The fourth Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) to define the official development paradigm for Bhutan.The idea of happiness and wellbeing as the goal of development has always been a part of the Bhutanese political psyche.
While this has informed Bhutan’s development endeavors during the early part of the modernization process, it was not pursued as a deliberate policy goal until the 4th Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) to define the official development paradigm for Bhutan.
It is heartening to observe that toward the end of the last century and at the beginning of this millennium, the reflective and the analytical across all sections of society are seeing the need to search for a clearer purpose and a more rational approach to development. There is a growing level of dissatisfaction with the way in which human society is being propelled without a clear and meaningful direction by the force of its own actions. It is also noteworthy that, there is a general consensus that conventional development process and contemporary way of life are not sustainable.
The concept of Gross National Happiness consists of four pillars and nine domains:
Four Pillars and Nine Domains
The intuitive guiding principle of Gross National Happiness led to a practical conceptualization of the concept. The foundation is made of four pillars:
Good Governance is a considered a pillar for happiness because it determines the conditions in which Bhutanese thrive. While policies and programs that are developed in Bhutan are generally inline with the values of GNH, there is also a number of tools and processes employed to ensure the values are indeed embedded in social policy.
Sustainable Socio-economic Development
A thriving GNH economy must value social and economic contributions of households and families, free time and leisure given the roles of these factors in Happiness.
Preservation and Promotion of Culture
Happiness is believed to be contributed to by the preserving the Bhutanese culture. Developing cultural resilience, which can be understood as the culture’s capacity to maintain and develop cultural identity, knowledge and practices, and able to overcome challenges and difficulties from other norms and ideals.
Environmental Conservation is considered a key contribution to GNH because in addition to providing critical services such as water and energy, the environment is believed to contribute to aesthetic and other stimulus that can be directly healing to people who enjoy vivid colours and light, untainted breeze and silence in nature’s sound.
The four pillars are further elaborated into nine domains, which articulate the different elements of GNH in detail and form the basis of GNH measurement, indices and screening tools.
These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are considered to be important in creating the conditions for happiness. For example, GNH counts the importance of material security as one of these – and assessing whether people enjoy sufficient and equitable living standards, is included in the GNH survey. Similarly, the happiness of human beings is not seen as separate from the wellbeing of other life forms, and ecological diversity and resilience are included in the measure of GNH. The balance between material and non-material development, and the multi-dimensional and interdependent nature of GNH are key features that distinguish GNH from GDP as a measure of a country’s progress.