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Press release: The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research

Embargoed until 8 pm, 3rd November 2015 Thimphu, Bhutan

International Conference on Gross National Happiness

Largest ever Conference on Gross National Happiness held in Paro Bhutan, for the 60th birthday celebrations of Bhutan’s 4th King, the architect of GNH.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies and Gross National Happiness (GNH) Research will host a large international conference from 4th-6th Nov 2015 in Paro, Bhutan. It is the largest in a series of conferences on Gross National Happiness organized by the Centre for Bhutan Studies in cooperation with international partners since 2002. This year, Bhutan celebrates the 60th Birth Anniversary of our beloved Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck who gave Bhutan the legacy of Gross National Happiness. This conference is a fitting tribute to the great leader who devoted 34 years of his life in the service of his people and the country.

The conference will open with addresses from Tsuglag Lopen Rinpoche, one of the highest ranking lamas of Bhutan’s Central Monastic Body, and by Thailand’s Most Venerable Professor Phra Brahmapandit, Chief Abbot, as well as the Chief Abbot of India’s Ngagyur Nyingma University in Namdroling, and the Venerable Lama Lobzang, who is the Secretary General of the International Buddhist Confederation. Other eminent speakers include His Excellency Javier Zarate Rivas, who is both the CEO of Bolivia’s Ministry of Foreign Relations and an expert on their indigenous cosmology of Buen Vivir. The CEO of the Global Environmental Facility, His Excellency Naoko Ishii, and a Member of Parliament from France’s Green Party Mme Eva Sas, will also be present. The first day will celebrate the release of Bhutan’s 2015 Gross National Happiness Index, which shows a moderate increase in GNH since 2010. The momentum carries through to the end. The Conference’s closing session includes a presentation on wellbeing at work, on the impact of sound on wellbeing, on the Buddhist nuns of Bhutan, on laws for happiness, and a closing presentation by Robert F Kennedy Jr, entitled ‘A contract with our future’.

During the conference, 116 experts from academia, politics, business and civil society, coming from 48 different countries across the world will share their insights and experiences with a total of around 500 international and hundreds of Bhutanese participants, and engage in discussions with the audience. The speakers are each innovative leaders in their own right of creative, determined, and thoughtful interventions to advance GNH in their own contexts. There are ten or more participants from eleven countries including Australia, Brazil, UK, Canada, Chile, Germany, and France – while Japan and the US have more than 20, Thailand more than 40, and 98 participants from India. Participants come from every region – from Israel and Oman, Puerto Rico and Romania, South Africa and China, plus 12 European countries.

Alongside intellectual interchange, the Conference itself aims to be an experience of GNH. Held in specially designed tents on the lawn of Ugyen Pelri Palace, participants’ eyes will be refreshed by the natural beauty of Paro valley and of the striking Bhutanese architecture of the palace.  They will savour Bhutan’s native red rice with organic vegetables, prepared by local hands. Their spirits will be lifted by traditional dances, including a very sacred masked dance. They will enjoy Khyentse Norbu’s Film Travellers and Magicians.  They will discover intellectual community, of course, but also exercise and strengthen commonality of purpose. Thus, through the formal sessions and the setting and cultural activities, this 2015 GNH conference aims to provide an opportunity for policy representatives, policy makers, practitioners and academicians to share experiences on translating wellbeing and happiness frameworks into practice. This interchange will enrich their own endeavours, which have sympathetic resonance with His Majesty’s original vision of GNH, and extend GNH across many contexts within and outside Bhutan

“The exchange between scholars and practitioners with diverse backgrounds promises to bring very fruitful discussions that will benefit Bhutan and international participants alike” said Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies

The Conference Programme

The conference will cover a variety of aspects of GNH on various levels. Day 1 will start (at 8:30) with an opening ceremony and addresses by eminent religious leaders and international political representatives. The remainder of the first day will be filled with talks on general aspects of GNH, Buddhism, sustainable development and measurement issues, as well as case studies on GNH initiatives in Bhutan and in a business environment.

The morning of the second day (9:00–13:10) will be marked by contributions on psychological wellbeing, ecology and community vitality. In the afternoon, participants can choose to attend two out of four parallel sessions (one from 13:55–16:45, the other from 16:45–8:00). Parallel session one will focus on country-reports and comparisons between Bhutan and other countries. The second parallel session will discuss good governance questions and gender issues. After 16:45, parallel session three will feature contributions on Buddhism, while parallel session four will be about ecology.

Day three will again start with two parallel sessions (from 9:00–13:05). The first will focus on Buddhism, culture and time use, while the second will be primarily about ecology, sustainable development, education, indicators and development goals. The afternoon of day three will be a plenary session and the conclusion of the conference. It will start with brief summaries of all previous sessions, followed by five contributions touching on diverse aspects of Gross National Happiness. The event will close with an address by the eminent Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

On Gross National Happiness

The essence of GNH philosophy is based on the premise that true development takes place when material, emotional, spiritual, cultural and environmental wellbeing occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. According to the philosophy of GNH, development should ultimately result in societal wellbeing and happiness. The Fourth King of Bhutan coined GNH in the 1970s when he said, “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”. Since then, GNH has been the unifying force behind the country’s five-year planning cycle and lies at the core of its long-term development vision. It has found many international supporters and it has grown into a differentiated conception of development. Its latest and most refined conception has found expression in a report that Bhutan submitted to the UN General Assembly in September 2013 entitled “Happiness: Towards a New Development Paradigm”. This report is in fulfilment of the UN resolution 65/309, “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” that the UN General Assembly adopted unanimously in 2011.

GNH is a multi-dimensional concept that is not limited to a concern for emotional wellbeing (“happiness” in a narrow sense), but that extends to other objective and subjective conditions of comprehensive wellbeing. GNH rests on the nine domains of (1) psychological wellbeing, (2) health, (3) education, (4) time use, (5) cultural diversity and resilience, (6) good governance, (7) community vitality, (8) ecological diversity and resilience, and lastly (9) living standard. GNH is not opposed to material and economic progress, but it rejects the idea of pursuing economic prosperity and growth as an end in itself without regard for other aspects of wellbeing.

The Centre for Bhutan Studies has developed a GNH Index in order to quantify GNH, to better understand the situation of holistic progress in Bhutan and to monitor changes in wellbeing over time. The GNH Index draws information from the nine domains and adopts a sufficiency methodology by which GNH depends primarily on how many people are doing sufficiently well in the nine domains.

On the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research

The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, located in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, is an autonomous research institute dedicated towards promoting research and scholarship on Bhutan and Gross National Happiness. It promotes scholarship on Bhutan through its publications, hosting conferences and seminars, organising workshops and lecture series. It is the authoritative institution on Gross National Happiness, having been exclusively entrusted by the Royal Government of Bhutan with conducting and coordinating research and other activities on GNH.

 

Press contact:

The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research

Tshering Phuntsho

+975 1735 5698

gortshompa07@gmail.com

 

Press release: The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research

Embargoed until 8:00 pm, 3rd November 2015 Thimphu, Bhutan

 

Release of Bhutan’s 2015 Gross National Happiness Index

New findings show a moderately higher and more equal GNH nationally, yet also raise intriguing social questions

How are you? We ask that question of one another often. But how are we doing – as a country, a society? To answer that question, Bhutan uses its Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index, of which the score this year is 0.756, improving on the 2010 value of 0.743.

In 2015, a total of 91.2% of Bhutanese were narrowly, extensively, or deeply happy and 43.4% were extensively or deeply happy. People are called ‘narrowly happy’ if they enjoy sufficient achievements in between half and two-thirds of the GNH domains, and ‘extensively or deeply’ happy, if it is two-thirds or more. The aim is for all Bhutanese to be extensively or deeply happy. Bhutan is closer to achieving that aim in 2015 than it was in 2010, the last time that the Index was reported.

 

GNH is a much richer objective than GDP or economic growth. In GNH, the focus is on having sufficient wellbeing in a total of nine domains: psychological wellbeing, community, culture, governance, knowledge, health, living conditions (which include income), time use, and harmony with the environment.

 

The 2015 GNH Index is based on a carefully conducted survey of 7153 Bhutanese in every Dzongkhag (district) of Bhutan. Analysts create a GNH profile for each person, showing their wellbeing across the nine domains mentioned above. The GNH Index draws on every person’s portrait to give a rigorous national measure.

 

The 2015 GNH findings show that men are happier women, nad that the happiest districts are Gasa, Bumthang and Paro.

Changes in GNH show broadly equalizing trends. Groups that had lower GNH in 2010, such as women, farmers, people without formal schooling, and the elderly, had higher rates of improvement in their GNH. The only exception was that GNH rose faster in urban than in rural areas.

The 2015 GNH Index also raises intriguing questions. Why? Living standards, services and health had strong increases – and if it had been only these, GNH would have increased a lot. But there were also decreases in psychological wellbeing, in which anger and frustration increased and spirituality decreased, and community, in which people’s sense of belonging and their donations of time and money decreased, and the traditional etiquette of courtesy, Driglam Namzha, also seems to have weakened. That is why, overall, the increase in GNH is moderate.

Dasho Karma Ura, President of the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, said: “The 2015 GNH Index provides a self-portrait of a society in flux, and offers Bhutanese the opportunity to reflect on the directions society is moving, and make wise and determined adjustments.”

Today the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research presented the findings of Gross National Happiness and GNH Research, at the International Conference on GNH in Bhutan, which was opened by the honorable Prime Minister of Bhutan, and is being attended by participants from 48 countries as well as Bhutanese leaders. The leadership of the Bhutan’s central monastic body, and venerable religious leaders from India, Thailand and other countries are also present at this historic conference, held for the first time ever in open air tents pitched on the scenic Garden Palace Lawn by the banks of Paro river.

The conference celebrates the 60th birthday of the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan who enunciated this inspiring aim when he said “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product” in the 1970s. The Fifth King, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, has creatively sustained this vision, and has further stimulated the integration of GNH values in government policies and programmes.

Visitors from outside are often intrigued as to why the GNH index goes far beyond subjective well-being. Doesn’t subjective happiness provide a proxy of people’s well-being overall? This is an empirical question, which has been carefully studied in every GNH survey.

In Bhutan, there has been a significant increase in people’s answer to the question, taking all things together, how happy would you say you are? Between 2010 and 2015 responses rose from 6.1 to 6.9 on the 10 point scale. Overall, 43.4% of people are happy by GNH, and 60.8% have subjective happiness score of 7 or above. One might assume that all GNH happy people enjoyed subjective happiness levels of 7 or above. But in fact only one-half of those who are subjectively happy are GNH happy.  These mismatches only increase as we look more closely. For example, only one-quarter of those who are deeply happy by GNH rated their subjective happiness as 9 or 10. Also, the happiest district by subjective well-being, Dagana, is in the lowest third of Dzongkhags on GNH, while one of the happiest Dzongkhags by GNH, Bumthang, ranks 14th lowest out of 20 in subjective happiness.

Results continue to differ when we use domain-specific satisfaction questions. For example, while objective GNH indicators show an improvement in income, housing and employment, subjective satisfaction with material living conditions decreased. There are similar mismatches for health and family. So both empirically as well as conceptually we see that questions of subjective happiness are not sufficient proxies of GNH. GNH goes well beyond psychological well-being, capturing even altruism and responsibility to others and to the environment. And it monitors objective changes. Bhutan uses this richer and more detailed index as a it is a better guide to policy.

Thus the 2015 GNH Index findings paint an intricate and textured picture of the lives of Bhutanese, tracing them with much greater care and curiosity than GDP or any other existing index.

Background on the GNH Index  

An 8 page Summary is available on the 2015 GNH Index findings, as is a public booklet, and a book length report providing the provisional results of the 2015 GNH Index. These are be available onwww.grossnationalhappiness.com

 

The overall objective of the GNH Index is to provide a reliable, comprehensive and up-to-date picture of the country’s overall situation and progress. The Gross National Happiness Index is a multi-dimensional and survey-based measure of wellbeing and happiness of the Bhutanese population.

For the 2015 GNH survey, a representative sample of the population of each of Bhutan’s 20 districts was interviewed, totalling 7153 respondents. The questionnaire comprised 148 questions, and it took the trained enumerators an average of little more than 90 minutes to collect each response. Interviews were conducted in the period from January to May 2015.

The GNH index is computed by constructing a panel of key indicators for each person. The indicators are grouped under nine equally weighted domains:

  1.  psychological wellbeing
  2.  health
  3.  education
  4.  time use
  5.  cultural diversity and resilience
  6.  good governance
  7.  community vitality
  8.  ecological diversity and resilience
  9.  living standards

 

For each indicator, a sufficiency level is determined (e.g. 8 hours of sleep per day). A person’s GNH score reflects the weighted sum of the indicators in which she or he enjoys sufficiency. According to the GNH gradient, persons with GNH under 50% are categorized as being unhappy, 50-65% narrowly happy, 66-76% extensively happy, and 77+%, deeply happy. The GNH Index uses a form of the Alkire Foster multidimensional measurement methodology.

The GNH Index reflects an aim of public policy to move Bhutanese to being extensively or deeply happy – to enjoying sufficiency in 6 of the 9 domains, or the equivalent share of weighted indicators.

The GNH indicators serve as an input for debating and shaping policies and for monitoring the effects of public policies. For this purpose, linked policy and programme tools have been developed that reflect the structure of the GNH Index.

 

Notes for Editors

The Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research, located in Bhutan’s capital Thimphu, is an autonomous research institute dedicated towards promoting research and scholarship on Bhutan and on Gross National Happiness. It promotes scholarship on Bhutan through its publications, hosting conferences and seminars, organising workshops and lecture series. It is the authoritative institution on Gross National Happiness, having been exclusively entrusted by the Royal Government of Bhutan with conducting and coordinating research and other activities on GNH.

The 2015 GNH survey was carried out and analysed by CBS with support from the Royal Government of Bhutan and from JICA.

 

 

Further information

The findings of the 2015 GNH Index summarized above are provided in the Provisional Analysis of the 2015 Gross National Happiness Report (available at www.grossnationalhappiness.com).

The final report on the 2015 GNH index is to be published. It will provide more information and additional analysis on the GNH Index along with specific policy recommendations. It will feature a new policy section on ‘Increasing GNH’.

The 2010 GNH Index results are available on www.grossnationalhappiness.com

For further information or to arrange an interview with the Report authorsplease contact:

Sabina Alkire, +447792505847 or +91 8826702954  or +975 17389352/sabina.alkire@qeh.ox.ac.uk

Tshoki Zangmo, Researcher on +975-17125839 / tshokey@gmail.com or

Karma Wangdi, Researcher, on +975-17374044/wangdikarma@gmail.com

 

 

ENDS