President of the Bhutan Foundation visits UTEP for Centennial Lecture Series

Elenie Gonzalez, Reporter

Bruce Bunting, president of the Bhutan Foundation, visited the UTEP campus on Wednesday afternoon to give his presentation, “Bhutan: Development with Values,” at the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center.

He spoke about the Bhutan Foundation, a U.S. based nonprofit, and how it has helped the country implement the development of the Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which has helped shape Bhutan to what it is today.

“Bhutan has been able to take a different middle path towards development,” Bunting said. “One that reflects the country’s strong Buddhist values, and especially an approach that’s based on Gross National Happiness. GNH has four pillars: Conservation of the Environment, Equitable and Sustainable Development, Good Governance, and Preservation of Culture.”

Bunting explained what GNH means to Bhutan’s government and its people.

“GNH is not so much gaiety and laughter, but a bridge between fundamental values, kindness, quality, and humanity, and the necessary pursuit of economic growth,” Bunting said. “It is a responsibility of the government to ensure an environment in which the Bhutanese people can pursue happiness.”

Bunting was joined by two guest panelists, Tshering Yangzom and Tashi Dukpa. Yangzom is the director of Programs and External Relations for the Bhutan Foundation in Washington, DC. Dukpa is the director of the Bhutan Foundation based in Thimphu, Bhutan.

During the question and answer portion of the lecture, UTEP President Diana Natalicio took the time to recognize the Bhutanese students at UTEP to signify that the ties between UTEP and Bhutan have grown stronger over the years. There are currently 33 Bhutanese students enrolled at UTEP.

Bunting, who is the former managing director and vice president of the World Wildlife Fund, has been a longtime advisor to the Bhutanese government on various issues including Bhutan’s national park system and environmental conservation.

He is the first to speak as part of the 2017-18 Centennial Lecture Series this fall, after the first official guest speaker Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) was canceled on Sept. 12 due to travel problems with Hurricane Irma.