The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) began in Bhutan. This post looks at GNH around the world and in the United States.
During a U.N. speech, Prime Minister Jigmy Thinley of Bhutan said, “I believe an economy is not an economy if, at the very least, it does not cause economy. It ought to promote prudent use and management of scarce resources to make life stable and secure”.
Gross National Happiness Around the World
A series of international conferences on GNH helped spread the word around the globe in the 21st century and led to action by the United Nations.
February 2004 – the 1st International Conference on GNH Operationalizing Gross National Happiness was held in Thimphu, Bhutan.
June 2005 – the 2nd International Conference on GNH took place in Nova Scotia, Canada with the theme Rethinking Development: Local Pathways to Global Well-being.
November 2007 – Bangkok, Thailand hosted the 3rd International Conference on GNH Towards Global Transformation: World Views Make a Difference.
November 2008 – the 4th International Conference on GNH returned to Thimphu, Bhutan and was entitled Practicing and Measurements on GNH.
November 2009 – Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil, hosted the 5th International Conference on GNH Gross National Happiness in Practice.
August 2011 – U.N. Resolution 65/309 Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development was adopted during the 65th session of the United Nations. This empowered the Kingdom of Bhutan to convene a high-level meeting on wellbeing and happiness.
April 2012 – the Royal Government of Bhutan hosted a 3-day conference entitled Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm at the United Nations headquarters in New York. In preparation, the Earth Institute of Columbia University published the first ever World Happiness Report comprised of information and data from across the globe.
June 2012 – the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rio+20 was a 20-year follow up to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development / Earth Summit. During the conference, nations agreed to explore alternatives to GDP as a measure of wealth that take environmental and social factors into account in an effort to assess and pay for ‘environmental services’ provided by nature, such as carbon sequestration and habitat protection.
March 20th, 2013 – will mark the first worldwide recognition of “International Happiness Day” which resulted from a United Nations resolution passed with a consensus in the 193-member assembly.
Gross National Happiness in the United States
Spring 2009 – 6 Vermonters who had attended the 4th International Conference on GNH in 2008, founded the Gross National Happiness USA nonprofit organization to promote awareness of GNH, gather information, and connect people interested in the movement.
June 2010 – the first U.S. based conference on Gross National Happiness GNH 2010: Changing What We Measure from Wealth to Well-Being was hosted by Gross National Happiness USA in Burlington, VT.
November 2011 – an ad hoc panel facilitated by the National Academy of Sciences began an 18-month project entitled Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy Relevant Framework whose purpose is to review current research and evaluate methods for measuring subjective well-being (SWB) in population surveys. The project is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute on Aging, and the U.K. Economic and Social Research Council.
April 13, 2012 – the first “Pursuit of Happiness Day” was celebrated in the U.S. as part of Sustainable Happiness Week which culminated in Earth Day on April 20th.
May 2012 – Vermont enacted legislation to compile a new measure of the state’s “economic, environmental, and societal well-being”.
Author’s Soap Box
Historically, the United States has focused on business and financial indicators to determine how successful we are as a country and measure the health our economy. Happiness and well-being of the populace have been downplayed.
In today’s challenging economic times, we are bombarded with the message that economic growth is the goal and will supposedly fix everything. On a planet with an expanding population, a growing environmental crisis, and diminishing resources, discussions about growing our economy at the expense of the planet and it’s people don’t make sense to me. Business, as usual, will not get the job done.
We need a new economic model that balances using and consuming with preserving, restoring and sharing. The gross national happiness concept represents a valid alternative. At a minimum, it is a useful tool for developing a new economic model, building awareness of public perception, and informing government policy.
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”
- Earth Institute of Columbia University – World Happiness Report
- Gross National Happiness USA
- National Academy of Sciences – Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy Relevant Framework
- Project Happiness – Happy International Happiness Day!
- Sustainable Seattle – Pursuit of Happiness Day (link inactive July 2015)
- The Centre for Bhutan Studies – Gross National Happiness
- The Happiness Initiative
- United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20
- VTDigger – An alternative to the traditional bottom line? (link inactive December 2017)
- Washington Post – If you’re happy and you know it … let the government know
- Wikipedia – Gross National Happiness