To include young people in the GNH movement, the eighth international conference on Gross National Happiness, which opened yesterday in Malaysia, saw the formation of young happiness ambassadors.

Nineteen young happiness ambassadors from Malaysia joined some 150 delegates from 12 countries at the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) in Shah Alam, which is hosting the conference on community vitality, one of the nine domains of GNH.

While there is still work to be done in spreading the concept and responsibilities of young happiness ambassadors, the idea of forming a network of young happiness ambassadors is to share the young peoples’ perspectives, experiences, actions and solutions in the GNH discourse.

Victor P Karunan (PhD) who teaches at the Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand said that in the seventh international GNH conference in Thimphu, it was observed that the average age of those attending the conference as presenters was between 45 to 50 years. “So we asked, where are the young people?”

On November 13, the young ambassadors with support from unicef, Malaysia came together to discuss the plan to establish the young happiness ambassadors network. The rationale,   tasks and the criteria to be a young happiness ambassador came from the young.

Besides contributing to the GNH discourse, the young happiness ambassadors would advocate or promote GNH in schools, universities, colleges and youth organisations in order to mobilise a youth movement that champions the four pillars of GNH.

At the on-going conference, Victor P Karunan said the tasks of the young ambassadors is to define and elaborate their role and contribution in family, school/university, community and in the society.

Who is a young happiness ambassador?

A young person who is 18-30 years old with a positive attitude towards the self and community wellbeing, who speaks up for the young and is willing to learn, study and spread happiness. Young happiness ambassadors are young people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse life experiences and those who believe in the values and principles of GNH. A balanced personality and those who are never satisfied with gaining more knowledge are some of the listed 11 criteria for the young happiness ambassadors.

President of the Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies, Dasho Karma Ura said the formation of the young happiness ambassadors’ network is one of the outstanding outcomes of the GNH conference. “It could be expanded for it is very essential to incorporate young people into any kind of socio-economic movement,” he said.

Speaking to the young happiness ambassadors, Chief researcher at Centre for Bhutan and GNH Studies, Dorji Penjore (PhD) explained that community vitality must begin from the self.

“Among the nine domains, I would say community vitality best represents GNH. If you have a viable community you don’t need physical security infrastructure,” he said. “Think about all the thought processes you go through and extend those values to your families and then to your communities.”

For the young happiness ambassadors, the questions they had to the delegates and the panelist were both simple and complex. One asked – What does it mean to be a role model of young happiness ambassadors? Another asked –what should the youth, the young happiness ambassadors do to develop and boost the community ecosystem bond?

Sonam Pelden  | Malaysia