Essay About Gross National Happiness In Bhutan

Gross National Happiness (GNH) in its pragmatic sense intended to provide alternatives to sustainable development since 1972 by then fourth king of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck (Adler, 2009., CBS, 2004 and 2008a., Chen,... more

Gross National Happiness (GNH) in its pragmatic sense intended to provide alternatives to sustainable development since 1972 by then fourth king of Bhutan His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck (Adler, 2009., CBS, 2004 and 2008a., Chen, 2015., GNHC, 2015., Hall, 2007., Helliwell, Layard, & Sachs, 2013, 2015 and 2017., Metz, 2014., Munro, 2016., Rinzin, 2006., Thinley, 2002 and 2005., Ura,, 2012., Ura, 2015). However, it was not until 1980 and 1996 that GNH made its official debut (Allison, 2012., CBS, 2004., Costanza, 2009., and Munro, 2016). The acceptance of the concept of GNH globally is therefore novice to many, challenging and its application malleable in its infancy stage. And while it was heard, the subjective position of happiness attracted fewer participants.

While there seems to be global acknowledgement towards GNH (Allison, 2012., Hearn & Givel, 2010., Helliwell, et. al, 2015., Marks, 2009., UN, 2011., World Bank, 1996 as cited in Rinzin, 2006), national development policies are still largely favored with GDP and its indicators such as per capita income.

This contributes to the question, if GDP alone aspires to protect the interest of global happiness, then why would countries want to re-asses or assess its development policies by introducing human development indexes? It is then pivotal to strategically assess why GNH as a development policy is important, how GNH is measured, and how it is disseminated for application? Unlike the usual literatures that completely negate GDP to show GNH as an ultimate tool for development, this paper is an attempt to advocate GNH as tool for sustainable development along GDP, however with preference slightly skewed more towards GNH. In this paper, I will use the terms well-being and happiness interchangeably. Discussion on other component of GNH such as social responsibility, social capital, and sustainable development has been omitted here as this requires additional study, independent on its own.

Gross National Happiness (also known by the acronym: GNH) is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan. It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population. Gross National Happiness is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan in the Constitution of Bhutan, enacted on 18 July 2008.[1]

The term Gross National Happiness was coined in 1972 during an interview by a British journalist for the Financial Times at Bombay airport when the then king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product."[2][3][4]

In 2011, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development" urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a "fundamental human goal."[5]

In 2012, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations convened the High Level Meeting: Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm to encourage the spread of Bhutan's GNH philosophy.[6] At the High Level meeting, the first World Happiness Report was issued. Shortly after the High Level meeting, 20 March was declared to be International Day of Happiness by the UN in 2012 with resolution 66/28.[7]

Bhutan's Prime MinisterTshering Tobgay proclaimed a preference for focus on more concrete goals instead of promoting GNH when he took office,[8] but subsequently has protected the GNH of his country and promoted the concept internationally.[9] Other Bhutanese officials also promote the spread of GNH at the UN and internationally.[10][11]

GNH Defined[edit]

GNH is distinguishable from Gross Domestic Product by valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values as expressed in the 9 domains of happiness and 4 pillars of GNH.[12] The four pillars of GNH's are 1) sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; 2) environmental conservation; 3) preservation and promotion of culture; and 4) good governance.[13] The nine domains of GNH are psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.[14][15] Each domain is composed of subjective (survey-based) and objective indicators. The domains weigh equally but the indicators within each domain differ by weight.[16]

Implementation of GNH in Bhutan[edit]

The Gross National Happiness Commission is charged with implementing GNH in Bhutan.[17] The GNH Commission is composed of the Secretaries each of the ministries of the government, the Prime Minister, and the Secretary of the GNH Commission.[18] The GNH Commission's tasks include conceiving and implementing the nation's 5 year plan and promulgating policies. The GNH Index is used to measure the happiness and well-being of Bhutan's population. A GNH Policy Screening Tool[19] and a GNH Project Screening Tool is used by the GNH commission to determine whether to pass policies or implement projects.[20] The GNH Screening tools used by the Bhutanese GNH Commission for anticipating the impact of policy initiatives upon the levels of GNH in Bhutan.[21]

In 2008, the first GNH survey was conducted.[22][23] It was followed by a second one in 2010.[24] The third nationwide survey was conducted in 2015.[25] The GNH survey covers all twenty districts (Dzonkhag) and results are reported for varying demographic factors such as gender, age, abode, and occupation. The first GNH surveys consisted of long questionnaires that polled the citizens about living conditions and religious behavior, including questions about the times a person prayed in a day and other Karma indicators. It took several hours to complete one questionnaire. Later rounds of the GNH Index were shortened survey retained the religious behavioral indicators. [26]

The Bhutan GNH Index was developed by the Centre for Bhutan Studies with the help of the researchers from Oxford University researchers to help measure the progress of Bhutanese society. The Index function was based on Alkire & Foster method of 2011.[27][28]. After the creation of the national GNH Index, the government used the metric to measure national progress and inform policy.[29][30]

The Bhutan GNH Index is considered to measure societal progress similarly to other models such as the Gross National Well-being of 2005, the OECD Better Life Index of 2011, and SPI Social Progress Index of 2013. One distinguishing feature of Bhutan GNH Index from the other models is that the other models are designed for secular governments and do not include religious behavior measurement components.

The data is used to compare the happiness between different groups of citizens,[31] and changes over time.[32]


In Victoria, British Columbia, a shortened version of Bhutan's GNH survey was used by the local government, local foundations and governmental agencies under the leadership of Martha and Michael Pennock to assess the population of Victoria.[33][34]

In the state of São Paulo, Brazil, Susan Andrews[35] through her organization Future Vision Ecological Park, used a version of Bhutan's GNH at a community level in some cities.[36]

In Seattle, Washington, a version of the GNH Index was used by the Seattle City Council and Sustainable Seattle to assess the happiness and well-being of the Seattle Area population.[37][38][39] Other cities and areas, including Eau Clair, Wisconsin, Creston, British Colunbia and Vermont also used a version of the GNH Index.[40]

At the University of Oregon, a behavioral model of GNH based on the use of positive and negative words in social network status updates was developed by Adam Kramer.[41]

In 2016, Thailand launched its own GNH center.[42] The former king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was a close friend of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and conceived the similar philosophy of Sufficiency Economy.

Many other cities and governments have undertaken efforts to measure happiness and well-being (also termed "Beyond GDP"[43]) since the High Level Meeting in 2012, but have not used versions of Bhutan's GNH index. Among these include the national governments of the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics[44] and the United Arab Emirates,[45] and cities including Somerville, MA[46] and Bristol, United Kingdom[47]. Also a number of companies which are implementing sustainability practices in business have been inspired by GNH. [48]


GNH has been described by critics as a propaganda tool used by the Bhutanese government to distract from ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses it has committed.[49][50]

Bhutanese democratic government began in 2008. Before that time the ethnic cleansing in Bhutan of non-Buddhist population of ethnic Nepalese of Hindu faith as a result of the GNH cultural preservation.[51][52] The NGOHuman Rights Watch documented the events.[53] According to Human Rights Watch, "Over 100,000 or 1/6 of the population of Bhutan of Nepalese origin and Hindu faith were expelled from the country because they would not integrate with Bhutan’s Buddhist culture." [54] The Refugee Council of Australia stated that "it is extraordinary and shocking that a nation can get away with expelling one sixth of its people and somehow keep its international reputation largely intact. The Government of Bhutan should be known not for Gross National Happiness but for Gross National Hypocrisy."[55]

Some researchers state that Bhutan's GNH philosophy “has evolved over the last decade through the contribution of western and local scholars to a version that is more democratic and open. Therefore, probably, the more accurate historical reference is to mention the coining of the GNH phrase as a key event, but not the Bhutan GNH philosophy, because the philosophy as understood by western scholars is different from the philosophy used by the King at the time.” [56] Other viewpoints are that GNH is a process of development and learning, rather than an objective norm or absolute end point. Bhutan aspires to enhance the happiness of its people and GNH serves as a measurement tool for realizing that aspiration. [57].

Other criticism focuses on the standard of living in Bhutan. In an article written in 2004 in the Economist magazine, “The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is not in fact an idyll in a fairy tale. It is home to perhaps 900,000 people most of whom live in grinding poverty." [58] Other criticism of GNH cites "increasing levels of political corruption, the rapid spread of diseases such as aids and tuberculosis, gang violence, abuses against women and ethnic minorities, shortages in food/medicine, and economic woes." [59][60]

See also[edit]



  1. ^"The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan"(PDF). National Council. Royal Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  2. ^Dorji, Tashi (15 June 2012). "The story of a king, a poor country, and a rich idea". Business Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  3. ^Dorji, Tashi (15 June 2012). "The story of a king, a poor country, and a rich idea". Business Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  4. ^"FAQ on GNH"(PDF). 
  5. ^"Happiness : towards a holistic approach to development : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly". Archived from the original on 2017-10-17. 
  6. ^Bhutan (2012). "Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness". United Nations. Retrieved 16 February 2018. 
  7. ^"Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012 66/281. International Day of Happiness". 
  8. ^Harris, Gardiner (4 October 2013). "Index of Happiness? Bhutan's New Leader Prefers More Concrete Goals". The New York Times. 
  9. ^Tobgay, Tshering (2016). "This country isn't just carbon neutral, it's carbon negative". TED. Retrieved 17 February 2018. 
  10. ^"Pursuit of happiness is fundamental human goal,' Minister of Bhutan tells UN Assembly". UN News. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018. 
  11. ^Schultz, Kai (17 January 2017). "In Bhutan, Happiness Index as Gauge for Social Ills". New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2018. 
  12. ^Ura, Karma; Alkire, Sabina; Zangmo, Tshoki; Wangdi, Karma (May 2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index(PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  13. ^Tenth Five-Year Plan: 2008-2013(PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: Gross National Happiness Commission - Royal Government of Bhutan, Actual Date of Publishing 25 June 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  14. ^Ura, Karma (2008). "Understanding the Development Philosophy of Gross National Happiness". Interview with Bhutan Broadcasting Service. 
  15. ^"Welcome to the CBS's works on Gross National Happiness!". Gross National Happiness. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  16. ^Ura, Karma (2012). "A Short Guide to the Gross National Happiness Index"(PDF). The Centre for Bhutan Studies. 
  17. ^"Gross National Happiness Commission". 
  18. ^"Commission Members". 
  19. ^"GNH Screening Tool". 
  20. ^"GNH Tools". 
  21. ^Pennock, M; Ura, K. "Gross national happiness as a framework for health impact assessment". Environmental Impact Assessment Review. 31: 61–65. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.04.003. 
  22. ^"The Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan. Method and Illustrative Results"(PDF). 
  23. ^Alkire, Sabina (November 2008). "Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index : methodology and results". Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI). 
  24. ^"2010 Survey Results". 
  25. ^"A Compass Towards A Just and Harmonious Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report"(PDF). 
  26. ^"Short Guide to GNH Index"(PDF). 
  27. ^"Short Guide to GNH Index"(PDF). 
  28. ^"Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index". Oxford Poverty and Human Development Index. 
  29. ^Adler, Alejandro (2009). "Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: A Living Example of an Alternative Approach to Progress"". Social Impact Research Experience. 1: 1–137. 
  30. ^Musikanski, Laura (2014). "Happiness in Public Policy". Walden University Journal of Social Change. 6: 55–85. 
  31. ^"Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index". 
  32. ^A Compass Towards a Just and Harmoneous Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research. 2016. ISBN 978-99936-14-86-9. 
  33. ^"The Happiness Index Partnership". 
  34. ^Chatterjee, Rhitu (3 October 2011). "Measuring Happiness in Victoria, British Columbia". 
  35. ^"Susan Andrews". 
  36. ^"GNH ´s Pilot Project in Brazil". 
  37. ^Musikanski, Laura (January 2013). "The Happiness Initiative: The Serious Business of Well-Being". Solutions Journal. 4: 34–39. 
  38. ^"Does Your Town Need A Happiness Index?". 
  39. ^"How Happy is Seattle?". 
  40. ^"WikiProgress Knowledge Base - Happiness Alliance". 
  41. ^Kramer, Adam. "An unobtrusive behavioral model of "gross national happiness"". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 287–290. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  42. ^"Thailand GNH Center". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. 
  43. ^"BRAINPOoL Final Report: Beyond GDP – From Measurement to Politics and Policy"(PDF). 
  44. ^"Measuring National Well-being: Personal Well-being in the UK, 2014 to 2015". 
  45. ^"Happy UAE". 
  46. ^"Somerville Happiness Survey responses - 2011, 2013, 2015". 
  47. ^"Happy City Happiness Pulse". 
  48. ^Sander G. Tideman (2016), Gross National Happiness: Lessons for sustainability Leadership, South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 – 213
  49. ^Thapa, Saurav Jung (July 2011). "Bhutan's Hoax: of Gross National Happiness". Wave Magazine. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. 
  50. ^Arora, Vishal (25 April 2014). "Bhutan's Human Rights Record Defies 'Happiness' Claim". The Diplomat. 
  51. ^Bird, Kai (March 7, 2012). "The Enigma of Bhutan". The Nation. 
  52. ^"Bhutan's Forgotten People". Aljazeera. May 30, 2014. 
  53. ^"Bhutan". Human Rights Watch. 
  54. ^Human Rights Watch
  55. ^The Australian Refugee Council
  56. ^The History of Gross National Happiness
  57. ^Sander G. Tideman (2016), Gross National Happiness: Lessons for Sustainability Leadership South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 – 213
  58. ^The Economist Magazine
  59. ^The GSD Magazine
  60. ^"Gross National Happiness – Happy in Bhutan?". Bhutan, 2008 and Beyond. December 1, 2008. 


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  • Thinley, L. (October 1998). Values and Development: "Gross National Happiness." Speech presented at the Millennium Meeting for Asia and the Pacific, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • Tideman, Sander G. (2016), Gross National Happiness: Lessons for Sustainability Leadership, South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 – 213

External links[edit]

  • Nadia Mustafa, "What About Gross National Happiness?", Time, 10 January 2005
  • Rajni Bakshi, "Gross National Happiness", Resurgence, 25 January 2005
  • International Institute of Management – US based GHN research, GNH policy white paper
  • Bhutan 2008 Paeans to the King
  • World Happiness Report
  • Bhutan, Gross National Happiness and Sustainable Development – YouTube (12:31)
  • Gross National Happiness Survey, Global
  • Gross National Happiness USA United States based non-profit using GNH framing to spark dialogue and inform public policy.
"What is Gross National Happiness", an info-graphical video.
Slogan about Gross National Happiness in Thimphu's School of Traditional Arts.

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