Bhutan “happiness” Conference – Gross National Happiness

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Gross National Happiness: One Of The 4 Pillars Of Bhutan Economy

Is it possible to measure the happiness of a people and its environment as a factor of a country’s development?

Every day, we touch the environment that surrounds us, interacting with other people, with the domestic and/or wild animals, with the plants that are found in the soil or fields, or when appreciating the landscapes and the beauties and natural formations. But how many times do we stop to think how and how much this affects our happiness? What importance do we give? Or beyond, how can all these factors influence as a development model?

Surely you will have heard at one point about the Gross Domestic Product, or GDP. But if you do not know, you will ask: what is it? Or, how does it work?

Basically, the gross domestic product is a macroeconomic magnitude that expresses the monetary value of the production of final demand goods and services of a country (or region) over a given period (usually one year). However, there are limitations to its use. In addition to the above-mentioned adjustments needed for the shadow economy, the social or ecological impact of various activities may be important for what is being studied and may not be reflected in GDP.

This is where these constraints arise- ‘How can GDP measure these factors?’ because they also affect the environment. If they are not optimal, it’s almost as likely that those that are tangible will be affected. We must remember this premise that we were taught in school: an alteration in the vital pyramid affects the whole environment. And many times it looks small but it’s a huge detail.

And that is why a concept arises to measure these intangible variables from a small Buddhist kingdom of Asia, the Kingdom of Bhutan, a nation located in the Himalayas, and loaded with historical, cultural and environmental richness as an example for the modern world.

The history

In 1972, former IV nation king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, proposed a term known as Gross National Happiness, which posed a concept applied to the peculiarities of Bhutan’s economy, whose culture was based primarily on Buddhism.

bhutan_himalaya_countryThe original approach resulted in a study where nine (9) levels of well-being to be considered were taken, or rather, taken into account, structured in a questionnaire composed of one hundred and eighty (180) questions.

But, in summary, these levels consider the following factors:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Good governance and preservation of community
  • Care of Regional and Cultural diversity
  • Care of health and education
  • Proper care of Environmental Diversity
  • Maintenance of good living standards

This development model has been so convincing that it was elevated to the United Nations in 2012, and that year the organization issued resolution number 65/309, suggesting to other member nations to adopt policies for the welfare and happiness of their peoples on the basis of GHN principles.

Also, since the promulgation of the development model, international GHN conferences have been held; this year would correspond to the seventh, which has a tentative date from 7 to 9 November in Thimphu, Bhutan.

How is GHN’s concept defined?

As we had spoken at the outset, these variables we call the intangibles don’t have a qualitative but quantitative nature.

While conventional economic models look at economic growth as the main objective, the concept of GHN is based on the premise that the true development of human society lies in the complementary and mutual reinforcement of material and spiritual development.

The four pillars on which the GHN is based are:

  • Promotion of sustainable and equitable socio-economic development.
  • Cultural values preservation and promotion
  • Environment Conservation
  • A good governance establishment

How to apply this model in our societies?

It becomes clear that we must work in a model based on the pillars above mentioned, that seeks greater welfare and reliability for our civilization, without neglecting obviously the economic and development. It is a question of finding formulas that can level both needs without one canceling the other.

An initiative that is currently being implemented at the corporate level, for example, is the social responsibility that companies must have the environment that surrounds them and which exploits the communities of which they are part. It’s an initiative to humanize and break this paradigm that they are isolated entities of society

GHN is the example as Bhutan offers a positive alternative to GDP, whereby modern societies of our world can begin to find the right way to give it its value and respect for the rights of animals, people and planet; especially in this time where global problems such as climate change threaten the existence of species. It’s an initiative that can serve as a starting point to achieve those changes that the human species long for and can extend to its surrounding ecosystem; only the step is missing.