Bhutan brings its philosophy of Gross National Happiness or “GNH” to the world by pushing for an International Day of Happiness at the UN General Assembly.
Recent efforts by the kingdom’s leaders have brought Bhutan’s unique message of Gross National Happiness to the attention of a wider audience.
In 2012, Bhutan, using its membership privileges, convened a special meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York to institute “Happiness” as part of the UN’s goals for international development.
Laughing schoolboys in Trongsa, Bhutan hint at Bhutan's success at instituting "Gross National Happiness"
The meeting, which took place during the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly, was attended by a panel of international luminaries such as the economist Jeffrey Sachs and the Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz among others.
Among the results of that meeting was the adoption of March 20 as what is now the UN International Day of Happiness.
As framed with Bhutan's intiative, Resolution 66/281 of the United Nations General Assembly states, in part: “Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,[…] Recognizing also the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples, Decides to proclaim 20 March the International Day of Happiness…”
While the kingdom has convened other, earlier, international meetings on Gross National Happiness in Thailand, Brazil, Canada and the Netherlands, the adoption by the UN is considered by many in Bhutan to be one of the most concrete achievements yet.
Gross National Happiness policy, the brainchild of His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, Bhutan’s fourth king (father of the current king), was first proposed in 1972. Since then, the policy has been elaborated and expanded under the leadership of such government agencies as the Gross National Happiness Commission and the Bhutan-based (and Bhutan-led) think-tank Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS).
As it is popularly understood now Gross National Happiness has four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation. The four pillars are further divided into 9 sub-domains that measure psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. According to the CBS, “the domains represents each of the components of wellbeing of the Bhutanese people, and the term ‘wellbeing’ here refers to fulfilling conditions of a ‘good life’ as per the values and principles laid down by the concept of Gross National Happiness.”
To further the goals of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan continues to host international and bilateral events, delegations, academics, researchers and economists aimed at helping the Bhutanese government improve and fine-tune the accuracy of its national happiness indicators.