The world clearly needs more days of happiness. Besieged by the rapid pace of our daily lives and the steady stream of depressive news on casualties arising from natural and man-made calamities around the world, we all need more peace and tranquility in our lives. In this context, having at least one day in the year dedicated to happiness is not asking too much. If nothing else, a day devoted to happiness and helping others could help rejuvenate us and perhaps restore our faith in humanity.
The annual World Happiness Report, a landmark survey of the state of global happiness ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The report, released in conjunction with International Happiness Day on 20 March, is produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network in partnership with the Ernesto Illy Foundation.
This year’s report finds Finland once again at the top of the global list of world’s happiest countries, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and The Netherlands, rounding-off the top five happiest nations.
Despite being one of the richest countries in the world, the United States ranked in 19th place, one spot lower than the rank it held on the global index in 2018. The report bases its ranking on six key variables: gross domestic product per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and freedom from corruption.
Kuwait ranked 51st among the 156 counties featured in the index, falling six spots from the 45th place it occupied in 2018. Other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member-nations ranked higher than Kuwait. The UAE topped the GCC rankings with the 21st in the global index
The UAE is ranked 21st, Pakistan 67th, Bangladesh 125th and China is place at 93rd, according to the report. Surprisingly, Saudi Arabia often viewed as a drab country came in at 28th spot followed in 29th place by Qatar and Bahrain in 37th place. Oman did not feature in this year’s index.
Bringing up the list of five most unhappiest countries in 2019, were Rwanda (152), Tanzania (153), Afghanistan (154), Central African Republic (155), and war-torn South Sudan at the bottom of the pile.
The idea of dedicating one day in the year to ‘Happiness’ was conceptualized in 2012 by activist, statesman and then United Nations special adviser Jayme Illien with the aim of inspiring, mobilizing and advancing the global happiness movement.
Through a successful campaign, Mr. Illien managed to unite a global coalition of all 193 United Nations member states, and secured the endorsement of then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, to support the concept of establishing the International Day of Happiness.
In April 2012, speaking on the topic of global happiness and well-being before a high-level meeting of heads of state, ministers and high-level delegates from around the world, the UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said: “We need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”
Two months later, on 28 June 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by unanimous consensus of all 193 member states UN Resolution 66/281 to celebrate the ‘International Day of Happiness’ on 20 March of each year.
The day of 20 March was chosen as it coincided with the March equinox, when day and night are of almost equal duration in most time zones around the world. The day is also celebrated in many parts of the world as a spring festival that heralds the arrival of reviving spring after the dark days of winter. For many people and cultures, the day symbolizes the eternal hope of a better tomorrow that burns within us.
However, long before Jayme Illien began to campaign for a day dedicated to happiness, in 1972, the then King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH) to define and measure the well-being of Bhutanese citizens. The king considered GNH to be more Important than Gross National Product, in measuring the true level of happiness felt of individual citizens. Today, Gross National Happiness is instituted as the goal of the government of Bhutan and is inscribed in the Constitution of Bhutan.
In 2011, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development” urging member nations to follow the example of Bhutan and measure happiness and well-being and calling happiness a “fundamental human goal.”