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Gross National Happiness

Bhutan has a unique approach to development, with Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its guiding philosophy. The way of thinking behind this concept is captured in His Majesty the King's words "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product".

It is on the belief that the pursuit of happiness is the innermost desire of every human being, and that of every citizen of the kingdom. The concept suggests a much broader, comprehensive and balanced approach to development.

Bhutan has a unique approach to development, with Gross National Happiness (GNH) as its guiding philosophy. The way of thinking behind this concept is captured in His Majesty the King's words "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product".

It is on the belief that the pursuit of happiness is the innermost desire of every human being, and that of every citizen of the kingdom. The concept suggests a much broader, comprehensive and balanced approach to development.

In 1961, Bhutan embarked on a campaign to modernise the economy and the state with the five-year plans of economic and social development as the main instruments. Agriculture and hydro-energy are the two main sector of Bhutan's economy.

The Government emphasises the balance between economic development and the preservation of cultural heritage and natural environment. For Bhutan development is not measured only in terms of income growth but is viewed in terms of spiritual happiness. "Gross National Happiness" is a measurement term unique only to Bhutan, of which the country is proud.

The philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH) was first coined by the Fourth King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.

The concept provides a new perspective on development and suggests a much broader, comprehensive and balanced approach to development. While GNH has provided a very unique development vision for Bhutan, it has been a challenge to establish clear linkages between GNH and the national policy and institutional frameworks.

In 1999, the government prepared a long term development strategy entitled, "Bhutan 2020: A Vision for Peace, Prosperity and Happiness." It envisioned what the nation wishes to achieve by 2020, complete with a set of development targets, covering all four policy pillars of GNH.

In 1998, the then Minister for Foreign Affairs first brought GNH to the notice of the international community when he addressed the UNDP Regional Meeting in South Korea. This was a turning point for GNH. A small seminar held by the Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) in 1999 following by the two international conferences on GNH brought together international and national experts in different fields such as psychology, economics and philosophy to discuss and examine GNH not just from a theoretical aspect but from a practical perspective. Bhutanese decision-makers increasingly began to think about applying GNH in specific policy and planning situations.

Bhutanese development policy framework based on GNH comprises of four pillars:

balanced and equitable socio-economic development;
preservation of the natural environment;
preservation and promotion of cultural heritage;
and good governance.

The Good Governance Taskforce in 2005 discussed on the operationalization of GNH as an anchor to be established under the new democratic political system. Adopting GNH as the national development policy and as criteria for planning and monitoring was considered to be important means of securing good governance in Bhutan.

Source: The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2008
(Bhutan's Development
(Gross National Happiness (GNH) - a vision of development

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