Democracy and Gross National Happiness—the experience of Bhutan | Evening conversation w Jigme Thinley, London 11 June 2019

Democracy and Gross National Happiness – the experience of Bhutan | London, 11 June 2019

Evening event with the World Leadership Alliance–Club de Madrid on 11 June 2019, 6–7.30pm at Bates Wells, London

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?

The event is free of charge. Please register your attendance via the Bates Wells website. For enquiries, please contact John Lotherington.


11 June 2019


Bates Wells Braithwaite
10 Queen St Pl
London EC4R 1BE


The World Leadership Alliance-Club de Madrid is the largest forum of former democratic presidents and prime ministers who aim to bring change for institutional and leadership strengthening, development and the wellbeing of citizens.

The Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development (FDSD) brings together civil society, government, business and academia to explore the relationship between sustainable development and democracy and contribute ideas for its adaptation and transformation.

Our hosts are Bates Wells and Tomorrow’s Company. BWB became the first law firm to certify as a B Corporation or B-Corp, a status awarded to socially conscious businesses that meet externally audited rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Tomorrow’s Company are a pioneer research and innovation not for profit, who specialise in enabling business to be a force for good in society.

Jigmi Thinley served as Prime Minister of Bhutan from April 2008 until July 2013. Thinley received a graduate degree from The Pennsylvania State University. In 1992 he became secretary of the Ministry of home Affairs, and was subsequently appointed as Deputy Minister of home Affairs in January 1994. Later that year he was appointed as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. He was Prime Minister twice prior to the beginning of democracy in Bhutan, first from July 1998 to July 1999, and again from August 2003 to August 2004. In 2009 Thinley became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organization’s International Advisory Board, contributing his experience to the organization¹s goals of poverty reduction and sustainable development. He stressed the need to focus on the Bhutanese notion of ‘gross national happiness’ rather than purely economic decision making. In 2014, Thinley received an honorary degree from Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium.