In 2012, the United Nations (UN) declared March 20 to be observed as the International Day of Happiness.
The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all peoples.
The United Arab Emirates is the first Muslim country to take a step in this regard by appointing its first ever minister of state for happiness in February 2016.
The woman who leads the country’s attempt to secure happiness for its citizens is Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi.
Al Roumi’s ministry aims to promote the UAE’s plans, programs and policies to promote happiness in the UAE society.
In addition to her role in UAE, The United Nations Foundation has also announced the selection of H.E Al Roumi for membership of the Global Entrepreneurship Council (GEC), making her the first Arab member in the council.
UAE, the oil rich seven-state federation, was ranked No 20 on the World Happiness Report in 2015, above the United Kingdom and below Belgium.
What would a minister of happiness do?
In theory, a minister of happiness works to improve the levels of happiness in the country through a variety of policies measuring the effectiveness of the government’s various social welfare programs.
Speaking of her role, Ms Al Rumi said:
“Happiness is a serious job for governments. The main job for the government is to create happiness. In 2011, the UN encouraged the member countries to look at happiness for a holistic approach for development.”
Ms Al Roumi, who was speaking to CNN, said: “The role of the government is to create an environment where people can flourish – can reach their potential – and choose to be happy.
“For us in the UAE, happiness is very important. I am a very happy and positive person and I choose to be happy every day because this is what pushes me, this is what motivates me, this is what gives a sense of purpose to my life, so I always choose to see the glass half full,” she said.
Who invented the idea?
Bhutan is a tiny and remote kingdom nestling in the Himalayas between its powerful neighbors, India and China. The Bhutanese government believes that every citizen’s pursuit of happiness is its main goal. This goal is actually enshrined in article 9 of the country’s constitution.
This is why every single person in the country gets asked the question ’’are you happy?’’ as part of the census of the population. In the last census carried out in 2015, 35% of the population answered ’extremely happy’, 47.9% said they felt ’moderately happy’, and only 8.8% of respondents said they were ’unhappy’.
Since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. Instead, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.
Another country that joined the race of happiness is Venezuela who has reportedly created a Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness in 2013.