The Wellbeing of South Asia and the Importance of Gross National Happiness
By Sudesh Pokhrel and Srimal Fernando, Global Editor, The Diplomatic Society
The developing countries can barely be an influence over the weight of the powerful states in the world of superpowers. It is an unquestionable phenomena to even demand our existence in comparison to the latter. However great they may be Bhutan being a small dot in the world is a great source of international influence to the world through its “Gross National Happiness” policy.
“The essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignty of the nation” His Majesty The fifth King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. (Image source: grossnationalhappiness.com)
Countries are mostly associated with rapid development and measure progress in terms of the Gross Domestic indicators; not from the sustainable prospective. There has been much development at work done in the regional level but most of the development being carried out are done in a materialistic arena, there is not a spiritual level of attachment towards these causes. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is one imperative and core principles that is being neglected in the area of development.
Questions of happiness are not addressed as a part of these fundamental issues that have been raised in the South Asian Region. Gross National Happiness, while still evolving in a dynamic world, is a more holistic and balanced development model that recognizes the importance of physical as well as psychological wellbeing.
Gross National Happiness paradigm was introduced by His Majesty The fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuk in the 1970’s. His Majesty educated the people with all levels of the peaceful strategies. Peace is primarily related to the state of being happy without excessive materialistic relationship to the world, as nothing is permanent.
This focus mainly intended to offer people the reality of life as well as what actually serves as the perseverance of life. Through this awareness the key to serve the purpose of life was accepted as “Happiness”.
After being recognized “Happiness” was being considered to be the most important agenda of the Bhutanese society. The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) in collaboration with International Development Research Centre (IDRC) launched a report titled “An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index” a single digit GNH Index that was constructed based on results from the GNH 2010 survey. The new index provides summary statistics of wellbeing of individuals in nine domains which are gauged by 33 indicators and 124 variables. Equitable socio economic development, conservation of environment, preservation of culture, traditions and good governance are the four pillars of Gross National Happiness.
GNH policy can be advantageous in South Asia as well as to the rest of the world in many fundamental ways. It may be difficult to evaluate “Gross National Happiness index” in other countries owing to their relatively high population density. However, the development density can be segregated within standards in urban and rural settlements to indicate the total well-being of the nation. However reliable or flexible it may be, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) does not determine complete well-being or happiness of the nation. This develops nations into an unhappy state when their economy sinks. The countries which focus on capitalism do what globalism asks but GNH on the other hand does what the country needs. Bhutan focuses on “Development with Values” focusing on values that promote collective happiness as the strategy for development.
Non-traditional concepts of sustainable development only exists as a part of the culture which is not read as a part of development. This is problematic since it imbalances the growth. Developing corruption free relations are one aspect where India can uplift its psychological well-being in South Asia. A validity test also has to be done in order to maintain the long term progress in the Indian subcontinent.
Within South Asia, to be sustainable, a multi-dimensional domain of Psychological well-being has to be developed due to its massive population consisting of more than hundreds of ethnicities. Indicators of gross national happiness are difficult to translate in South Asia due the presence of multiple languages. Largely in a way it also depends upon the socio-cultural history of the natives. A deadlock with overdevelopment has to be avoided. Respondents have failed to address such questions and these issues are poorly reported and hidden from the public dimension.
The GNH Index incorporates relevant aspects from the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), the European social survey and various other sources. On 19th July 2011 the United Nations also adopted the resolution 65/309n en route for “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development”. Gross National Happiness can be a way forward to look towards a more sustainable development in the future. With a combination of spiritualistic with materialistic needs we can shoulder how much is actually needed and how much should be used and also determine what is the right amount of the combination required to make a living.
*Sudesh Pokhrel is a Research Scholar from Bhutan following a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme in International Relations at the South Asian University.
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