Human Development Advances as Democracy Progresses in Bhutan

March 12, 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 National Human Development Report: Ten Years of Democracy in Bhutan by Bhutan’s Parliament and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) highlights positive development results during the ten years of democracy in the country. Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering and UNDP Administrator and UN Under-Secretary-General Achim Steiner launched the report earlier today at the Parliament Courtyard in Thimphu.

“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. 

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. 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 Their Majesties the Kings in 2008 after 100 years of monarchy and considers the path ahead.


Since the launch of first Global Human Development Report in 1990, UNDP has produced more than 700 reports. These reports are produced at global, regional and national levels. Bhutan has launched three national reports in the past and this one is the fourth one in series. The first report focused on ‘Gross National Happiness’ was launched in 2000. The second report was on ‘Youth Employment’ produced in 2005, whereas the third report had the theme of ‘Sustaining Progress: Rising to the Climate Challenge’ and was launched in 2011.  The national human development reports are produced following a participatory approach in order to create national ownership. These reports serve as an advocacy tool to influence national policies and programmes in order to promote human development.

To access the report, please visit:

For more information or media interviews, contact:

Dechen Wangmo (Ms.), Communications Analyst, UNDP Bhutan, tel: +975 322424 ext: 135, email:; Twitter: @UNDP_Bhutan