Gross National Happiness

"What is Gross National Happiness", an info-graphical video.
Slogan about Gross National Happiness in Thimphu's School of Traditional Arts.

Gross National Happiness (also known by the acronym: GNH) is a philosophy that guides the government of Bhutan. It includes an index which is used to measure the collective happiness and well-being of a population. Gross National Happiness is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan in the Constitution of Bhutan, enacted on 18 July 2008.[1]

The term "Gross National Happiness" was coined in 1979 during an interview by a British journalist for the Financial Times at Bombay airport when the then king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product", expressing a concept that had been developed during the 1970s.[2][3]

In 2011, The UN General Assembly passed Resolution "Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development" urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a "fundamental human goal."[4]

In 2012, Bhutan's Prime Minister Jigme Thinley and the Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations convened the High Level Meeting: Well-being and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm to encourage the spread of Bhutan's GNH philosophy.[5] At the High Level meeting, the first World Happiness Report was issued. Shortly after the High Level meeting, 20 March was declared to be International Day of Happiness by the UN in 2012 with resolution 66/28.[6]

Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay proclaimed a preference for focus on more concrete goals instead of promoting GNH when he took office,[7] but subsequently has protected the GNH of his country and promoted the concept internationally.[8] Other Bhutanese officials also promote the spread of GNH at the UN and internationally.[9][10]

GNH defined [ edit ]

GNH is distinguishable from Gross Domestic Product by valuing collective happiness as the goal of governance, by emphasizing harmony with nature and traditional values as expressed in the 9 domains of happiness and 4 pillars of GNH.[11] The four pillars of GNH are:

1) sustainable and equitable socio-economic development;

2) environmental conservation;

3) preservation and promotion of culture; and

4) good governance.[12]

The nine domains of GNH are psychological well-being, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.[13][14] Each domain is composed of subjective (survey-based) and objective indicators. The domains weigh equally but the indicators within each domain differ by weight.[15] The domains work differently depending on the person's GDP. For instance, if there are two people, one whose life is consumed with working, leaving barely any time for friends and family, while the other, though not as good in working conditions, has still enough time to spend quality time with their friends and family: according to Carol Graham, the person who spends time with family and friends ends up having a larger GNH, than the person who is just in it for work. In other words, a person is happier, or can be happier, in life when focusing on the little things.[16]

Several scholars have noted that “the values underlying the individual pillars of GNH are defined as distinctly Buddhist,” and “GNH constructs Buddhism as the core of the cultural values of the country. They provide the foundation upon which the GNH rests.”[17] GNH is thus seen as part of the Buddhist Middle Path, where “happiness is accrued from a balanced act rather than from an extreme approach.”[18]

Implementation of GNH in Bhutan [ edit ]

The Gross National Happiness Commission is charged with implementing GNH in Bhutan.[19] The GNH Commission is composed of the Prime Minister as the Chairperson, Secretaries each of the ministries of the government, and the Secretary of the GNH Commission.[20] The GNH Commission's tasks include conceiving and implementing the nation's 5-year plan and promulgating policies. The GNH Index is used to measure the happiness and well-being of Bhutan's population. A GNH Policy Screening Tool[21] and a GNH Project Screening Tool is used by the GNH commission to determine whether to pass policies or implement projects.[22] The GNH Screening tools used by the Bhutanese GNH Commission for anticipating the impact of policy initiatives upon the levels of GNH in Bhutan.[23]

In 2008, the first GNH survey was conducted.[24][25] It was followed by a second one in 2010.[26] The third nationwide survey was conducted in 2015.[27] The GNH survey covers all twenty districts (Dzonkhag) and results are reported for varying demographic factors such as gender, age, abode, and occupation. The first GNH surveys consisted of long questionnaires that polled the citizens about living conditions and religious behavior, including questions about the times a person prayed in a day and other Karma indicators. It took several hours to complete one questionnaire. Later rounds of the GNH Index were shortened, but the survey retained the religious behavioral indicators.[28]

The Bhutan GNH Index was developed by the Centre for Bhutan Studies with the help of Oxford University researchers to help measure the progress of Bhutanese society. The Index function was based on Alkire & Foster method of 2011.[28][29] After the creation of the national GNH Index, the government used the metric to measure national progress and inform policy.[30][31]

The Bhutan GNH Index is considered to measure societal progress similarly to other models such as the Gross National Well-being of 2005, the OECD Better Life Index of 2011, and SPI Social Progress Index of 2013. One distinguishing feature of Bhutan GNH Index from the other models is that the other models are designed for secular governments and do not include religious behavior measurement components.

The data is used to compare the happiness between different groups of citizens,[29] and changes over time.[32]

According to the World Happiness Report 2018, Bhutan is 97th out of 156 countries.[33]

Spread of GNH Outside of Bhutan [ edit ]

In Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, a shortened version of Bhutan's GNH survey was used by the local government, local foundations and governmental agencies under the leadership of Martha and Michael Pennock to assess the population of Victoria.[34][35]

In the state of São Paulo, Brazil, Susan Andrews,[36] through her organization Future Vision Ecological Park, used a version of Bhutan's GNH at a community level in some cities.[37]

In Seattle, Washington, United States, a version of the GNH Index was used by the Seattle City Council and Sustainable Seattle to assess the happiness and well-being of the Seattle Area population.[38][39][40] Other cities and areas in North America, including Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Creston, British Columbia and the U.S. state of Vermont, also used a version of the GNH Index.[41]

At the University of Oregon, United States, a behavioral model of GNH based on the use of positive and negative words in social network status updates was developed by Adam Kramer.[42]

In 2016, Thailand launched its own GNH center.[43] The former king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, was a close friend of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, and conceived the similar philosophy of Sufficiency Economy.

In the Philippines, the concept of GNH has been lauded by various personalities, notably Philippine senator and UN Global Champion for Resilience Loren Legarda, and former environment minister Gina Lopez. Bills have been filed in the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives in support of Gross National Happiness in the Philippines. Additionally, Executive Director of Bhutan’s GNH Center, Dr. Saamdu Chetri, has been invited by high-level officials in the Philippines for a GNH Forum.[44][45][46]

Many other cities and governments have undertaken efforts to measure happiness and well-being (also termed "Beyond GDP"[47]) since the High Level Meeting in 2012, but have not used versions of Bhutan's GNH index. Among these include the national governments of the United Kingdom's Office of National Statistics[48] and the United Arab Emirates,[49] and cities including Somerville, Massachusetts, United States,[50] and Bristol, United Kingdom.[51] Also a number of companies which are implementing sustainability practices in business that have been inspired by GNH, while GNH also represents a form of leadership for sustainability that gains international recognition.[52]

Gross National Happiness is also promoted in the United States by a nonprofit organization, Gross National Happiness USA. Headquartered in Vermont, GNHUSA is a 501c(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization with a mission to increase personal happiness and the collective wellbeing by changing how the United States measure their progress and success. GNHUSA was founded after Linda Wheatley of Montpelier, Vermont, attended the 2008 Annual Gross National Happiness Research Conference in Thimphu, Bhutan. Wheatley returned to Vermont determined to introduce the little-known GNH concepts to the general public in the U.S. After establishing the nonprofit in the spring of 2009, representatives of the group attended the fifth international GNH research conference in Brazil in November 2009 and, in June 2010, hosted the first US-based conference on Gross National Happiness and other alternative indicators, at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. In May 2012, GNHUSA with co-sponsors organized Measure What Matters, a conference building a collaborative of data experts in Vermont. The state of Vermont's Governor declared April 13 (President Jefferson’s birthday) “Pursuit of Happiness Day,” and became the first state to pass legislation enabling development of alternative indicators and to assist in making policy. GNHUSA collaborates with the Vermont Data Center to perform a periodic study of well-being in the state, as a pilot for other states and municipalities. The organization also collaborates closely with the Happiness Alliance in collecting online GNH data, based on the domain of happiness developed by Bhutan. In 2017, GNHUSA initiated the process of establishing chapters in all 50 states to work with local governments and institutions on well-being initiatives, beginning with Wisconsin and North Carolina. The organization also promotes the U.N.-designated International Happiness Day (March 20) as an opportunity to discuss the concepts of well-being with others at Happiness Dinners across the country.

From August 25, 2012 to the present, GNHUSA has been carrying out a nationwide action research project, The Happiness Walk, carried out by GNHUSA board members and supporters. On the first leg, two GNHUSA board members walked 594 miles, from Vermont to Washington DC; the Walk most recently completed a leg from Santa Monica, CA to the Bay Area, with a side trip to Hawaii, and resumed March 1, 2018, walking from Petaluma CA to Seattle, Washington, on the 13th leg of the journey. Along the way, Walkers perform audio and video interviews and collect survey responses, introducing the concept of GNH and amassing data that will assist them in tailoring the GNH domains and indicators to American culture. GNHUSA also posts and promotes a Charter for Happiness which, as of May 7, 2018, has 469 signatories.

Criticism [ edit ]

GNH has been described by critics as a propaganda tool used by the Bhutanese government to distract from ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses it has committed.[53][54]

The Bhutanese democratic government started from 2008. Before then, the government practiced massive ethnic cleansing of non-Buddhist population of ethnic Nepalese of Hindu faith in the name of GNH cultural preservation.[55][56] The NGO Human Rights Watch documented the events.[57] According to Human Rights Watch, "Over 100,000 or 1/6 of the population of Bhutan of Nepalese origin and Hindu faith were expelled from the country because they would not integrate with Bhutan’s Buddhist culture."[58] The Refugee Council of Australia stated that "it is extraordinary and shocking that a nation can get away with expelling one sixth of its people and somehow keep its international reputation largely intact. The Government of Bhutan should be known not for Gross National Happiness but for Gross National Hypocrisy."[59]

Some researchers state that Bhutan's GNH philosophy "has evolved over the last decade through the contribution of western and local scholars to a version that is more democratic and open. Therefore, probably, the more accurate historical reference is to mention the coining of the GNH phrase as a key event, but not the Bhutan GNH philosophy, because the philosophy as understood by western scholars is different from the philosophy used by the King at the time."[60] Other viewpoints are that GNH is a process of development and learning, rather than an objective norm or absolute end point. Bhutan aspires to enhance the happiness of its people and GNH serves as a measurement tool for realizing that aspiration.[61]

Other criticism focuses on the standard of living in Bhutan. In an article written in 2004 in the Economist magazine, "The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan is not in fact an idyll in a fairy tale. It is home to perhaps 900,000 people most of whom live in grinding poverty."[62] Other criticism of GNH cites "increasing levels of political corruption, the rapid spread of diseases such as AIDS and tuberculosis, gang violence, abuses against women and ethnic minorities, shortages in food/medicine, and economic woes."[63][64]

See also [ edit ]

References [ edit ]

Footnotes [ edit ]

  1. ^ "The Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan"(PDF). National Council. Royal Government of Bhutan. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  2. ^ Dorji, Tashi (15 June 2012). "The story of a king, a poor country, and a rich idea". Business Bhutan. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  3. ^ "FAQ on GNH"(PDF).
  4. ^ "Happiness : towards a holistic approach to development : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly". Archived from the original on 17 October 2017.
  5. ^ Bhutan (2012). "Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness". United Nations. Retrieved 16 February 2018.
  6. ^ "Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 28 June 2012 66/281. International Day of Happiness".
  7. ^ Harris, Gardiner (4 October 2013). "Index of Happiness? Bhutan's New Leader Prefers More Concrete Goals". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Tobgay, Tshering (2016). "This country isn't just carbon neutral, it's carbon negative". TED. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  9. ^ "Pursuit of happiness is fundamental human goal,' Minister of Bhutan tells UN Assembly". UN News. 3 October 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  10. ^ Schultz, Kai (17 January 2017). "In Bhutan, Happiness Index as Gauge for Social Ills". New York Times. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  11. ^ Ura, Karma; Alkire, Sabina; Zangmo, Tshoki; Wangdi, Karma (May 2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index (PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: The Centre for Bhutan Studies. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  12. ^ Tenth Five-Year Plan: 2008–2013(PDF). Thimphu, Bhutan: Gross National Happiness Commission – Royal Government of Bhutan, Actual Date of Publishing 25 June 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on 8 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  13. ^ Ura, Karma (2008). "Understanding the Development Philosophy of Gross National Happiness". Interview with Bhutan Broadcasting Service.
  14. ^ "Welcome to the CBS's works on Gross National Happiness!". Gross National Happiness. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  15. ^ Ura, Karma (2012). "A Short Guide to the Gross National Happiness Index" (PDF). The Centre for Bhutan Studies.
  16. ^ Graham, Carol, 1962- (2011). The pursuit of happiness : an economy of well-being. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-2128-4. OCLC 743022081. CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ Kent Schroeder, Politics of Gross National Happiness: Governance and Development in Bhutan, Cham (Switzerland): Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, 27.
  18. ^ Chhewang Rinzin, On the Middle Path: The Social Basis for Sustainable Development in Bhutan, Utrecht: Copernicus Institute, 2006, 3.
  19. ^ "Gross National Happiness Commission".
  20. ^ "Commission Members".
  21. ^ "GNH Screening Tool".
  22. ^ "GNH Tools".
  23. ^ Pennock, M; Ura, K (2011). "Gross national happiness as a framework for health impact assessment". Environmental Impact Assessment Review. 31: 61–65. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.04.003.
  24. ^ "The Gross National Happiness Index of Bhutan. Method and Illustrative Results"(PDF).
  25. ^ Alkire, Sabina (November 2008). "Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index : methodology and results". Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
  26. ^ "2010 Survey Results".
  27. ^ "A Compass Towards A Just and Harmonious Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report"(PDF).
  28. ^ a b "Short Guide to GNH Index"(PDF).
  29. ^ a b "Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Index". Oxford Poverty and Human Development Index.
  30. ^ Adler, Alejandro (2009). "Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: A Living Example of an Alternative Approach to Progress". Social Impact Research Experience. 1: 1–137.
  31. ^ Musikanski, Laura (2014). "Happiness in Public Policy". Walden University Journal of Social Change. 6: 55–85.
  32. ^ A Compass Towards a Just and Harmoneous Society: 2015 GNH Survey Report. Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies & GNH Research. 2016. ISBN 978-99936-14-86-9.
  33. ^ Why happiness is easy to venerate, hard to generate, Tim Harford, Financial Times, 1 March 2019.
  34. ^ "The Happiness Index Partnership". Victoria Foundation. 12 January 2017.
  35. ^ Chatterjee, Rhitu (3 October 2011). "Measuring Happiness in Victoria, British Columbia".
  36. ^ "Susan Andrews". SourceWatch. The Center for Media and Democracy. 5 May 2012.
  37. ^ "GNH ´s Pilot Project in Brazil".
  38. ^ Musikanski, Laura (January 2013). "The Happiness Initiative: The Serious Business of Well-Being". Solutions Journal. 4: 34–39.
  39. ^ Mastny, Lisa (17 November 2011). "Does Your Town Need A Happiness Index?". New Dream.
  40. ^ Jaffe, Eric (25 November 2011). "How Happy is Seattle?". CityLab.
  41. ^ "WikiProgress Knowledge Base - Happiness Alliance". Archived from the original on 14 March 2019.
  42. ^ Kramer, Adam. "An unobtrusive behavioral model of "gross national happiness"". Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems: 287–290. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
  43. ^ "Thailand GNH Center". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017.
  44. ^ Cañares-Yamsuan, Cathy. "How PH can have Gross National Happiness, too".
  45. ^ "Gross National Happiness for PH; FVR still needed – Malacañang".
  46. ^ "Bhutan 'happiness guru' speaks on 'Gross National Happiness'". 23 October 2016.
  47. ^ "BRAINPOoL Final Report: Beyond GDP – From Measurement to Politics and Policy"(PDF).
  48. ^ "Measuring National Well-being: Personal Well-being in the UK, 2014 to 2015".
  49. ^ "Happy UAE".
  50. ^ "Somerville Happiness Survey responses - 2011, 2013, 2015".
  51. ^ "Happy City Happiness Pulse".
  52. ^ Tideman, Sander G. (2016). "Gross National Happiness: Lessons for sustainability leadership". South Asian Journal of Global Business Research. 5 (2): 190–213. doi:10.1108/SAJGBR-12-2014-0096.
  53. ^ Thapa, Saurav Jung (July 2011). "Bhutan's Hoax: of Gross National Happiness". Wave Magazine. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011.
  54. ^ Arora, Vishal (25 April 2014). "Bhutan's Human Rights Record Defies 'Happiness' Claim". The Diplomat.
  55. ^ Bird, Kai (7 March 2012). "The Enigma of Bhutan". The Nation.
  56. ^ "Bhutan's Forgotten People". Al Jazeera. 30 May 2014.
  57. ^ "Bhutan". Human Rights Watch.
  58. ^ Frelick, Bill (1 February 2008). "Bhutan's ethnic cleansing". Human Rights Watch.
  59. ^ "Refugee news: media releases".
  60. ^ Correa, Mónica (May 2017). "The History of Gross National Happiness". ResearchGate. doi:10.13140/RG.2.2.18737.38243.
  61. ^ Sander G. Tideman (2016), Gross National Happiness: Lessons for Sustainability Leadership South Asian Journal of Global Business Research, Vol. 5 Iss 2 pp. 190 – 213
  62. ^ "The pursuit of happiness". 16 December 2004 – via The Economist.
  63. ^ Magazine, Global South Development (21 July 2013). "Gross National Happiness of Bhutan and its False Promises".
  64. ^ "Gross National Happiness – Happy in Bhutan?". Bhutan, 2008 and Beyond. 1 December 2008.

References [ edit ]

External links [ edit ]

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