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. Human development, UNDP’s defining mandate, aims broadly to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, happy lives, with responsive governments and the chance to achieve their potential.
The new Report shows developing nations driving economic growth, lifting hundreds of millions of people from poverty and propelling many into a new global middle class. This massive shift is reshaping the 21st century, and extends from Brazil, China and India to smaller countries such as Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia.
More than 40 developing countries have made greater than expected human development gains, through their sustained investment in education, health care, and social programs, and open engagement with a world made smaller by information and communication technologies and globalization.
This is a development success story. Countries that recently utilized development assistance themselves now have the capacity and the means to engage in development cooperation.
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.
Another striking poll by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found people in emerging economies vastly more likely to believe their economic conditions are good and improving—and to be optimistic about their children’s futures.
So why are pollsters and researchers studying wellbeing more intensively than ever before? The reason is that measuring economic output alone reveals and predicts little, as the HDR’s founding authors wrote when they launched the series in 1990.
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, better 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.
Video on HDR