A new report released by the government of Bhutan proposes that development practitioners and policymakers should incorporate its New Development Paradigm (NDP)—which focuses on increasing water and food security and responsible resource management—into the global development strategy.
Much of the research in the report is supported by The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS), a government-supported center in Bhutan that evaluates and provides feedback on government programs and policies.
The NDP takes many of its core focus areas from Bhutan’s unique development indicator, the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. The GNH was introduced by the government of Bhutan in 1979, after it determined that the world’s focus on economic development as the primary measure of wealth and development—the use of the Gross National Product (GNP)—was a limited way of measuring human development.
In the report, Bhutan advocates for the NDP as a more holistic and comprehensive agenda for achieving and measuring human progress, since it believes the welfare of a nation is determined not simply by “how much the economy is growing, but what is growing.” Bhutan argues that the “growth-based development model” is unsustainable: “The current model, based on the doctrine of limitless growth has resulted in the destructive attempt to use the earth’s finite resources to satisfy infinite wants.”
The NDP will focus instead on reorienting development practice and policy to focus on the well-being of all planetary life and to ensure that development work is sustainable. The paradigm’s overarching vision is reflected in its four priority areas: environmental conservation, sustainable and equitable socioeconomic development, preservation of culture, and good governance.
In the NDP, the measure of development focuses on increasing and maintaining access to basic needs like clean air and water, good health, decent living conditions, among other aspects of well-being. According to the report, the NDP’s focus on environmental preservation and well-being as essential components to sustainable development is based on Bhutan’s belief that quality of life is improved by guaranteed access to clean air, safe and drinkable water, green spaces for recreation, and healthy natural resources.
A Future Directions International report notes that food and water is generally widely available in Bhutan, and its population does not suffer chronic food and water insecurity as a result of its holistic, sustainable water and agricultural management.
The NDP’s sustainable development goals include preserving ecosystems, addressing resource disparities that simultaneously exacerbate excess consumption and food and water insecurity, and supporting sustainable agriculture. The report states that “responsible food production, distribution and consumption are vital components of equitable and sustainable development” and “sustainable agriculture and its products are the very basis of our survival and health.”
Bhutan’s commitment to the GNH’s “ecological diversity and resilience” focus area has led its government to promote organic farming, the outlawing of cruel farming practices, and other forms of resource conservation. At the 2012 United Nations’ Rio+20 Conference, Bhutan reaffirmed its national commitment to become the first country in the world to rely wholly on organic agriculture. Its Ministry of Agriculture is currently in the process of developing a National Organic Policy.
However, the report notes that steps need to be taken on the individual and international levels for the NDP’s sustainable development goals to impact global development policy. Establishing sound global partnerships to nurture development—one of the eight United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—is essential to actualizing the NDP’s vision of sustainable human development.
The report aims to guide the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, noting that even the existing MDGs—which aim to increase the world’s access to basic needs, like food and water security and a safe environment in which to live—are not currently being met.