NOVEMBER 11-14, 2020

JSW Law has engaged in a multi-year exploration on the topics of Gross National Happiness (GNH), sustainable development, and the law.  In 2018, we hosted an international conference on GNH and the Law, with speakers and attendees from across Bhutan and around the world. To continue our research efforts in this field, we are planning a second conference to bring together scholars interested in the relationship between GNH and the law. The conference participants are expected to present and deliberate on numerous areas of law in relation to GNH. The conference is entitled “Second Conference on GNH and the Law”. The second conference will be hosted by JSW Law in Bhutan from 11-14 November 2020 to coincide with both Bhutan’s Constitution Day and GNH Day. At the conference, participants will present final versions of their papers. Selected papers, after a thorough editorial review, will be published in JSW Law’s first volume of “GNH and the Law Journal.”

GNH was adopted as Bhutan’s multidimensional development strategy in the 1970s by the Fourth King, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Since its adoption, the concept of GNH has undergone innovative changes through professionalization (through research and academic discourses). GNH as a development strategy is nationally institutionalised and practically implemented through the development of relevant policy framework and institutions. GNH framework is aimed at promoting the happiness of the citizens. It recognises happiness as the ultimate end of human life. Happiness in GNH context, however, is a combination of both subjective and objective wellbeing of the individual, seeing happiness as the relational concept. Happiness as the state of virtuous embodied being – meaning it is not merely a state of mind but also state of being – combination of both mental and physical actions – virtuous mental and physical activity. In other words, happiness is more than seeking only material or subjective wellbeing and hedonic pleasure.

To achieve this goal, GNH adopts multidimensional approaches to development not purely based on economics, but also based on social, cultural, and spiritual aspects of life. Therefore, the GNH framework consists of four pillars, nine domains and thirty-three indicators. Four pillars are: (1) sustainable and equitable socio-economic development; (2) environmental conservation; (3) preservation and promotion of culture; and (4) good governance. Nine domains expand the four pillars into more specific and measurable dimensions. They include, psychological wellbeing, health, time use, education, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. These domains have a total of thirty-three measurable indicators. The GNH framework not only attempts to measure happiness of people but it also provides a framework for evaluating policies and government powers while also, regulating individual, social and political relations. Therefore, literature commonly discusses GNH as an alternative to traditional, GDP-driven development paradigms.

GNH can have an important role not only in how development is viewed, but also, in how social and political institutions are devised, evaluated, and regulated. GNH framework requires a balanced and relational approach to development. GNH gives equal importance to all pillars and domains, and claims that they have an interdependent role in promoting individual’s happiness. While the law at the most is seen as a part of good governance pillar of GNH currently, it can play a very important role in ensuring that the equilibrium is maintained between these pillars and domains. Therefore, this research project is aimed at examining or theorising the possible relationship(s) between GNH and the law.

Through this research conference, we aim to initiate the examination of the core characteristics (pillars and domains) of GNH in light of the different legal theories, philosophies and principles. This research project will theoretically examine if the law has either positive or negative effects on GNH or if the law can contribute to the furtherance of the GNH policy. This project requires deploying a range of tripartite interdisciplinary approach to research, such as examination of relationships between development-happiness-law, environment-happiness-law, governance-happiness-law, and other similar themes. The law for the purpose of this project can be general legal theories and principles, constitutional law, environmental law, religious law, customary law, and more.

We are calling for papers based on the following broad themes, constructed from the four pillars of GNH:

  1. Sustainable Socio-Economic Development & Law 
  2. Good Governance & Law
  3. Environment & Law
  4. Culture, Religion & Law

In the first theme, sustainable and equitable socio-economic development and law, we seek to examine or theorise the relationship between law and development. For example, how can law contribute to sustainable and equitable socio-economic development? What would social and economic justice look like within the framework of GNH? What role can law play in regulating economic growth and devising a new economy? In the second theme – good governance and law, we attempt to examine how law can promote good governance. Can law contribute to political stability as viewed by GNH? Is the rule of law important for good governance or GNH and why? Does corruption have any impact on happiness and conditions of happiness, and can law play any role? And, how political justice (rights, duties, equality, participation) is or ought to be viewed? In the third theme – environmental protection and law, we seek to understand, how the environment is viewed in GNH. How does environmental protection relate to law within the GNH framework? Does GNH have anything to do with environmental justice or climate justice? In the fourth theme – culture, religion and law, we seek to understand how culture is viewed in GNH perspective. What does it mean to preserve and promote culture through law in GNH framework? How does GNH view cultural diversity and religious tolerance? How does GNH view relationship between secular and religious law? What is the role of customary law in promotion of culture and how does or should it interact with state law within GNH framework? And, how does GNH view cultural justice? However, It is not necessary that your paper should relate to only one theme; it is not only possible that your paper may overlap with other themes, it is intended that these themes be viewed as interdependent or relational.

If you are interested, you can download the call for conference papers for more details Call for Paper