Towards A Holistic Understanding of Wellbeing for the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH)


Global development discourse has come a long way in its journey of conceptualizing, measuring, and assessing the development of societies, human wellbeing, and happiness. From unidimensional income-poverty measures to multidimensional measurements of poverty and the Human Development Reports, and most recently World Happiness Reports, this journey has taken varied trajectories. Several governmental and non-governmental actors across the globe including the United Nations, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, and the governments of Bhutan, the United Arab Emirates and the state of Madhya Pradesh in India have been engaging with the concept of wellbeing and happiness in varied capacities. In the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, a lead role was taken by Bhutan with its Gross National Happiness model. Subsequently, in 2012, the United Nations declared March 20 as the International Day of Happiness.

At the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), we strive to achieve the long-term holistic vision that “men, women and children of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) enjoy improved well-being in a healthy mountain environment”. ICIMOD perceives that people’s wellbeing in the HKH region is intrinsically linked with enhanced livelihoods, equity, social and environmental security, and resilience and adaptability to environmental, socioeconomic and climate change. However, it is also felt that we need to move towards a more holistic understanding of wellbeing for HKH, which is far more inclusive of psychological and socio-cultural aspects of wellbeing. On this International Day of Happiness (20 March), we welcome you to a two-day workshop on wellbeing and happiness to take forward ICIMOD’s vision.

Key question guiding the workshop: 

While income, health, and education are key pillars through which we understand holistic growth and development, how do psychological wellbeing, culture, and community shape adaptation strategies of mountain communities in the face of socio-economic and environmental change in the Hindu Kush Himalaya?

Workshop objectives:

  • To learn from experiences of wellbeing in policy and planning in different contexts/ countries.
  • To share ICIMOD’s journey and progress of work on wellbeing, with a focus on three domains—psychological wellbeing, community vitality, and cultural diversity and resilience.
  • To arrive at a shared road map for a Wellbeing Framework for the Hindu Kush Himalaya.

Workshop participants:

Experts, scholars and policy makers, predominantly, from three regional member countries in the HKH region—Bhutan, India and Nepal. 

Workshop features:

  • Presentations and discussions by policy makers and key dignitaries from Bhutan, India, and Nepal with a focus on ICIMOD’s research and the experience of Gross National Happiness in Bhutan and the State Happiness Department of the Government of Madhya Pradesh in India.
  • Panel discussion on wellbeing in the HKH. 
  • Group work on building approaches and indicators of wellbeing in the HKH, with an emphasis on domains hitherto underrepresented.