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Human Development Advances as Democracy Progresses in Bhutan

Posted on :12 March 2019

Thimphu, Bhutan:Bhutan’s growing democracy has helped advance development, with an independent judiciary, a vigorous parliamentary structure, an accountable and transparent government, and an emerging civil society, according to a new National Human Development Report (NHDR).


The reportthat highlights positive development results during the ten years of democracy in the country was launched today by Bhutan’s Parliament and the UN Development Programme.


“The report reflects the resonance between the Gross National Happiness (GNH) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as broad visions of human progress and development,” said Wangchuk Namgyel, the Speaker of the National Assembly. “Just as the SDGs echo the pledge to “leave no one behind”, the GNH requires us to reach every section of our population by strengthening the process of decentralization.”


The NHDR argues that democracy has made Bhutanese citizens more conscious of their fundamental rights as well as their duties as citizens. While the people were entirely dependent on the King for their welfare and wellbeing and even happiness, they are now empowered to be active in governance and human development and the national vision of Gross National Happiness.


"A simple, yet powerful idea, that “people are the real wealth of nations” led to the development of the first Human Development Report in 1990. Instead of focusing only on income, human development measures people’s choices and opportunities – and their freedom to take advantage of them, it measures whether they live long lives, whether they are healthy, educated, and have sufficient income.  This report, by measuring people's satisfaction with the government and freedom of expression, based on the philosophy of Gross National Happiness, provides a robust picture of human development in Bhutan," said UNDP Administrator and UN Under-Secretary-General, Achim Steiner, who launched the report along with the Prime Minister of Bhutan. 


The report emphasizes the importance of improving gender balance and points out that there have been crucial gains for the women of Bhutan since 2011. Before democracy, a little more thanten years ago there were no women in parliament. Today there are 11 women parliamentarians.


The report emphasizes that democracy is a path to good governance, which is a pillar of Gross National Happiness, as well as Bhutan’s vision for human development. It looks at the first decade of democracy in Bhutan, and its impact on national governance and, therefore, on human development. The report presents Bhutan’s unique context, where democracy was initiated by the Bhutanese Kings in 2008 after 100 years of monarchy and considers the path ahead.

To access the report, Please visit:


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