THE small Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan and its pursuit of Gross National Happiness (GNH) fascinated Narooma Rotarians last Thursday, thanks to guest speaker Dr Robin Tennant-Wood.
Dr Tennant-Wood, a political scientist at the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Business Government and Law, travels to Bhutan once a year to teach public policy at the Royal Institute of Management.
She described Bhutan’s extreme but spectacular terrain, its location nestled between India and China, its history including its moves to a democracy, and its less than a million people, mainly Buddhist.
Bhutan’s enlightened approach to looking after its people goes back a long way.
In 1729, Bhutan developed a legal code which includes the statement: “If the Government cannot create happiness for its people; there is no purpose for the Government to exist”.
Dr Tennant-Wood then spoke at length about the concept of GNH, much admired by the United Nations.
All government policy and legislation is scrutinised by the GHH Commission to ensure it meets Bhutan’s Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness, using the GNH index.
The Four Pillars are sustainable and equitable social development, conservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, and good governance.
She also spoke about the challenges facing Bhutan today and how it is trying to select the best aspects of the western World.
She said while the GNH faces challenges, she believes it is so ingrained in Bhutanese culture, it will endure.
Rotarians concluded, as have many in the United Nations, that the world has much to learn from this small country.