How RTI Can Help Achieve GNH

Gross National Happiness (GNH) comprises four critical pillars: Good Governance, Culture, Economic Development and Environment. At a finer level, it has nine elements which further detail out these four pillars and add depth to the philosophy of GNH.

These are Psychological Well-being; Time Use; Community Vitality; Culture; Health; Education; Environmental Diversity; Living Standard; Governance. This represents a unique and innovative way by which the Royal Government of Bhutan has sought to define and measure human and social well being.

The transparency movement, culminating in the establishment of the right to information as a fundamental human right, is another new and innovative movement sweeping the world today.

In fact the Bhutanese constitution is one of the few around the world that guarantees Right to Information as a fundamental right. Interestingly, each one of the nine elements of the GNH index can be seen to be enhanced through the access of the right to information, and in the absence of such a right each one of these could well remain only partially fulfilled. The role that the right to information could play in each of the nine elements of the GNH is described below.

1.Psychological Well-being

The right to information is essential to instill a sense of empowerment among the people. As they perceive themselves to be empowered in relation to their government, and in relation to other institutions that impact their lives, their belief and confidence in themselves and in the system increases. This is clearly an essential element of psychological well-being.

On the other hand, opacity in governance leads to suspicion amongst the populace, which fuels feelings of helplessness, anger and frustration, all of which negatively impact the psychological well being of a person.

Transparency legislations across the world have also been very effective instruments for redress of public grievances. In fact, studies have shown that often the very act of filing an application for information is enough to solve the problem that prompted the filing of the application in the first place. As psychological well being implies the lack of grievances in the minds  of the people, such an act is essential for achieving the proposed levels of well being.

Psychological well being has been described as being “of primary importance in gauging the success of the state in providing appropriate policies and services”. The Royal Bhutanese Government has rightly determined psychological well being to be a critical indicator to the appropriateness of government policies and services. In many countries across the world, one of the most effective ways of assessing whether citizens are happy with the schemes and services being provided by the government is an analysis of the access to information requests being received by the government. Governments have been using applications for information as indicators to assess what problems the people are having, which areas of governance need improvement, which services are harder to access – in short, transparency legislation is a window into the actual grievances the people face, affording the government an excellent opportunity to address their problems.

to be continued

(The opinion piece will be the first in a series that 

co-relates RTI to GNH)


By SAARC  advisory group on RTI 

Check Also

The moratorium on CSI and BDBL

I’m not a banker, but I’m surprised by the patent lack of understanding displayed by …


  1. i think you unnecessarily belabouring the point of why the RTI is justified. Just look at the 4 pillars one of which is Good Governance. How is good governance possible without accountability and how is that possible without transparency? The link is solid and direct. No need to talk about psychological well-being etc when a lack of transparency can be used to take away even your physical well-being! 

    The RTI is essential for a good democracy. In Bhutan we aren’t allowed to know even how our elected MPs have voted! 

    That said, I find it unfortunate that there is too much of a ‘activist’ strain to the whole issue. We need to be a bit more circumspect when trying to pass a new law. Everything has a good and a bad side. Is ‘transparency’ really the same thing as a ‘right to information? The ‘right’ to information can be interpreted almost as ‘no right’ to privacy for example. 

    There are too many things to list that needed to be sorted out and placed in either category. It’s been 4 years since the DPT came into power which is more than long enough to consider all the factors. It is a shame that they’re still trying to hide the act.

  2. Ngawang Dorji

    I would begin from an unusual remark that turns to be common as soon as you hear that, I don’t want to interprete what that man intends to say for it seems to be byond my control, “ the mother nature now loses its endurance to withstand the abuses thrown by the dynamics of economic growths, modernization and globalization ofcourse”.  Abusing human brains for the sake of civilization by inventing cars, refrigerants or the air conditioner as a response to the alarms of nature’s increasing global temperature and losing of forest for gaining mobility by breaking down the barriers of the mountains and peaks and the urge for drinking a chilling coke to save you from the hot sunny day means you are endowed with goods of life. Now this inventions seems to turn the other way round by being a bad in living today’s livelihood otherwise speculated as goods by our ancestors passed down to the future generations apprehending benefit in the long run.
    Necessity as a mother of invention is taking its toll into necessity being the stepmother of invention that inflicts harm, if misused, just like a child is abused by his stepmother at the cost of assuring comforts to her own child. When a stepmother forces a child to wash the plates and cloths used by his  half-brother elder to him means a clean abuse and taking advantage of the child’s will to survive, enduring abuses. Now that is the relation shared between a least developing countries (LDC) as a half-brother of the developed countries where the creditability of whatever good happening around the world goes to the half-brother for the sake of being powerful, rich and influential ignoring the cost it renders to the LDC. Let me be precise, Bhutan that depends on environment as an undeniable pillar of GNH spends huge money to save the environment that are source to many rivers in Bhutan are as well a source to the countries major revenue. The carbon emission released by our elder half-brother is becoming a cost to us, their younger brother that are already helpless but determined and still enduring for the sake of survival. Because the livelihood of the younger brother lies better in paying the bill of our elder brother who lavishly treat himself and his friends in a five star restaurant.
    All this so called goods of life as a result of economic growth, modernization and globalization achieved for the sake of tagging ourselves as advanced, civilized and exposed produces hurdles in pursuing the GNH way. I am sad to learn what the majority of Bhutanese elders feel about the essence of GNH today; they set it as an abstract or a concept that gives one headache to understand. So they better chose to live misunderstood that is more  a worst case and is no better than trying to understand and figure what GNH is and happy to be getting a headache out of it finally. All this abuses, freedom, financial crisis or economic recession are necessarily undeniable part and parcel of life or is there any way out of it that says I am happy to have a happy livelihood.
    During the great depression of 1940’s and at times of the world war, I know one of such place who was happy to live a livelihood. When the majority of people in another part of the world were struggling during the great depression, Bhutanese people did not have an idea of what rellay economic depression or colonization actually meant. During such times Bhutanese lived Happy and busy, I wonder if that can happen today in the same place and to the same peoples? I think today we got connected to the larger circuits and to the wires of financial crisis, nuclear powers, economic competition joining the dominance Olympic along with the rest of the world. That does not mean Bhutan should have remained as we were but at least we need to understand that the pace the rest of the world have taken is by far thousands of year ahead to us, forget wining the dominance Olympic. We need a break from the Olympic and rest to figure out where we rank in the race, luckily Bhutan already have a destination to pursue the race alone but definitely not wrong. The destination is far ahead than the rest of the world (GNH versus GDP). Though Bhutan shall rest to figure out properly the purpose and stand last in the race, reaching the destination away from the rest of the world would be a race ran much longer where we stand alone and faraway but certainly an inspirational one for the rest of the world to decide once again about their destination. Taking stand by everyone beyond the borders with Bhutan in pursuit of a human happiness and humanity as a whole. Long live the GNH….
    Sir… please respond me if you liked my article, i want to be a regular contributor in your paper.
    yours sincerelly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *