Helen Clark: Opening remarks “Happiness and wellbeing: Defining a new economic paradigm”

Apr 2, 2012

Opening Remarks by Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
at the High-Level Meeting hosted by the Royal Government of Bhutan on “Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”

Secretary General,
President of the General Assembly,
Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley,
President Laura Chinchilla-Miranda,
President of the Economic and Social Council,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be invited by the Royal Government of Bhutan to open the Inaugural Session of this High Level Meeting on a “New Economic Paradigm” which places sustainability and the wellbeing of people at the centre of development.  

We live in a world where economic crises, food insecurity, conflict, and natural disasters have affected the well-being of countless millions of people.

Twenty-five years after the Brundtland report on environment and development, and twenty years after the Rio Earth Summit, our world is still searching for the formulae which will support continuing advances in human development without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

With Rio+20 now fewer than three months away, today’s timely event offers an opportunity to engage in dialogue on the agenda for a sustainable future which can weave together the strands of economic development, social advancement, and environmental protection. 
In July last year, the UN Resolution initiated by Bhutan on “Happiness:

Towards an holistic approach to development” was passed unanimously by the General Assembly.  That was a significant milestone for Bhutan, and I take this opportunity to congratulate the Prime Minister and his Government on this impressive achievement. 

Today, Bhutan is putting before us a framework for a New Economic Paradigm, based on principles of happiness and wellbeing, ecological sustainability, efficient use of resources, and fair distribution. The framework has been shaped by Bhutan’s unique experience in applying the concept of Gross National Happiness which informs all its government policies.  This approach integrates inclusive economic growth with strengthening communities, protecting the environment, providing universal access to health services and education, and preserving traditional culture and heritage. To help guide its policy choices, Bhutan also created a new accounting system which measures the value of the nation’s natural, human, social, and cultural wealth, and not just its material and capital assets.

At UNDP, we have long promoted human development, based on an understanding that people are the real wealth of nations.  Our vision is for development which enables people to live longer, healthier lives, to be educated, to have access to a decent standard of living, and to have the freedom to choose to live lives which they value. Our approach, like Bhutan’s, balances the material and non-material aspects of wellbeing.

The vital link between sustainability and happiness in the New Economic Paradigm promoted by Bhutan resonates with what we in UNDP see as the central challenge of the 21st century:  achieving sustainable human development. 

One of the key questions before the international community is: what could our common future look like?  Bhutan is providing answers to that question. I hope today’s discussions will help us move closer to a common understanding of a sustainable future, and of how to build it.   

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