Bhutan's new school of law looks beyond winners and losers

Signal of change / Bhutan's new school of law looks beyond winners and losers

By Daniel Riveong / 10 Apr 2015

The Kingdom of Bhutan has chartered a new school of law that will incorporate Bhutanese ideals of community law. This is part of the government's overall mission to bring national prosperity through happiness.

The Bhutanese government has been concerned that lawyers are returning from training in Western nations with adversarial winner-takes-all approach to solving disputes. The government aims to marry Western law with the Bhutanese concept of community justice, preferring negotiated settlements to adversarial lawsuits. 

In 1971, the country rejected using the GDP as the only measure of a nation's prosperity. In its place, Bhutan created the Gross National Happiness (GNP) index based on measuring physical, environmental, social, and spiritual health of its people. All proposed government policies are required to improve the GNP.

The school opens this spring and expects to have its first class in 2017.

Image credit: Asian Development Bank / Flickr 

So what?

From the Occupy Movement to corporate backlash against Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, discussions about social justice and social harmony has been high in the global media. Indeed, even governments are paying closer attention to such issues. In the past two years, Singapore, Dubai, and the United Kingdom issued their own happiness index, much like Bhutan's. 

Bhutan's new approach to law is a testing ground for creating a legal culture where the courtroom is not about competing sides, but a place of mediation that provides mutually beneficial options for all sides.

Can Bhutan's focus on mediation and restorative justice pave the way for a culture - both in the courtroom and beyond - where it's not always about winners and losers?


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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