UN Observance Day – International Day of Happiness

On March 20th the UN celebrates the International Day of Happiness, an observance day which considers that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, and invites all stakeholders to observe it through education and awareness-raising activities.


The UN acknowledges happiness and well-being as “universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world” and recognizes their importance in public policy objectives. The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, stressed during a High-level meeting entitled “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm” that “while material prosperity is important, it is far from being the only determinant of well-being.”

In 2012 the first World Happiness Report was released as a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. This year a Report Update was published and it ranked 156 countries by their happiness levels, and describes “how measurements of well-being can be used effectively to assess the progress of nations.” It was prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an international panel of social scientists that includes economists, psychologists and public health experts called together by the UN Secretary General. According to this last report, Denmark ranked as the happiest country, and Burundi as the least happy.

However, we still have a long way to go.

The 2030 Agenda calls upon all stakeholders to work together to transform our world and leave no one behind. One of the most important aspects of this new Agenda is that it recognizes that the three pillars of sustainable development (social, economic and environmental) are interconnected objectives which should be pursued together instead of being competing goals that must be traded off against each other.shutterstock_138947159x

In efforts to assess the development of a country and not their economic growth alone, the Human Development Index (HDI) was created. The Index can also be used to question national policies and understand “how two countries with the same level of gross national income [GNI] per capita can end up with different human development outcomes.” According to the 2015 Human Development Report every region in the world has seen HDI gains. Indeed:

  • People are living longer
  • More children are going to school
  • More people have access to clean water and basic sanitation
  • Extreme income poverty has been reduced by more than a billion

As Mr. Ban stated: “Let us dedicate our efforts to filling our world with happiness.” The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a new opportunity to mobilize efforts to “end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change” which all together will allow us to live in a happier and fairer planet.


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