Gross National Happiness Tour

There is a place in the Himalayas where happiness is a serious matter. As a small country with a big ideal, Bhutan is guided by the vision of Gross National Happiness, a concept that is gaining international recognition today. Bhutanese believe that the well-being and containment of its people is more important than material gain. Shunning Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the real measurement of the nation’s development, Bhutan tries to create the conditions to achieve “happiness” as a developmental indicator, through the notion of Gross National Happiness (GNH).

This concept was espoused by the forth King of Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1974, and can perhaps be what makes Bhutan a place where happiness is a national vision.GNH has since become clearer with its four pillar comprising of:

  • Conservation of natural resources.
  • Preservation and promotion of culture.
  • Good governance.
  • Equitable and sustainable socio-economic development. 

and its nine domains to measure Gross National Happiness, as: 

  • Standard of living.
  • Health of population.
  • Education.
  • ecosystem vitality and diversity.
  • Culture vitality and diversity.
  • Time use and balance.
  • Good Governance.
  • Community vitality.
  • Emotional well-being. 

These nine domains are further broken down to seventy-two indicators.


These pillars embody national and local values, aesthetics, and spiritual traditions. The concept of Gross National Happiness is now being taken up the United Nations and by various other countries.


Crucial to a better understanding of Gross National Happiness, is its wider reach and awareness amongst other countries, and the various indices that have now been formulated to include material gains in their assessment of the country and lastly, the growing need to synthesize the moral with the cultural values as the core of economic policy.


Gross National Happiness as a development paradigm has now made it possible for Bhutan to take its developmental policies into the remote corners of the kingdom and to meet the development needs of even its most isolated villagers, while still accentuating the need to protect and preserve our rich environment and forest cover. The policy of high value, low impact tourism has facilitated the promotion and preservation of our cultural values.


Furthermore, the concept of Gross National Happiness has greatly enabled the pursuit of development, while at the same time promoting the attainment of 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 as one of its key directives.


Following the international seminar on Operationalizing Gross National Happiness held in Bhutan in February 2004, the participants began working to establish a Gross International Happiness Network, indicating the influence of Gross National Happiness beyond the Bhutanese Borders.


The Network attempts to find the best examples of sustainable development that incorporate values reflecting the general well-being of the people. The GNH 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 



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