Measuring happiness is not a new experience for Bhutan, a nation of 700,000 inhabitants located between China and India. Bhutan hopes to become the world’s first agricultural country with 100 percent organic production.
“The happiness of inhabitants is the highest constitutional value in Bhutan. The idea came about in the 1970s when our fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said that the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) is more important than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because if the government cannot create happiness, it has no purpose,” said Bhutanese statistician Tshoki Zangmo.
That is an experience that Bhutan wanted to share with representatives of Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia.
Researchers, economists, statisticians and even shamans explained, gave opinions and exchanged ideas during the Dragon and Condor Meeting, an international event celebrated in Bolivia to evaluate the Living Well-Good Living-Happiness initiative. The main consensus: objective economic indicators such as income, housing, services and others are insufficient for measuring the wellbeing of the population.
Following a visit to the ruins of Tiwanaku, an ancient sanctuary and symbol of the ancestral knowledge of the Andean culture along the shores of Lake Titicaca, the delegations agreed that neither Mother Nature nor cultural traditions can be ignored, especially since the negative effects of traditional development models are becoming apparent.
“A few days ago, Felipe, the condor who was rescued in poor condition, was found shot dead in Ecuador. This is an endangered species in Andean countries, where our glaciers are also melting. Every 13 minutes, someone in the world dies of hunger; that’s unfair. We are also unhappy. We are doing something wrong,” said Ecuadorean delegate Pablo Barriga.
The Bolivian minister of Planning, Vivian Caro, said that “south-south cooperation is very important for Bolivia’s international relations; it enables the joint construction of what we propose as societies.”
“This will be a challenge for Living Well, which is our philosophical base. We have to incorporate multidimensional tools in our poverty indicators. These should include collective aspects and harmony with nature,” Caro added.
Living Well takes nature into account and is based on the recovery of traditional values: Ama suwa, Ama llulla, Ama qhilla, which in Quechua, a native language of the Andean region, means do not steal, do not lie and do not be lazy. The initiative’s main characteristics have to do with respect for life, flowing with and applying the laws of nature, valuing diversity and pluri-national co-existence and attempting to achieve harmony among thinking, feeling and acting, among others.
“Living Well is applied using indicators that are being developed and that will measure aspects of life that are not taken into account. For example: What do Bolivians do after work? What aspirations do they have? What is their spiritual context like?, etc.,” said Marcelo Zaiduni, one of the organizers of the meeting and an advisor to Bolivia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.