“My country is not one big monastery populated with happy monks.”
That’s the first thing that Tshering Tobgay, the charismatic prime minister of the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan, wants you to know about his homeland.
People are forgiven for thinking otherwise. For its beautiful forests and mountains and ancient Buddhist architecture, Bhutan—a poor, isolated country sandwiched between India and China that famously measures Gross National Happiness as its main economic indicator—has been called the last Shangri-la. But the prime minister knows that perception works against Bhutan’s efforts to develop economically along a truly sustainable path that has eluded many other equally beautiful nations. In Bhutan, many people still live in poverty, youth unemployment is rising, and pressures on forests are increasing. Its total GDP, $2 billion, is half that of Springfield, Ohio. Continue reading How The Tiny, Poor Country Of Bhutan Became One Of The Most Sustainable Countries On Earth
The mountain kingdom of Bhutan may not seem an obvious place to look for lessons on addressing climate change. But on a recent visit I was impressed with how much this small country has achieved and also with its ambition. Bhutan has much to teach South Asia and the wider world. These lessons are especially relevant as the world negotiates in Paris a new pact on climate change at the International Climate Change Summit, known as COP21, which we all hope will eventually move the global economy to a low carbon and more resilient path. Continue reading Big lessons on climate change from a small country
HIGH-LEVEL MEETING ON WELLBEING AND HAPPINESS: DEFINING A NEW ECONOMIC PARADIGM
Hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan, 2nd April 2012, Conference Room 1 (North Lawn Building), United Nations Headquarters, New York City
Saturday, 31st March & Sunday, 1st April 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. – Registration at the Permanent Mission of Bhutan, 343 East 43rd Street, New York
Monday, 2nd April 8 – 8.40 a.m. – Security Check at the UN Visitor’s Gate (First Avenue, 45 – 46 Street) and
Registration 8 – 8.40 a.m. – Registration at Conference Room 1 for delegates of Member States
8.50 a.m. – All participants to be seated in Conference Room 1
9 –10.00 a.m. – Inaugural Session Chair: H.E. Helen Clark, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme and the Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
9.00 – 9.03 a.m. – Welcome address by H.E. Helen Clark 9.03 – 9.09 a.m. – Address by H.E. Mr. Jigmi Y. Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan (On the mission and purpose of the meeting) 9.09 – 9.12 a.m. – Inaugural address by H.E. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations 9.12 – 9.15 a.m. – Address by H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly 9.15 – 9.18 a.m. – Address by H.E. Mr. Miloš Koterec, President of the Economic and Social Council 9.18 – 9.28 a.m. – Keynote address by H.E. Ms. Laura Chinchilla, Honourable President of the Republic of Costa Rica (The Republic of Costa Rica is universally recognised for its outstanding achievements in environmental conservation and its exemplary sustainable development record) …For more refer www.2apr.gov.bt
The U.N. Happiness Project By TIMOTHY W. RYBACK* (NY Times)
March 28, 2012 : Next Monday, the United Nations will implement Resolution 65/309, adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011, placing “happiness” on the global agenda. “Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and “recognizing that the gross domestic product […] does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people,” Resolution 65/309 empowers the Kingdom of Bhutan to convene a high-level meeting on happiness as part of next week’s 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. An impressive array of luminaries will be speaking for this remote Himalayan kingdom. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales will open the meeting via a prerecorded video missive. The Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz will speak on “happiness indicators,” as will the economist Jeffrey Sachs. The Bhutanese prime minister will represent King Jigme Khesar Namgyel, the reigning Dragon King of the Bhutanese House of Wangchuck. (The kingdom became a constitutional monarchy in 2007.) For the 32-year-old Dragon King — Bhutan means “land of dragons” in the local Dzongkha language — U.N. Resolution 65/309 represents a global public relations triumph and the realization of a hereditary ambition, initiated by his grandfather 40 years ago, to establish Gross National Happiness (G.N.H.) as an alternate model to Gross National Product (G.N.P.) as a measure of national progress. Continue reading Bhutan to host the U.N. Happiness Conference April 2-5, 2012 in NYC
One cost of the uproar over Greg Mortenson, and the allegations that he fictionalized his school-building story in the best-selling book “Three Cups of Tea,” is likely to be cynicism about whether aid makes a difference.
But there are also deeper questions about how best to make an impact — even about how to do something as simple as get more kids in school. Mortenson and a number of other education organizations mostly build schools. That seems pretty straightforward. If we want to get more kids in school around the world, what could make more sense than building schools?
How about deworming kids?
But, first, a digression: a paean to economists.
When I was in college, I majored in political science. But if I were going through college today, I’d major in economics. It possesses a rigor that other fields in the social sciences don’t — and often greater relevance as well. That’s why economists are shaping national debates about everything from health care to poverty, while political scientists often seem increasingly theoretical and irrelevant. Continue reading Getting Smart on Aid
It’s graduation season, and for the past two months I’ve been traveling to campuses in the United States on a book tour to talk about service in the Marines and social entrepreneurship in Africa. One point seems to resonate with students above all of the others. From a commuter college in the plains of Indiana to Stanford and MIT, students have been latching onto one simple sentence: be a doer.
I use this line to emphasize the larger point that you don’t have to wait to make an impact. You don’t have to wait for wealth, status, or age. This is true more so today than perhaps ever before.
Bhutanese are proud of their traditional Buddhist culture – a culture tracing centuries back to Tibet, which has given Bhutan both its written language and its strain of Buddhism. As an independent country, Bhutan has been able to preserve its traditional culture far better than Tibet. And it wants to share that culture – with a select few, well-heeled tourists.
Many climb – though, in sneakers or hiking books rather than in heels – to the Tiger’s Nest in Paro, a Buddhist monastery with gilded roofs that seems to hover ethereally above a sheer cliff face. The hike on steep forest trails winds past rhododendrons and ghostly Spanish moss. With the high altitude, it takes even a young, fit person a couple of hours to make the ascent – and that’s before you get to the more than 700 stairs leading to the monastery at the end.
A Different Kind of Tourist
But few of the foreign tourists on the trail when I visited – or in Bhutan in general – were young or fit. Many rode donkeys up, and used walking sticks to gradually make their way down. Not exactly the energetic young trekkers of Nepal – but then, Bhutan’s tourists are different. Continue reading Why it Costs $200 a Day in Bhutan?
Gregory Kristof, who took a gap year in China before starting college.
I’ve periodically recommended that high school students take a “gap year” after graduation, by deferring college entrance for one year. Most colleges encourage students to take a gap year, partly because students then arrive a little more mature, a little more ready to study, a little more worldly. It’s becoming a bit more common, and Princeton now pays for some kids to travel during their gap year, but most people are still wary of the idea. In fact, almost every kid I’ve talked to who has taken a gap year raves about the idea, so I thought I’d commission a guest column from my eldest son, Gregory, who is currently taking a gap year in China. He spent most of the year studying Chinese at Tsinghua University and then at a language school in Dalian, and soon he’s going to finish up the year studying Spanish in Peru. On the side, he worked and volunteered. Here’s his take:
It took place on a frosty peak tucked away in the Tibetan highlands: my friend Rick and I walked in on a group of monks as they were on their knees, groaning.
They were performing secret rituals involving yak butter.
Peeking out from behind animal fur curtains, Rick and I hoped that they hadn’t noticed us yet. They hummed and sat in rows facing a stage of yak butter candles that threw images against the walls like kicked hacky sacks. Back in the shadows, I worried: What would happen if they saw two white dudes chillin’ behind the furs? Continue reading On the Ground with a ‘Gap Year’
Taleb Rifai applauds Bhutan’s sustainability and quality tourism model
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai, has expressed his support for the long-term tourism policy of Bhutan, with its focus on sustainability and quality, on an official visit to the country where he met with acting Prime Minister, Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba
The Royal Government of Bhutan considers tourism “a window of opportunity for the future of Bhutan” said Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba, during his meeting with Mr. Rifai. Lyonpo Yeshey Zimba pointed to tourism’s contribution to the economic security and Gross National Happiness – Bhutan’s measure of wellbeing – of the Bhutanese people. Continue reading UNWTO applauds Gross National Happiness country
Seattle trying to achieve ‘Gross National Happiness’
by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News
Courtesy: King 5 News, Seattle, WA
It’s one of the most isolated nations in the world, nearly a quarter of the population lives in poverty and they’ve only had television for twelve years. So why are the people of Bhutan so happy, and why does the City of Seattle want us to be more like them? Continue reading US City takes cue from Bhutan