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23 July 2024

International Day of Happiness: UAE maintains its lead regionally

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum reviews the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity (Wam)

By Wam

The UAE people today joined other peoples of the world in observing the International Day of Happiness, which falls on March 20th each year.

The UAE leadership has placed the welfare, well-being, stability and happiness of Emirati citizens at the heart of its policies, plans and strategies and these consistent and tireless efforts have paid off with international organisations specialised in human development giving the UAE top marks in indices of happiness and satisfaction.

In the recent structural shake-up in the federal Government, the largest since the country was founded, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, created a Minister of State for Happiness, the first of its kind in the region and one of the few in the world, who will have the responsibility to "align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction".

"We’ve introduced the post of Minister of State for Happiness, whose primary mission is to harmonise all government plans, programmes and policies to achieve a happier society," His Highness Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.

Sheikh Mohammed underscored that the short-term future will have different national priorities.

"We have a number of priorities to address, such as youth, knowledge development, community development, climate change, future trends, and the post-oil phase. We will develop new innovative mechanisms to address them. Our real success will be measured by people’s satisfaction, what make their lives easier, because the post [of Minister of State for Happiness] is a responsibility in front of Allah and the people, and every one is responsible."

"We want a government that works on building the skills of its people, aside from providing services, a government focused on putting the happiness of citizens at the forefront of its priorities," Sheikh Mohammed continued.

"We need a government whose essence is human and family, education and aspirations to build their future. We need a government with its purpose to build a virtuous society, a forgiving environment, close families, educated generations and equal economic opportunities for all," he explained

The UAE was ranked the happiest Arab country and 28th globally in the UN’s fourth 'World Happiness Report, WHR2016', ahead of some of other advanced economies like France (No. 32), Spain (37) and Italy (50). This year, the report was published in Rome in advance of UN World Happiness Day, on March 20th.

The report, prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, SDSN, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, ranks countries based on happiness levels using factors such as per capita gross domestic product and healthy years of life expectancy. The report outlined the state of world happiness, causes of happiness and misery, and policy implications highlighted by case studies.

It recognises the UAE among just four countries in the world that have a Minister of Happiness among their Cabinet positions.

It notes, "The cause of happiness as a primary goal for public policy continues to make good progress. So far, four national governments, Bhutan, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, have appointed ministers of happiness responsible for coordinating their national efforts. There are many more sub-national governments, from large states like Jalisco in Mexico to many cities and communities around the world, that are now committed to designing policies enabling people to live happier lives," it says.

The World Happiness Report, which ranks 157 countries by their happiness levels, reflects growing global interest in using happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development. Because of this growing interest, many governments, communities and organisations are using happiness data, and the results of subjective well-being research, to enable policies that support better lives.

The UAE has maintained its lead in the Arab World since the WHR was launched four years ago. Its high score in the WHR crowned ambitions and continuous plans over the last 44 years to realise remarkable achievements in political, economic, social, educational, health, tourist and environmental fields. The final goal is to deliver the highest world-class standards of prosperity and welfare to present and future generations.

Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi is the recently announced UAE Minister of State for Happiness, and she noted that the Emirates' average ranking in the latest WHR is 15th.

She said that the government had contacted the international organisations which conducted studies and surveys for the WHR to discuss methods of making the report more comprehensive in terms of its findings, with detailed indices which governments can count on in the processes of policy-making and decision-making.

''We will work with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, publisher of the World Happiness Report, Gallup World Poll and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, to develop the report and even launch more inclusive associated reports,'' she added.

In another milestone, the government adopted the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity on 7th March, which sets government policies, programmes and services that could promote those virtues as a positive lifestyle in the community and puts in place a plan for the development of a happiness index to measure contentment and satisfaction.

The programme will feature several initiatives spread across three areas: happiness in government policies, programmes and services, promotion of positivity and happiness as a lifestyle in the community, and development of benchmarks and ways to measure happiness.

"All government policies, programmes and services must help instill happiness and positivity in society," said His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum after reviewing the programme.

"The role of government is to create the suitable environment for individuals, families, employees to be happy and positive. All our ministries and public entities must be a beacon of happiness in their policies, programmes, services and environment."

"Happiness in the UAE is not just a hope," he said at the time. "There will be plans, projects, programmes and indicators. It will be a part of the work of all our ministries and part of our lifestyle," His Highness added.

Ohood Al Roumi, said that the programme will include Emiratis as well as expatriate residents and visitors. She explained that the programme seeks to align government policies, programmes and legislation to deliver happiness and positivity in the community and encourage government and private sectors to launch, recommend and adopt initiatives in that regard.

Under the national plan for happiness, a charter for happiness and positivity will be unveiled and a guide for customers' happiness and key performance indexes will be developed. The plan will include initiatives for publishing scientific and cultural contents and books on happiness and for encouraging reading in the area of raising awareness about the importance of positivity and happiness as a way of an integrated lifestyle.

The UAE is home to a diverse cultural, religious and ethnic community and has proven it has incredible abilities to surmount social issues to achieve harmony and a peaceful coexistence, a feat that drew the attention of international organisations and institutions to research the secret behind this social and peaceful coexistence model in the UAE.

People living in the UAE strongly value their relationships with family and are committed to maintaining ethics, according to the findings of the UAE National Values Survey by Barrett Values Centre.

The survey covered 4,100 individuals from different segments of the community, 57% of whom were UAE nationals and 43% expatriates aged over 20 years old, of which 54% were male and 46% female participants.

The results of the assessment provide significant insight into ways the government can positively impact the well-being of the people of the nation, and give key inputs to the government by highlighting people's value priorities.

According to the survey, the top values in the UAE on a personal level include caring, family, respect, honesty, ethics, achievement, ambition and commitment, cooperation and being liked.

The UAE was one of two countries among 18 where the survey was conducted that had all positive values in its top ten current values, indicating that people in the UAE are highly satisfied with the situation in the country.

The UAE is the only country among all those surveyed that has the value of 'peace' in its top 10 current values. This has made it possible for the UAE to surpass some of the most developed countries in the world in achieving such a crucial factor to the stability to any community.

Both youth and women were among the highest population demographic including peace, and all seven emirates voted peace as a top value, indicating an increasing feeling of security across the nation.

This result demonstrates that despite the diversity existing in the UAE society, there is a considerable similarity in the values personally held by both UAE nationals and expatriate residents which enables people to coexist in a peaceful and cooperative manner.

On 11th October 2014, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, launched a unique initiative to measure the happiness and satisfaction of the public in government services on a daily basis, using network-linked smart devices.

The initiative, called the ‘Happiness Meter’, sends daily reports to decision makers that will enable them to monitor the types of government services that people are most happy about, and identify the geographical areas where these services are being provided as part of the sustained efforts to develop customer service and improve the happiness of the people.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid stressed that "the ultimate goal of all our initiatives is to make people happy and make their lives simpler by reducing the time taken for completing government services. Through the new initiative, we seek to measure everything related to government services and follow up on a daily basis. While at this stage the initiative is starting with government departments, eventually the private sector should also be included in this programme to improve the life of citizens and residents in Dubai to high quality standards. It will also enable visitors to instantly assess the experience of their visit to Dubai."

Dubai is the first city to apply a daily measurement of the happiness and satisfaction of the public in the services provided to them across all its government centres through a smart system that offers daily reports to all decision-makers.

In his recent insightful commentary, "Why Ministers for Happiness, Tolerance, Youth and the Future?", Sheikh Mohammed said, "The role of government is to create an environment in which people can achieve their dreams and ambitions, not to create an environment that government can control. The point is to empower people, not hold power over them. Government, in short, should nurture an environment in which people create and enjoy their own happiness.''

''Focusing on happiness is both feasible and fully justified. Happiness can be measured, and its evaluation is already the subject of many programmes and studies. Moreover, it can be developed and its achievement linked to material objectives. Studies have shown that happy people produce more, live longer, and drive better economic development in their communities and countries. The happiness of individuals, families, and employees, their satisfaction with their lives and optimism for the future, are crucial to our work, which cuts across every sector of government. That is why there must be a minister to guide and follow up with all government institutions," he said, before adding, "As well as provide leadership to the private sector."

His Highness concluded, ''Ours is no empty promise. We will seek to create a society where our people’s happiness is paramount, by sustaining an environment in which they can truly flourish. And we hope our formula benefits others in the region. The formula is straightforward: national development based on core values, led by youth and focused on a future in which everyone achieves happiness.''

Meanwhile, in his message on International Day of Happiness, UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said, "This year’s International Day of Happiness is focused on Climate Action for a Happy Planet. At this time of grave injustices, devastating wars, mass displacement, grinding poverty and other man-made causes of suffering, the International Day of Happiness is a global chance to assert that peace, well-being and joy deserve primacy. It is about more than individual contentment, it is an affirmation that we have a collective responsibility to humanity.''

''The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is our plan to realise a life of dignity for all people. By advancing progress towards the interlinked Sustainable Development Goals, we can help spread happiness and secure peace.''

The best way to celebrate this International Day of Happiness is by taking action to alleviate suffering. In this spirit, let us use this occasion to renew a global spirit of solidarity to create a safer, more prosperous and more sustainable future for all,'' he concluded.

Since 2013, the United Nations has been celebrating International Day of Happiness as a way of recognising the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. The UN launched 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet, three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness.

The General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution on 12th July, 2012, proclaimed 20th March the International Day of Happiness recognising the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives.

The UN says the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, recognising the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. It also recognises the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.