A Just and Harmonious Society

At a time when much of the world interpreted the purpose of development as economic development, Bhutan offered a higher goal for human development– happiness. The concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH), adopted by Bhutan as a measure of the development process, is now a globally known expression.

The theme for the Autumn 2024 issue of The Druk Journal is drawn from the credence that, for humankind, happiness is a more holistic goal for development. The premise is that, while the pursuit of happiness may be a personal quest, there can be no real happiness without the family, community, and society. From this, we draw the concept of a happy nation, a happy society.

Thus Bhutan’s vision for nation-building- a “just and harmonious society” (His Majesty The King– 2015, 2016)– is the theme of the 20th issue of The Druk Journal.

The Promise

There are different interpretations of happiness because there are different circumstances in different countries for different people. For Bhutan, His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who coined the phrase in 1979, has explained that happiness in Gross National Happiness is contentment.

The discussions and arguments presented in the articles emphasise that there are numerous terms that broadly convey the same promise: inclusivity, equality, equity, non-discrimination, fair services… They are all generally in the context of universal human rights as accepted by the United Nations.

All members of the United Nations formally committed to “leave no one behind”. This is a promise of development, progress, and prosperity adopted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) signed by 193 countries. It is a pledge to eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities, and end discrimination. With non-discrimination and equality, inclusion and participation, accountability, and transparency, as the guiding principles, it prioritises the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society.

Equality is the imperative of moving towards substantive equality of opportunity and outcomes for all groups. Equity is fairness in the distribution of costs, benefits and opportunities. Non-discrimination is defined as the prohibition of discrimination against individuals and groups on the grounds identified in international human rights treaties. Inclusion is a universal human right- to embrace all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, medical or other needs. (UNCEB, 2017).

The Reality

The intention behind this pledge is necessary and noble; the promises are articulate. Yet human society is more fragmented than ever. The gaps between different groups of people continue to widen and inequality is becoming more visible at the global and national levels. The aspiration to bring the “haves” and “have-nots” closer together is a broken promise.

We live in a world where a few individuals plan holidays to the moon while hundreds of millions have no safe drinking water, personal security, self-esteem, and dignity. The SAARC region boasts thousands of millionaires and billionaires but struggles to provide one meal of dhal-bhat (dhal and rice) a day for hundreds of millions of people.

The Vision

The vision of a future Bhutan is that within the sovereign, peaceful, and prosperous nation will exist a “just and harmonious society”. The concept of a just and harmonious society does not come from a specific body of political thought or social theory but is what every human society pursues. It is a vision shared by intellectual giants of the past and prophets of the future.

For Bhutan, a just and harmonious society as the goal for nation-building implies the transformation of a deeply traditional society into a modern populace, balancing cutting-edge technology and progressive work culture with a humane value system. The focus is on community and interdependence as opposed to individualism. The emphasis on redistribution of resources, wealth, and income, as one’s responsibility to society, outweighs the individual’s rights.

This comes at a time when Bhutan is experiencing an unprecedented outmigration of citizens seeking employment in other countries. Most Bhutanese believe that the “pull factor” for the out-migration of Bhutanese is employment and higher earnings, but there are some who point out the “push factor” as the inequalities of a hierarchical society. A society that has existed as an extended family in a benevolent Monarchy feels the stress of inequities in opportunities that favour the wealthy section of society.

“Our nation has seen great socio-economic growth but it is more important that we have growth with equity. We must raise, with all our efforts, the less fortunate so that they may, at the earliest, begin to partake in the opportunities brought by modernisation and progress. We must never forget that, for lasting peace and happiness in this world, the journey forward has to be one that we must all make together.” (His Majesty The King- National Day, 2012)

A just society, based on legal and Buddhist jurisprudence, can be defined by rights, fairness, virtuous actions, and values… it ensures the protection of everyone’s civil, political, economic, cultural, and social rights. The list goes on: non-violence, peaceful co-existence, compassion and tolerance, values that are vested by natural and framed laws for the “common good” or the “greater good”. In Bhutan’s context, we also understand the values placed on the co-existence of all life, and that what we do today will have an effect or bring about conditions for the future.

The GNH interpretation of the Royal vision of “a just and harmonious society” places on the State the mandate to create the right conditions for well-being and happiness. Good development means to promote collective happiness as its ultimate value, a notion often advised by His Majesty The King:

“Time is slowly telling us that there can be no lasting individual success without success as a community and there cannot be lasting national progress and success if it does not fit into a future of global peace, harmony, and equality. The world must progress together or fail together.” (His Majesty The King– India, 2009)


We call for contributions to the next issue of the Druk Journal on the theme of A Just and Harmonious Society

  1. Synopsis: Submit before 30th June 2024 – Submit your concept or synopsis (one or two paragraphs) to the editor, which will be reviewed, and sent back to the writer with feedback.
  2. First Draft: Submit before 31st July 2024. Start writing the first draft after receiving the synopsis review. Early drafts will have the advantage of more detailed comments. The editor reviews the first draft and sends it back to the writer for further improvement.
  3. Final Draft: Submit before 19th August 2024. The writer finalises the article with necessary editorial inputs and changes and submits it to the editor for final editing by mid of March 2024.
  4. Word Limit: 1,000-3,000 words (For research articles can go up to 4,500 words)
  5. Font: Adobe Caslon Pro

Note: Refer to our style guide thoroughly before writing to orient with the writing style of The Druk Journal.

Style Guide

The Druk Journal (TDJ) Style Guide

1. The structure of the journal

  •  The Theme: Each issue of TDJ will carry a theme that is contemporary, relevant, and important for Bhutan and Bhutanese society. It will be a journal of analytical, thought-provoking articles (between 1,500 and 3,000 words) looking at the theme from different perspectives. The length of research articles can be longer and determined in consultation with the editor.
  • Each issue will contain a mix of approaches to the theme: a section of serious articles on the theme; articles looking at similar issues in other countries; interviews and book reviews on the theme.

Read More