Going Beyond - What does the Forum Mean for Bhutan?

Going Beyond – What does the Forum Mean for Bhutan?

From October 1-3, 2024, Bhutan will host a landmark forum centered on the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) at the historic Dungkar Dzong in Pangbisa, Paro. According to Druk Holding Investments (DHI), the forum will focus on GMC, inviting participants to reflect on, design, and deliberate the creation of mindful and innovative cities. But what does this forum mean for the average Bhutanese citizen and Bhutan?

This forum is a resounding global recognition of His Majesty’s extraordinary leadership and his remarkable ability to inspire and galvanize minds across a multitude of disciplines. It stands as a beacon of the vast intellectual and cultural wealth our King possesses, effortlessly bringing together a constellation of the world’s foremost thought leaders, economists, philosophers, investors, philanthropists, and other luminaries. This convergence of distinguished individuals not only underscores His Majesty’s profound influence but also illuminates Bhutan’s pivotal role on the global stage, fostering a fertile ground for innovative and transformative ideas that transcend borders.

This event marks a monumental leap forward for Bhutan, underscoring that the world’s most eminent thought leaders, innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, philosophers, scientists, philanthropists, and investors not only grasp His Majesty’s visionary aspirations but wholeheartedly believe in them. It is a momentous occasion where we witness the tangible fruits of His Majesty’s unwavering dedication and tireless labor, stemming from the groundbreaking announcement of the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) on December 17, 2023. This forum exemplifies a collective endorsement of a visionary project that intertwines sustainable development with Bhutan’s rich cultural heritage, setting a new paradigm for mindful and innovative urban planning.

The gathering of such distinguished individuals from various spheres is a testament to the profound respect and confidence they have in His Majesty’s leadership and vision for a harmonious, forward-thinking future.

Bhutan will welcome over 70 globally renowned figures from diverse fields, ranging from digital technology to health and well-being. By organizing this event, we are once again showcasing our strength as a global leader in these arenas. Over the course of three days, ideas will be sown, debated, and refined—ideas relevant not only to Bhutan and GMC but to the entire world.

The forum further emphasizes that the geographical and economic size of a country does not dictate its influence. The world is receptive to ideas, especially those like GMC, which His Majesty described as “a Mindfulness City, encompassing conscious and sustainable businesses, inspired by Buddhist spiritual heritage, and distinguished by the uniqueness of the Bhutanese identity.”

Meanwhile DHI’s Press Release states that guided by a shared commitment to mindfulness, innovation, entrepreneurship and sustainability, the Forum will serve as an incubator of innovations in digital technology, ecology and environment, education, health, urban planning, economic transformation and aesthetic appreciation in Bhutan and beyond.

Featuring more than70 renowned international speakers, includingEvan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc.,the company responsible for Snapchat,Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, leading climate economist Lord Nicholas Stern, Nobel Laureate scientist Rich Roberts, Nobel laureate economist Mike Spence, Chair of Global Research at J.P. Morgan & Chase Joyce Chang, philosopher and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard, and architect Bjarke Ingels, the Forum is expected to attract participants from all around the world.

Evan Spiegel said that he is honored to attend the inaugural Innovation Forum in Bhutan, inspired by King Jigme’s vision for supporting the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators. “I look forward to discussing how mindfulness helps to create the opportunity for innovation, and the supportive role that technology can play”, he said.

Gelephu Mindfulness City was announced by His Majesty The King on National Day in 2023, who described it as “one-of-a-kind, anchored on the vision and values of GNH.” His Majesty said that the new city to be built in Gelephu will be “a Mindfulness City, encompassing conscious and sustainable businesses, inspired by Buddhist spiritual heritage, and distinguished by the uniqueness of the Bhutanese identity.”

Bhutan offers Gelephu Mindfulness City as a Special Administrative Region, envisioned as a knowledge economy that balances sustainability and well-being with prosperity, and an incubator for excellence in art, innovation, and entrepreneurship. The City is also intended to be an economic hub that would propel the rest of Bhutan and the entire South Asian region toward greater progress and prosperity.

Joseph Stiglitz noted that the Bhutan Innovation Forum has the potential to transform the society’s most important kind of “endowment” — our collective learning capabilities.  “The Bhutan Innovation Forum will set the dynamics for building human capital and creating a learning society, while upholding its commitments to mindfulness and societal well-being,” he said.

By Ugyen Tenzin, Thimphu