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25.4.22 – Press release: NEW HONORARY CONSUL OF BHUTAN

Gross National Happiness comes to Essen/Germany

The Lord Mayor of Essen, Thomas Kufen, is pleased about another Honorary Consulate in Essen and received Prof. Dr. Erhard Meyer-Galow, the new Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Bhutan. He is responsible for the Federal States of Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein and has his office in the ChorForum.

On November 25, 2020, the Kingdom of Bhutan and Germany established diplomatic relations with each other. This is a rare event: the Kingdom of Bhutan has had relations with only 52 states and international organizations.

Friendly relations between the Kingdom of Bhutan and Germany have continued to deepen in recent years. With the establishment of diplomatic relations, the cooperation is to be intensified even further. Therefore, another honorary consulate has now been opened.

Meyer-Galow has been actively providing development aid to Bhutan, which is still one of the poorest countries in the world, for 25 years. With Pro Bhutan e.V. he supports humanitarian projects such as the construction of the hospital in Punakha, the school for the blind in Khaling and the school for hearing-impaired children in Drukgyel.

Bhutan has 770,000 inhabitants and is the size of Switzerland.

Now, what can we learn from Bhutan and how is the concept of "Gross National Happiness", which has been the talk of the world since 1979, to be understood.

When asked by a journalist about the Gross National Product of Bhutan, the then King H.M. Jigme Singye Wangchuck replied that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.

The idea is not new. As early as the 17th century, the happiness of the people was defined as the goal of development and politics in Bhutan. From the country's legal code of 1629 comes the quote, "If the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no reason for the government to exist."

When the constitutional monarchy was established in 2008, it enshrined happiness as a government mandate in the constitution (Article 9 (2): "The State shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness.”

And this is new worldwide.

The Gross National Happiness Commission makes sure that all decisions taken by the state comply with this mandate.

There is a lot of talk and writing about the Bhutanese happiness. Only recently, Finland was again named the happiest country in the world. Bhutan has never declared that there are living there happiest people in the world. 2010 41% said they are happy. 2015 they increased to 43,4%. But Happiness is the aim of the King and the Government. Well, what is so special about happiness in Bhutan?

Meyer-Galow: "It is holistic and multidimensional, not only subjective well-being and happiness of the individual, who is only concerned for and with himself. The Pursuit of Happiness is collective. In Bhutan, it is firmly believed that successful development of society is only possible when material and spiritual content can develop side by side as equals, complementing and reinforcing each other."

Meyer-Galow continued, "For the West, this definition is actually not new. We have just forgotten it. Bhutan now reminds us. In ancient Greece, happiness had two meanings: on the one hand, hedonistic happiness, that is, seeing private happiness in the lasting fulfillment of physical and psychological pleasure, and on the other hand, eudaimonistic happiness, that is, the inner happiness that results from seeking and striving for what is objectively good, right, and meaningful, and that manifests itself as wisdom and compassion. We have landed in the epoch of modernity in hedonism and do not realize that all our suffering has its cause in this one-sidedness."

The Gross National Happiness Commision makes sure that all decisions are in line with the state's mission. The current Prime Minister Lotay Tshering sums it up: "If a government policy does not serve national happiness, it is simply not approved."

For the current King, H.M Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the holistic understanding of happiness is a prerequisite for peace in the lives of individuals and for peace in the world: "There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent, if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the Earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings, all of whom have an equal role and stake in the state of this planet and its players." .

In times of Ukraine war, this realization is especially timely. Therefore, we can all learn from Bhutan.