Traditional knowledge in the approach to sustainability: Making sense of Bhutanese gross national happiness and Buen Vivir in Bolivian constitution

Folco Ferraris, Silvio Cristiano

Article ID: 2427
Vol 2, Issue 2, 2024
VIEWS - 684 (Abstract)


In the past few decades, due to the global environmental crisis humanity is facing, a sudden growth in environmental policies and sustainability strategies has been registered. This article discusses two of such policies, namely that of Gross National Happiness (GNH) in the Himalayan country of Bhutan and the inclusion of the concept of Buen Vivir (BV) in the Bolivian Constitution, through a critical analysis—based on political ecology approaches—of their implementation within state policy and their wider implications within the global discourse on the so-called “sustainable development” paradox. This paper highlights the role that the aforementioned policies might play in the path to decolonization, seeing as how they draw inspiration from their own local contexts and values instead of those provided by the Global North, more specifically focusing on their ancestral and traditional knowledge to supposedly guide the countries’ policy-making process. Although several points of criticism are identified in both policies, innovativeness is detected in their potential to offer alternative views on human wellbeing, both for global southern and global northern contexts, as their original intent would be to remarkably operate outside of the Western framework of development based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and economic growth. GNH appears to be mostly oriented toward supporting political national budget discussion and allocation, while BV acts at a higher level (constitutional), thus also inspiring overall politics.


sustainable development; decolonisation; global south; paradigm shift

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