The International Day of Happiness | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

The International Day of Happiness

/ 05:18 AM March 16, 2019

Next Wednesday, March 20th, is the International Day of Happiness, established by the United Nations in 2013 as the annual day to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.

The 2019 Global Happiness and Well-Being Policy Report was recently presented at the World Government Summit in Dubai (2/10/19). It was prepared by the Global Happiness Council, a global network of leading academics in happiness, led by Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. It has papers by experts that relate happiness to good governance.

Happiness research. Happiness is multidimensional.   It is interesting to study for the sake of learning how a people can get happier over time. The happiness ranking of countries along a single metric hardly matters, except to national pride (see “Track happiness over time, not space,” Opinion, 3/24/18).

In the 1970s, the Social Indicators Project of the Development Academy of the Philippines identified nine social concerns of the Filipino people: 1. Health and nutrition; 2. Learning; 3. Income and consumption; 4. Employment; 5. Non-human productive resources; 6. Housing, utilities and the environment; 7. Public safety and justice; 8. Political values; and 9. Social mobility (Measuring Philippine Development, DAP, 1976).


In 2000, the Millennium Summit of the UN set eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to achieve over 1990-2015: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; 2. Achieve universal primary education; 3. Promote gender equality and empower women; 4. Reduce child mortality; 5. Improve maternal health; 6. Combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases; 7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and 8. Global partnership for development. All UN member states committed to these goals, but achieving them is another matter. The Philippines is one of those that did not accomplish MDG 1.

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH), a concept authored by Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in the 1970s, was set as the national goal in its 2008 constitution.  GNH has nine domains: 1. Psychological well-being; 2. Health; 3. Time use; 4. Education; 5. Cultural diversity and resilience; 6. Community vitality; 7. Good governance; 8. Ecological diversity and resilience; and 9. Living standards. Bhutan has measured its GNH in 2010 and 2015 (“Gross National Happiness,” Opinion, 11/28/15.)

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a Bhutan-sponsored resolution calling on member states to “pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies.” It followed through in 2015 by adopting a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development containing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs, building on the principle of “leaving no one behind,” are: 1. No poverty; 2.  Zero hunger; 3. Good health and well-being; 4. Quality education; 5. Gender equality; 6. Clean water and sanitation; 7. Affordable and cheap energy; 8. Decent work and economic growth; 9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure; 10. Reduced inequality; 11. Sustainable cities and communities; 12. Responsible consumption and production; 13. Climate action; 14. Life below water; 15. Life on land; 16. Peace, justice, and strong institutions; and 17. Partnerships to achieve the goal.


For the Philippines, with its rampant extrajudicial killings and “tokhang,” the most relevant at this time is SDG 16, which states, in full: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

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TAGS: Bhutan, happiness, Mangahas, Social Climate, UN

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