Introduction to GNH
The 4th Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck
The idea of happiness and wellbeing as the goal of development has always been a part of the Bhutanese political psyche. While this has informed Bhutan's development endeavours during the early part of the modernization process, it was not pursued as a deliberate policy goal until the 4th Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) to define the official development paradigm for Bhutan.
The term itself expresses the distinctive Bhutanese perception of the fundamental purpose of development, as a process that leads to peace and prosperity. Apart from the obvious objectives of development that seek to increase GDP on a national level and incomes at the household level, development in Bhutan encompasses the achievement of less quantifiable but highly qualitative objectives.
GNH is premised on the belief that happiness is the ultimate desire of every individual, and by extension, the responsibility and purpose of the state is to create the necessary conditions that enable citizens to lead the good life. As such, GNH supports the notion that happiness pursued and realized within the context of the greater good of society offer the best possibility for sustained happiness of the individual. To this end, GNH stresses collective happiness to be addressed directly through public policies in which happiness becomes an explicit criterion in development projects and programmes.
The 5th Druk Gyalpo His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck
At the first international seminar on GNH that was held in Bhutan in 2004, His Majesty the 5th Druk Gyalpo clearly expressed that while the philosophy of GNH is inherently Bhutanese, its ideas have positive relevance to any nation, community or peoples.
In his words "I feel that there must be some convergence among nations on the idea of what the primary objective of development and progess should be - something that GNH seeks to bring about," and further "There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so seperate and divergent especially as the world shrinks to a global village."
The concept of GNH as a development philosophy has evolved into a national conscience, and is a bridge between the fundamental values of kindness, equality, and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth such that it helps the a nation in making better and wiser decisions for the wellbeing and happiness of all Bhutanese.
According to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley, GNH is the "translation of a cultural and social consciousness into development priorities…where Man can transform their infrastructure, polity and social organizations.” While conventional development models stress economic growth as the ultimate objective, GNH stresses that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other.