Discussion: New Development Paradigm

April 3, 2014

Four Imagine Change! local forums were organised by the Secretariat for the New Development Paradigm in Thimphu in March 2014. The objective of the local forums was to explore the relevance of “new paradigm thinking” in the Bhutanese context, to clarify our understanding of this GNH-inspired approach to development, and through authentic dialogue to spark solutions and actions leading to change.

More than 170 individuals from government agencies, civil society, media, academia and international organisations joined the different Imagine Change! forums. This article summarizes the main discussion points of the forum morning sessions, focusing on the work of the Secretariat and the New Development Paradigm and on values, solutions and necessary transformations.

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Imagine Change! forums demonstrated that there is a real need to explore GNH and new paradigm thinking more in depth, and to engage diverse groups of people in these conversations. The need to look at the practical implications and move beyond mere philosophical discussions was emphasized. There were concerns raised about using the GNH philosophy as a marketing gimmick for tourism. Practical actions in Bhutan were called for in order put our values into practice.

The New Development Paradigm report was generally well-received by the audience, especially at a time when there is a global search for an alternative to the current model of growth and development, as demonstrated by the post-2015 process led by the United Nations and its Member States. The youth group said NDP vision was good but idealistic, and perhaps difficult to achieve.

The proposed new approach was seen as a change towards a more ethical value system than the globally dominant self-interest model. In the era of globalization where values are changing so rapidly in Bhutan, doubts about adequate support and institutional structures to nurture this ethical model within Bhutan’s own context was expressed. The need for not only foreign experts, but Bhutanese to participate in actualizing this ethical, value-oriented approach to development was called for.

There was considerable interest for the happiness skills presented in the working NDP model, which represents enlightened decision-making and consciousness. The NDP is based on the view that human nature is essentially cooperative, relying on reciprocity and mutual wellbeing. However, it also recognizes the existence of negative forces (like greed, selfishness, materialism) which is why practising and developing happiness skills on individual level is necessary to nurture our capacity for altruism, empathy, compassion, contentment, etc.

A video clip, “Story of Solutions” was shown to the participants to catalyze their thinking on how having a different goal of development can transform our society.  It was generally agreed that in Bhutan, we already possess the right values, but the difficulty lies in translating these internal values into external actions at a time when we are increasingly having to navigate through various societal changes.

Participants were invited to engage in a Transformation Activity that was aimed at exploring what external and internal changes are necessary to arrive at a better outcome for an existing real issue in Bhutan. Inadequacies in education, bad waste management, inequality, loss of language and culture, lack of public space for social interaction, human-wildlife conflict, commercialization of festivals and pollution were some of the issues explored in this activity. This activity served well in engaging participants to be an active member in problem-solving instead of just identifying problems, and in sparking more considered discussions around these identified issues.

The discussions across the four themes shed further light on people’s perceptions, expectations and suggestions in the specific areas of democracy and active citizenship, culture and globalization, sustainable consumption, and economy.

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