Bhutan Believes In Gross National Happiness

“Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me, it signifies simply – Development with Values. Thus for my nation, today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality and, humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth.”
– His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck

Bhutan has always had a unique approach to how it manages its affairs, from political leadership to social development. As Bhutan came into the modern age and began to develop, it adopted its own philosophy—Gross National Happiness—which has guided its development. The Fourth King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, introduced Gross National Happiness in 1972 on the premise that true development of a nation should not be based on technological or commercial development but on a holistic model that places people at its center.

At its core, Gross National Happiness is a responsible, human-centered paradigm focused on the well-being of all citizens. Gross National Happiness stands on four pillars: Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development, Preservation of Culture, and Conservation of the Environment.

The 4 Pillars of Gross National Happiness

1. Conservation of the Environment
2. Equitable and Sustainable Development
3. Good Governance
4. Preservation of Culture

A Unique Past

Located high in the Himalayan mountains in between India and China, Bhutan has carved out a singular path. As a small, landlocked nation, Bhutan barely had a presence on the world stage until they gained admission to the United Nations in 1971 and intrigued the world with the 1972 announcement of its national development policy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). 

In 1907 the 20 districts that make up Bhutan were unified into one kingdom under the Wangchuk dynasty. The country was ruled as a monarchy until 2005 when, under the direction of the 4th king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, a constitution was drafted which transformed Bhutan into a parliamentary democracy with universal suffrage for all adult citizens. Bhutanese citizens elect a national parliament by popular vote, while the king remains head of the executive branch.

A Dynamic Present

The steady growth and development of Bhutan can be credited to the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is a human-centered paradigm based on the premise that true development of a nation should not be based on technological or commercial development but on a holistic model that places people at its center. 

Bhutan applies GNH to improve the lives of the Bhutanese people in a variety of ways.  Basic health care and primary schooling are provided free by the Bhutanese government. Because of this, life expectancy has grown from 40 years in 1970 to 72 years in 2020, and literacy levels have jumped 20% in the last 15 years, with a literacy rate of 93% in young adults. Bhutan’s dedication to cultural preservation and conservation of the environment have made it a top travel destination for many, making tourism one of its largest industries.

An Exciting Future

Guided by the principles of GNH, Bhutan is on track to graduate from being considered a Least Developed Country (LDC) in 2023. The Bhutan Foundation’s work in promoting the growth of the country through the philosophy of GNH is helping to shape this future. The Bhutan Foundation supports work in all four pillars of Gross National Happiness: Conservation of the Environment, Equitable and Sustainable Development, Good Governance, and Cultural Preservation.