham
Bhutan aside, happiness can't be legislated (8K PDF)

“ ...the Kingdom of Bhutan has surplus happiness, and it is exporting it to the rest of the world... ¶ [In Canada] Our lives are so closely regulated that it appears we could live til we die and never suffer a moment of personal responsibility.And, apparently, we are still not happy — or not happy enough. So are happiness laws next, then? Pay attention to this: One corner of Bhutanese happiness rests on the country's strong spiritual culture. That point seems to have been downplayed in this week's conference, but King Wangchuck gave it equal weight with ecological protection, health and education, and care-filled government. ”

June 25, 2005

Halifax Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada — Ralph Surette
Showdown: happiness versus misery (8K PDF)

“ This is the second such conference. The first was last year in Bhutan, a Himalayan constitutional monarchy between India and Tibet, and a country which prides itself on its social and environmental integrity — to the point of limiting the number of tourists (9,000) that may enter each year. It was its king who, in 1972, declared that GNH would thenceforth be more important than Gross National Product in the mountain state. It's in Nova Scotia this time because GPI Atlantic, which is constructing a Genuine Progress Index (GPI) for Canada — measuring progress by more than just economic production, as the standard measures do — did the footwork to get it here. For GPI founder Ron Colman, "there's no reason why Atlantic Canada can't be a leading world model" in good development practices. Meanwhile, last fall, a study done at the University of British Columbia found that the happiest people in Canada were in Atlantic Canada, the unhappiest in the biggest cities. Colman has something to work with. ”

June 25, 2005

Halifax Herald, Nova Scotia, Canada — Jim Mac
Delegates eager to hear how to rule by happiness (8K PDF)

“ For three decades, Bhutan has used happiness as the foundation for decisions on sustainable economic development, cultural promotion, governing and environmental preservation. Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley said this mindset was so different from what the rest of the world was practising that his government, concerned for Bhutan's credibility on the global stage, only started sharing its blueprint with the rest of the world in 1998. ”

June 25, 2005

Kuensel Online, Bhutan — Siok Sian Pek-Dorji
GNH: moving from concept to reality?

“ As a well known Canadian writer, John Ralston Saul, described it, GNH challenged conventional thinking and came at a time when society was dissatisfied with the mainstream consumeristic and political world. People need to break away from conventional reasoning and to adopt new ways of life that takes into account what he calls “animism” or a connection with the earth and sustainability that ancient civilisations possessed. “To make this conscious change, societies need to change the central public discourse and to focus on the nature of politics for public good,” he said ”

June 25, 2005 National Post ~ Financial Post, Canada — Peter Foster
'I am a corporate sinner': Who is Ray Anderson? (16K PDF)
The U.S. executive is the darling of anti-corporate activists,
the 'mahatma' of business bashing and star of the film The Corporation.
But who is he?
Excerpt: “ Reaction to the name of Bjorn Lomborg has become a litmus test on environmental issues. A Danish academic of leftist and environmentalist bent himself, Lomborg was, around 1997, affronted by the rosy projections for the future of capitalism made by economist Julian Simon. He set his students to an exhaustive examination of the facts on resource depletion and environmental degradation. To his surprise, he discovered that Julian Simon was right and the environmental alarmists were wrong. Everywhere he checked out the environmental "litany" of death and destruction, he found it had been either greatly exaggerated or entirely falsified. Wealth was not bought at the expense of the environment. On the contrary, above a certain level of income, increased wealth went with environmental improvement. This finding begs an intriguing question: Why would Ray Anderson and so many others — including prominent scientists — be so violently opposed to the notion that the world isn't going to hell in a handbasket? The superficial reason, in the case of Anderson, was because he had embraced a book — The Ecology of Commerce — whose message was precisely the opposite of Lomborg's. Paul Hawken's book carries a stark and simple message: "Business is destroying the world." The culprit? "The greed of the rich and powerful." ”

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