Gross National Happiness
What is GNH?
Gross National Happiness, or GNH, is a holistic and sustainable approach to development, which balances material and non-material values with the conviction that humans want to search for happiness. The objective of GNH is to achieve a balanced development in all the facets of life that are essential; for our happiness.
We are in the age of the Anthropocene when the fate of the planet and all life is within the power of mankind. Boundless consumerism, widening socio-economic inequality and instability is causing rapid natural resource depletion and degradation. Climate change, species extinction, multiple crises, growing insecurity, instability and conflicts are not only diminishing our well-being but are also threatening our very survival.
Today, it is inconceivable for modern society to function without the business of commerce, finance, industry or trade. These very factors are altering human destiny by the day in extraordinary ways, both positive and negative. GNH directly addresses such global, national and individual challenges by pointing to the non-material roots of well- being and offering ways to balance and satisfy the dual needs of the human being within the limits of what nature can provide on a sustainable basis.
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 in line 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.
2.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.
3.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.
- Living standards
- Community Vitality
- Psychological well-being
- Good Governance
- Cultural resilience and promotion
These 9 domains, clearly demonstrate that from the perspective of GNH, many inter-related factors are 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.
In accordance with these 9 domains, Bhutan has developed 38 sub-indexes, 72 indicators and 151 variables that are used to define and analyse the happiness of the Bhutanese people.
The concept of Gross National Happiness is now being taken up by various other countries, following footsteps of Bhutan. This has led them to define prosperity in more enhanced terms and to actually measure people’s well being rather than measuring what they actually consume. Crucial to a better understanding of Gross National Happiness, is one its wider reach and awareness amongst other countries, two, and the various indices that has now been formulated to assess even material gains and lastly, the growing need to synthesis the moral with the cultural values as the core of any economic policy.
Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm has now made possible for Bhutan to take its developmental policies into the remote corners and include the far flung villagers into the development aspects by meeting their needs and accentuating the need to protect and preserve our rich environment and forest cover. The success of Gross National Happiness can be found in many areas besides developmental aspects. The policy of low volume but high value tourism has indeed assisted not only in the high revenue generation but in fact facilitated the promotion and preservation of our cultural values.
Further, the concept of Gross National Happiness has greatly enabled the pursuit of development, at the same time promoting happiness as the core philosophy of life. For the government, it has facilitated the drive towards self sufficiency and self reliance, the ultimate reduction in the gap between the rich and the poor and ensuring good governance and empowerment of her people.
Following the international seminar on Operationalizing Gross National Happiness held in Bhutan in February 2004, the participants felt it useful to establish a Gross International Happiness Network, indicating the influence of Gross National Happiness beyond the Bhutanese Borders.
The Network attempts to find best examples of sustainable development that incorporates values reflecting general well being of the people. The GIH Network is a collaboration of the following institutions:
- Center for Bhutan Studies, Bhutan
- Spirit in Business, USA and the Netherlands
- Social Venture Network Asia, Thailand
- ICONS, Redefining Progress & Implementing New Indicators on Sustainable Development, Brazil
- Inner Asia Center for Sustainable Development, the Netherlands
- The New Economics Foundation, UK
- Genuine Progress Indicators / GPI Atlantic, Canada
- Corptools/Values Center, USA
- International Society for Ecology and Culture, UK
Learn more about GNH HERE