Democracy and Gross National Happiness – the experience of Bhutan

Jigme Thinley, former Prime Minister of Bhutan, is the special guest of the World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid and The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development in this unique conversation around Bhutan’s key metric of Gross National Happiness.

In 2008 Bhutan transitioned from monarchical rule to democratic rule with a constitutional monarchy, and Prime Minister Thinley guided the new constitution through the National Assembly. This happened just as the financial crisis convulsed the world and in a speech to the UN that year he stressed that the necessary reaction should be sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, not growth; environmental conservation; promotion of culture; and good governance. And the key indicator, as already developed under monarchical rule, he argued, should be not GDP but Gross National Happiness.

Jigme Thinley left office in 2013. At this meeting, we shall be in conversation with him, asking what impact these key principles have had on life in Bhutan, and what challenges there have been in implementing them during his time in office and since. In what ways has democracy evolved in Bhutan in its first decade? How has the concept of Gross National Happiness been established, what does it mean in practice to communities and their environment in Bhutan, and how is it best measured? Finally, what may be special to Bhutan in its development, and what lessons might be learned by countries around the world?