Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan.

GNH is a story of Bhutan’s journey on a path of modern development and how a King sought to define the future of a country amidst difficult and challenging times.  

In 1972, His Majesty the Third King of Bhutan passed away prematurely and the responsibility to lead the nation fell on His Majesty the Fourth King of Bhutan, who was 16 years of age at that time. On a way to a conference abroad, he was asked by a journalist, what is Bhutan’s GNP. He replied that, for Bhutan, “GNH is more important that Gross National Product”, thus giving birth to the term, “Gross National Happiness” or simply GNH.

GNH today, in the words of His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, simply means “development with values ……fundamental values of kindness, equality and humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth”.

GNH is the development philosophy that guides the development efforts of Bhutan and acts as “our national Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future”.  

GNH simply propounds that development must be guided and lead to a higher vision of happiness. It is, therefore, the responsibility of governments to create the conditions for its people to pursue happiness.  

As a public policy, GNH development framework is based on the four pillars:

  1. Sustainable and Equitable Socio-economic development;
  2. Conservation of environment;
  3. Preservation and promotion of culture;
  4. Good governance.

Within these pillars, poverty eradicating forms an overarching objective.

Today, GNH is embedded in Bhutan’s Constitution. The preamble contains a pledge to enhance the unity, happiness and wellbeing of the people of Bhutan for all time and Article 9.2 states: “The State shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness”.

Bhutan’s development efforts are based on GNH and the pursuit of the four pillars. GNH and its four pillars are operationalized through the national development process. For instance, all our development plans and programmes in the current 11th FYP are formulated based on the four pillars of GNH.

The GNH policy framework recognizes the importance of effective institution. The Gross National Happiness Commission was formed as the nodal agency to coordinate all policy formulation, monitoring and implementation of development plans and policies.

A GNH Policy Screening tool has been put in place since 2008 to screen all policies to ensure that they are GNH compatible.

A GNH Index has also ben developed to measure happiness of the people based on a holistic framework made up of 9 domains and 33 indicators.

Bhutan’s modest economic success, an intact environment and its smooth and successful transition to a democracy are the result of the development approach based on GNH.  

The GNH development framework is in complete consonance with the 2030 Agenda and SDGs. Amongst many other things, both advocate a holistic approach to development. Both put people and planet at the centre of development and both have poverty eradication and sustainable development as central overriding objectives.