International specialists discuss wellbeing and a new economy at the United Nations

Posted on 11th April 2012

On April 2nd countries from across the world convened at the United Nations headquarters in New York to discuss ways of improving happiness and wellbeing.

The resolution was led by the Royal Kingdom of Bhutan and featured academic and political leaders from across the world, all attempting to realise the vision of an economic policy that embraces wellbeing, sustainability and environmental priorities.

Professor Michael Depledge, Chair of Environment and Human Health at the European Centre for Environment & Human Health was invited to attend by the organiser of the event, Prime Minister of Bhutan Jigme Thinley. The European Centre’s portfolio of work focuses on improving health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on using the natural environment. It has been particularly influential in advocating lifestyles which improve health, wellbeing and happiness, while at the same time reducing damage to the environment.

Items under discussion at the UN in New York included the vision of living life in full harmony with the natural world, with our communities, and with our cultural and spiritual heritage. Professor Depledge presented the European Centre’s view that scientific evidence is extremely valuable in guiding the rational development of a new approach to the world economy. Highlighting that science can also provide an area of common interest and common language that help to bring the peoples of the world together.

More than 200 participants established a new independent task force to develop the details of the new economic framework, and outlined a series of policy recommendations to help governments achieve this new way of working.

Professor Depledge welcomed the outcomes of the resolution, which will be presented during the Rio+20 Summit in June this year, and said:

“This was probably the most important meeting I have ever attended. The task of defining a new economic paradigm is immense, but focusing on the health, wellbeing and happiness of people, and on sustainable lifestyles rather than solely economic performance represents a huge step forward. It was encouraging that the meeting was attended by such an eminent group of committed individuals including the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, as well as leading religious figures and scientists and several Nobel Laureates including Joseph Stiglitz and Jonathan Patz. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, sent his special envoy, Lord Gus O’Donnell to show the UK’s support for this initiative.”

The meeting closed by resolving to establish an international commission, led by the Prime Minister of Bhutan, to maintain momentum and continue work with world leaders to introduce a new economic model for the future. Professor Jacquie McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency (and a board member of the European Centre) will continue to facilitate discussions on behalf of the European Union.

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