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Public perceptions of Bhutan's approach to sustainable development in practice

By Chhewang Rinzin, Walter J. V. Vermeulen and Pieter Glasbergen

Abstract

This paper focuses on the practical approach to sustainable development in Bhutan and specifically on public views on and experiences with the implementation of this strategy. Bhutan's development goal is 'gross national happiness'. The strategy it has adopted to achieve this goal is known as the 'middle path strategy', which essentially addresses four sources ('pillars') of gross national happiness: economic development, ecological preservation, cultural preservation and good governance, without giving greater emphasis to any one pillar over the others. The paper is based on a survey conducted in 10 districts of Bhutan. Standard pre-designed questionnaires were used for interviews with representatives of three main groups in society: the state, civil society and the market.   The results of this survey, the first of its kind to be carried out in the country, revealed that there is general agreement with the substance of the development strategy, although not everyone is fully aware of its scope and implications. A remarkable outcome of the survey, and one that contrasts with happiness studies conducted elsewhere in the world, was the high score for happiness in a country whose gross domestic product is so small. However, people do feel uncertain and the chosen development path is still fragile. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

DOI identifier: 10.1002/sd.293
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