World

Bhutan spreads happiness to UN

  • 21 July 2011
  • From the section World
Lhatu Wangchuk
Lhatu Wangchuk admits his vision is Utopian, but should be worked on

Bhutan has put the politics of happiness on the UN's agenda.

This week the General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution that aims to make happiness a "development indicator".

Bhutan's ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk told the BBC the next step was to help UN members better understand the concept.

He admitted some were sceptical when Bhutan started lobbying for the resolution 10 months ago. But ultimately it won 66 co-sponsors, including the UK.

The idea is based on Bhutan's model of GNH, or Gross National Happiness, which measures quality of life by trying to strike a balance between the material and the spiritual.

The resolution invites member states to draw up their own measures of happiness and contribute them to the UN's development agenda.

"It's basically an approach," said Mr Wangchuk. "Our initial idea was to bring the concept of happiness to the consciousness of the UN membership… because we know that GDP indicators are inadequate to address human needs."

But given the conflicts that divide so many member states, isn't one country's happiness often another's unhappiness?

Mr Wangchuk maintained that wars and disputes do not indicate happiness or otherwise. They are caused by the egos and interests of leaders, he said.

He admitted his vision is Utopian, but "if you don't have a dream you'll have nothing to work on".

Asked if he thought UN diplomats were a happy bunch, he said many were overworked and needed to make better use of their time, one of Bhutan's happiness indicators.

"I tell them they must have sleeping time, time with their families," he said.

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