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Keynote Address by HRH Princess Sonam Dechan Wangchuck

GNH and Law Conference
17th July 2018 – RITH, Thimphu

Hon’ble Prime Minister,

Distinguished Guests,

Eminent Speakers and Participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you. Scholars, and friends of Jigme Singye Wangchuck School of Law, we celebrate today, the tenth anniversary of Bhutan’s Constitution, and Democracy. Bhutan’s last decade from 2008 to 2018, is a symbolic and historic era that began with our peaceful transition from Monarchy to Constitutional Democracy. This transition was the culmination of three decades of patient preparation. Such mindful planning in pursuit of carefully chosen ends, reflects the way we have functioned, and managed to achieve our many successes. His Majesty the King’s leadership in the building of democratic, and legal institutions during this crucial time, to support our young democracy has led us to the where we are.

Creation of Law School

As we move forward as a vibrant and modern democracy, the Rule of Law plays an ever-increasing and significant role. His Majesty has emphasized that to create a just and content society, we must set in place the strong standards of Rule of Law. Legal education is the foundation, and an indispensable and vital component of such a society.

Name of the Law School

We take the name of our school–Jigme Singye Wangchuck–from our Great Fourth –the father of our Constitution and Democracy. It is His leadership, His excellence and unshakable reputation that inspired us to name the school. As our Nation’s Conscience, it is in His name, we are pledged to uphold our sacred Constitution, and aspire to achieve the goals of Gross National Happiness.


JSW Law’s maiden conference on Gross National Happiness and Law is a significant one. Law and Happiness are not often seen to happily coexist, rather relegated to opposing ends of the room!

This bold step is just the beginning of what we propose for JSW Law. We definitely didn’t take the easy route. We decided that a truly organic and unique curriculum was needed for our Law School. Through years of planning, and consultation with stakeholders both within and outside Bhutan, we have developed a curriculum that is ambitious, but both attainable and sustainable.

The curriculum has been devised to facilitate our research mission. JSW Law will serve as a think tank to support the democratic institutions of Bhutan, including the Parliament, the Judiciary, Civil Society Organizations, and the Executive branch. Through our outreach programs, and original faculty research and scholarship, we hope to initiate, and lead global dialogue among the current, and

next generations of lawyers and leaders, as to how the concept of GNH & Law might be applied across national borders. Our curriculum, and our research strive for nothing short of establishing and institutionalizing mutual co-existence in Bhutan and across the world, and how law can facilitate the happiness of society.

Our mission is to become a leader, and a voice in our region first, and one day have a global voice to address the many challenges of our times.

Ladies & Gentlemen!

At JSW Law, every student will be required to take mandatory courses on environmental law, sustainable development and law, explore the interaction of law, religion, and culture, and develop the field of Gross National Happiness and law. We believe in the quality, and standard of our curriculum, and we are confident of producing generations of future leaders, who can take their responsibility seriously, and carry out fundamental duties with Justice, Service and Wisdom.

Our curriculum will focus upon three key areas that will be honed to propel the global need for GNH & Law, with a clear vision for universal happiness, sustainable economic development, and choices that protect and conserve our environment.

If I may tell you a bit about these three areas:

1) Law & Happiness

Happiness is a subjective concept, which is difficult to define. Simply put, happiness is feeling safe, and protected – which is also the sole purpose of our laws and policies. Happiness is deeply rooted in Bhutanese society, since the time of our founder, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel who said, ‘the law must promote happiness for all sentient beings.’

His Majesty the Great Fourth promulgated the profound concept of Gross National Happiness, with the belief that the wellbeing and contentment of our people should not be forsaken while pursuing development for Bhutan. This is now forever engraved in our sacred constitution, which states (we), “shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of Gross National Happiness,” making clear that the purpose of modern government, law and policy must be to pursue the conditions that create the happiness of society and our people.

Can Law and Happiness co-exist?

With this important meeting of minds, we begin the dialogue today, and will break further ground soon, through our research and curriculum to put in full practice successfully, first in Bhutan, and then the rest of the world. JSW Law will become a beacon of light that will draw others to our pristine and fertile environment, to be inspired and united in purpose, to create better, just and content societies.

2) Law & Environment

Today, we are witnessing unprecedented global environmental change, diminishing global bio-diversity, signs of sure and imminent danger to our survival and the future.

Bhutan is possibly the only country, which imposes a constitutional duty on its government, and its citizens to preserve our natural environment through the adoption and support of environmentally friendly laws, practices, and policies. In particular, the Constitution requires that a minimum of sixty percent of our country’s land be maintained under forest cover at all times. Bhutan’s Constitution makes each Bhutanese a trustee of our natural resources, and

environment. This is our strength, and its pro wisdom endows us with the means

to give JSW Law great purpose and meaning.

3) Law & Sustainable Economic Development

Sustainable Development is an important pillar of GNH. For us, it means utilization of limited natural resources in a sustainable manner for the benefit of present and future generations.

Our constitution has charted out the means to achieve, and maintain inter-generational equity through sustainable economic development by requiring the Parliament to enact environmental legislations to ensure sustainable use of natural resources. This principle is reflected in our Law School, in its sustainable and energy saving architectural designs, and in the core focus of our course curriculum.

JSW Law will deliver on His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck’s vision to transform the legal profession, building a culture of research and legal education, and cultivating fertile grounds for a strong and vibrant democracy.

We have been very fortunate to receive support from organizations lead by people who are present here today. This shows your continued support in our endeavors. Thank you!

We will depend on our existing goodwill, and institutional linkages, both within and outside the country to ensure a diverse and extraordinarily committed faculty, and dynamic team, who will play their parts in the Law School.

It is with certainty that I say, JSW Law will prepare future leaders, who can promote the profound philosophy of law and happiness, sustainable economic development and environmental conservation. We have much work ahead of us, and if we work together in unity and purpose, we can achieve this noble and worthy cause.

Thank you!