OECD World Forum 2012 confirms that world has embraced new measures of progress Reply

At a World Forum of leading economists, chief national statisticians, and many other experts, organized by the OECD and the Government of India, it became clear that new ways of measuring overall progress — in parallel to, or even in replacement of, the GDP — have now became mainstream.

Speakers [including Alan AtKisson, lead author of Life Beyond Growth] reported on dozens of projects at the national government level to measure national wellbeing, by both objective and subjective means, and sometimes the two in combination. While challenges remain, both technical and political, alternative measurements have achieved a level of momentum and global critical mass that appears irreversible. The indicators are also grappling with system sustainability issues such as future risk (in general terms), and with the factors and policies that produce better outcomes, using these new measures.

Speakers also outlined the needs, both political and research-oriented, for further development. For example, environmental measures still lack the robustness needed to “dialogue” effectively with the GDP, said the European Commissioner for Environment, Karl Falkenberg. And measures of social wealth are still far from parity with measures of economic wealth in technical terms.

But the direction of change is now well-established. Materials from this conference, including speaker presentations, are available at the conference website: http://www.oecd.org/site/worldforumindia/

‘New Economics and Happiness/Well-being’ events: August-October 2012 Reply

Here, we list some of the major upcoming events in the areas of ‘New Economics’ and/or ‘Happiness/Well-being’ to be held in the next three months.  As you will see, there are a number of interesting gatherings coming up this late summer/autumn.

August 2012

“Happiness, Compassion and Sustainability – A Strategic Gathering,” 24-25 August 2012, Seatle, US; at this conference, participants will learn about the vital new worldwide movement for happiness, find out about how to use the Happiness Initiative to improve your community, learn about the connection between happiness and sustainability, help plan “Pursuit of Happiness Day” (April 13) for 2013, and hear prominent authors; event sponsored by The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, The Compassionate Action Network and the Communications Department of Seattle University. http://www.happycounts.org/conf2012

September 2012

Second Global Happiness and Well-being Movement webinar, 21 September 2012; speaker: Jon Hall, of the United Nations Millenium Development Goals, http://www.happycounts.org/global-happiness-and-wellbeing-movement

3rd International Conference on Degrowth, 19-23 Sept 2012, Venice, Italy; The general theme of the conference Venezia 2012 on Degrowth and ecological sustainability and social justice is “The big transition: Degrowth as a passage of civilization,” http://www.venezia2012.it/?lang=en

October 2012

3rd Global Green Growth Forum – Copenhagen, 8-9 October 2012, theme “Resource Efficiency and Growth,” http://www.globalgreengrowthforum.com/news/3gf-in-the-media

2nd International Growth in Transition conference “How should we grow?” – Vienna, 8-10 October 2012, http://www.growthintransition.eu/conference2012

Planet Under Pressure 2012 sets out the science for Rio+20 Reply

At the end of March 2012, London saw the largest gathering of global change scientists leading up to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at a conference titled “Planet Under Pressure 2012.” More than 3,000 delegates were present at the conference venue and over 3,500 attended virtually via live web streaming. The conference set out the scientific background and presented new recommendations for the Rio+20 conference, including:

  • Going beyond GDP by taking into account the value of natural capital when measuring progress.
  • A new framework for developing a set of goals for global sustainability for all nations.
  • Creating a UN Sustainable Development Council to integrate social, economic and environmental policy at the global level.
  • Launching a new international research programme, Future Earth, that will focus on solutions.
  • Initiating regular global sustainability analyses

The first State of the Planet Declaration was issued at the conference, reflecting the key messages that emerged from the Planet Under Pressure conference. The statement warns that scientific studies show that current human activities threaten the functioning of the Earth system which support continued well-being of the human civilization. It suggests that global sustainability must become a foundation of society and points out important areas of new scientific understanding in this area – including the adoption of the term ‘Anthropocene,’ a new epoch, in which many Earth-system processes and the living fabric of ecosystems are now dominated by human activities. The statement also highlights the need for further inter- and trans-disciplinary research. The authors see the Rio+20 conference as an opportunity for taking action and bringing outcomes on these topic.

As a part of the preparations for the conference, a series of nine policy briefs were produced by the scientific community, specifically targeting policy-makers in the Rio+20 process. The briefs provide information on the latest scientific thinking in nine areas of sustainable development relevant to the Rio+20 conference: Water security, Food security, Biodiversity and ecosystems, Transforming governance and institutions, Interconnected risks and challenges, Energy security, Health, Well-being, and Green economy.

The  Green economy policy brief, titled “A green economy for a planet under pressure,” attempts to set out the guidelines for the social and technological transformations needed for a new economic system, as well as the new ways in which we will need to measure and monitor this system. One of the key points highlighted in the brief is that our economic system has to start to respect planetary boundaries of the Earth and be in line with people’s well-being at the same time. Based on these two points, the brief calls for a re-design of trade rules, financial flows and investment to improve our natural, social as well as human capital. It also suggests that there is a need for a social transformation process and that we need to strive for post-consumerism and post-materialist society.

In order to achieve this ‘economic transition,’ the report calls on governments, organizations as well as the United Nations to lead and support this process. It is suggested, for instance, that the United Nations Statistics Office should support countries to move beyond gross domestic product and develop Inclusive Wealth Accounts as a new macroeconomic indicator to measure progress in human well-being.

The Well-being policy brief, titled “Human well-being for a planet under pressure: Transition to social sustainability,” examines the need for urgent, innovative solutions and sets out key messages and recommendations that will guide humanity on the road to a more sustainable socioeconomic and ecological future. The authors stress that both social and environmental sustainability are needed for overall human well-being, since these are closely connected. It is underlined that despite being complex, multidimensional and context-specific, well-being is currently measured by the economic community in very narrow terms, most notably by focusing on the gross domestic product (GDP).

The brief suggests that policymakers need to go beyond single measures and develop tools, methodologies and metrics that are multidimensional and nationally standardized, while simultaneously acknowledging differing contexts, universal rights and freedoms. The transition to a ‘Green Economy’ is seen as an important means for improving overall human well-being. The brief concludes that a trans-disciplinary research effort is needed in order to improve understanding of the links among comprehensive human well-being, ecological and socioeconomic systems and sustainable development.

Links: http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net, http://www.planetunderpressure2012.net/policybriefs.asp

UN High Level Meeting on Happiness in search of ‘a New Economic Paradigm’ Reply

Hundreds of representatives from governments, academia, non-governmental as well as religious organizations from all over the world gathered on April 2 at the UN Headquarters in New York to discuss the topic of  “Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.” The participants of the meeting, convened by the Government of Bhutan, included the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon as well as leading experts from the fields of economics, well-being and sustainability.  The notion of ‘well-being’ and ‘happiness’ in relation to the current economic system was discussed, along with the topic of measuring progress using alternative indicators such as the Gross National Happiness, pioneered by the Government of Bhutan, as well as others including New Economics Foundation (“nef”) and its Happy Planet Index.

At the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon highlighted that “GDP… fails to take into account the social and environmental cost of so-called progress. We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.” He also stressed the need for further discussions and real outcomes in support of sustainable development at the up-coming Rio+20 conference in Rio de Janeiro.

The meeting saw also the launch of the first “World Happiness Report,” published by the Earth Institute, which reviews the state of happiness in the world today and shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness (Read more about the World Happiness Report here).

Links: http://www.2apr.gov.bt, http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41685

Upcoming ‘New Economics and Happiness/Well-being’ meetings and conferences Reply

In line with the growing worldwide debate about economic growth in relation to human well-being and happiness, there are many events relating to this topic that are to be held this spring/early summer. We list here some of the major upcoming meetings and conferences to be held in the next three months. Please contact us if you think there are any important events missing in our list that should be added.

April 2012

“African Conference on Measuring and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 19-21 April 2012, Rabat, Morocco; meeting in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policies (New Delhi October 2012), organised by the OECD Development Centre and the Moroccan High Planning Commission (HCP) in collaboration with the OECD, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), http://www.oecd.org/

May 2012

“Global Green Growth Summit 2012,” 10-11 May 2012, Seoul, Republic of Korea; the meeting is hosted by The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the Government of the Republic of Korea, in partnership with The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the meeting will convene top economic and environmental policymakers and experts to discuss the concrete ways in which international cooperation can be strengthened to support countries that pursue green growth and green economy strategies, http://www.gggi.org/event/

“International Conference on Degrowth in the Americas,” 13-19 May 2012, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; drawing from previous degrowth conferences in Paris and Barcelona in 2008 and 2010, respectively, the Montreal conference will focus on the particular situations and dynamic of the Americas in terms of Degrowth, http://montreal.degrowth.org/

June 2012

“Well-being and the Pursuit of Happiness,” 1 June 2012, Vermont, US; the Second Conference on GNH will focus on how we can measure well-being and use those indicators to help shape policy in state and local government and in organizations, it will also explore how to work with communities to further the pursuit of happiness based on what has been learnt from Vermont and National Surveys, http://www.gnhusa.org/

“Strategies for a New Economy,” 8-10 June 2012, Bard College’s main Campus, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, US; convened by the New Economics Institute, the conference will gather together what are often diverse and scattered efforts to reshape our economic system, place them under one tent, and raise the flag to announce that transitioning to a new economy will mean engaging politicians, researchers, media, educators, citizen activists, business leaders, financial experts, scientists, union workers, cultural leaders, advocates for the disenfranchised, and youth — all working together to achieve a common goal, the conference will focus on 10 theme areas: Banking and Financing, Measuring Well Being, Messaging, Responsive Government, Local Economies, Ownership and Work, Production and Consumption, Sharing the Commons, Transforming Money, and Visioning and Modelling, http://neweconomicsinstitute.org/conference

“The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development” (UNCSD, or ‘Earth Summit 2012’, or ‘Rio+20’), 20-22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Twenty years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, where countries adopted Agenda 21 – a blueprint to rethink economic growth, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection — the UN is again bringing together governments, international institutions and major groups to agree on a range of smart measures that can reduce poverty while promoting decent jobs, clean energy and a more sustainable and fair use of resources. The Rio+20 conference will focus on two themes: 1. Green Economy in the Context of Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development, and 2. Institutional Framework for Sustainable Development; there will be also numerous side events, exhibitions, presentations, fairs and announcements in connection with the conference, http://www.uncsd2012.org

“European Conference on Measuring Well-being and Fostering the Progress of Societies,” 26-28 June 2012, Paris, France; undertaken as part of the European Framework for Measuring Progress e-Frame EU FP7 project and organised by the OECD, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (Istat) and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in collaboration with Eurostat and the European Statistical System, it will focus on recent activities in the field of measuring progress and well-being in the European context and it is the last in a series of regional events being conducted in preparation for the 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy, to be held in New Delhi on 16-19 October 2012, http://www.oecd.org/

Beyond GDP (EU 2007 conference website) Reply

This is the principal website of the European Union’s project/conference on developing indicators that are “as clear and appealing as GDP, but more inclusive of environmental and social aspects of progress.” The initial conference — held in 2007 and co-sponsored by the European Commission, European Parliament, Club of Rome, OECD and WWF — was a landmark that helped pave the way for much that came later. However, the website seems to have been stopped being updated in Oct 2011. This legacy site contains info on indicators (GDP, Enlarged GDP, Social indicators, Environmental indicators, Wellbeing), relevant news [until Oct 2011], resource documents, the documentation of the conference, and many good links to other initiatives/organisations etc.

Link: http://www.beyond-gdp.eu/index.html