Gross National Happiness

Global Adoption of Gross National Happiness as a Development Measure

Executive Summary:

Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a philosophy and index that measures the collective well-being and happiness of a population. The term was coined in 1972 by Bhutan's fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, as an alternative to gross domestic product (GDP).

Bhutan was the first country to pursue happiness as a state policy. The GNH concept has since evolved into a socioeconomic development model that has inspired a modern political happiness movement. In July 2011, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Resolution 65/309, which placed "happiness" on the global development agenda.


In a rapidly evolving global landscape, traditional metrics of development such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are increasingly inadequate in capturing the true well-being of nations. There is a pressing need for a more holistic approach that reflects the comprehensive health and happiness of populations. Gross National Happiness (GNH), a concept pioneered by Bhutan, offers a transformative framework that integrates economic, social, and environmental dimensions of progress. This executive summary advocates for the global adoption of GNH as a moral and ethical tool for measuring national development, with the ultimate aim of fostering higher collective consciousness.

The Case for Gross National Happiness

GNH emphasizes the importance of sustainable development, cultural values, environmental conservation, and good governance. Unlike GDP, which focuses solely on economic output, GNH provides a multi-dimensional perspective on human development and well-being. It includes indicators such as psychological well-being, health, education, time use, cultural diversity, and ecological resilience.

  1. Psychological Well-being and Mental Health: GNH prioritizes mental health and life satisfaction, recognizing that true development extends beyond material wealth to encompass emotional and psychological health.

  2. Cultural Preservation and Diversity: By valuing cultural heritage and diversity, GNH encourages societies to maintain their unique identities and traditions, fostering a sense of belonging and community.

  3. Environmental Sustainability: GNH integrates environmental stewardship, promoting policies that ensure long-term ecological balance and sustainability.

  4. Equitable Socio-economic Development: GNH promotes inclusive growth that benefits all segments of society, reducing inequalities and ensuring that development is equitable.

  5. Good Governance: Emphasizing transparency, accountability, and public participation, GNH supports robust and fair governance systems that are essential for sustainable development.

Ethical and Moral Imperatives

Adopting GNH as a global standard is not merely a technical adjustment but a profound moral and ethical shift. It redefines success and progress in terms that prioritize human well-being and planetary health. This shift is aligned with the universal values enshrined in documents like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which advocate for the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being.

  1. Promoting Human Dignity: GNH respects and promotes the inherent dignity of every individual by ensuring that development enhances the quality of life.

  2. Encouraging Collective Responsibility: By focusing on collective happiness, GNH fosters a sense of shared responsibility towards each other and the environment.

  3. Nurturing Global Solidarity: The adoption of GNH encourages international cooperation and solidarity, recognizing that the well-being of one nation is intertwined with that of others.

Pathway to Adoption

The global implementation of GNH requires concerted efforts at multiple levels:

  1. Policy Integration: Governments should integrate GNH principles into national policies and planning processes, ensuring that development strategies align with holistic well-being indicators.

  2. International Collaboration: Multilateral organizations, such as the United Nations, should advocate for GNH and support countries in adopting and implementing this framework.

  3. Capacity Building: Invest in capacity building and research to develop robust methodologies for measuring GNH and understanding its impacts.

  4. Public Awareness and Education: Raise public awareness about the benefits of GNH and promote educational programs that emphasize holistic development and well-being.


The global adoption of Gross National Happiness as a measure of development is both an ethical imperative and a practical necessity. By shifting the focus from mere economic growth to holistic well-being, GNH offers a pathway to a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world. It is time for the international community to embrace this innovative framework and work collectively towards a higher state of collective consciousness.

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