UNDP report cites new trends to celebrate—and more work ahead | Helen Clark

20 Mar 2013

bhutan landscape Bhutan, which pioneered “Gross National Happiness,” successfully backed a UN Resolution declaring March 20 the International Day of Happiness. Above, a panoramic view of Wangdue, Bhutan. (Photo: Gill Fickling/UN Photo)

Today marks the world’s first International Day of Happiness, thanks to a 2012 UN resolution declaring wellbeing a universal goal and calling for more inclusive, equitable growth to make wellbeing and happiness achievable for all.

Wellbeing is very much on the rise, according to UNDP’s new flagship Human Development Report, which shows developing nations driving economic growth, lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty and propelling many into a new global middle class.

More than 40 developing countries have made greater than expected human development gains through investment in education, health care, and social programs, and open engagement with a world made smaller by information and communication technologies and globalisation.

Among these is Mexico, which hosted the Human Development Report launch and is seen as a pioneer in devising proactive development policies, which have both expanded integration with global markets and proven innovative in social initiatives.

In an unprecedented but little-noticed poll that challenges long-held assumptions, Gallup reported Feb. 25 that only 11 percent of Mexicans would emigrate now if they could—identical to the share of Americans who would choose to leave the United States. That finding reflects how our world is changing.

So why are pollsters and researchers studying wellbeing more intensively than ever before? Measuring economic output alone reveals and predicts little.  

Wellbeing, along with a belief that things are moving in the right direction, translates into positive change. Optimism that, with effort, life will get better is an important predictor of resilience—or of how quickly people bounce back after a crisis or setback.

People who are better fed and better educated, governed, employed, and informed are more likely to lead the world in a positive direction for all. Citizens who feel safe on the streets and secure in their legal rights are more likely to invest in their own future. Well-governed countries that become trusted partners in trade and commerce can experience huge economic gains, which help us all.

Many challenges lie ahead, most urgently in protecting the environment and reducing significant remaining inequalities. But, as this Report shows, we now have much to celebrate on this inaugural International Day of Happiness.

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