Well-Being Does Not Depend on Income Alone, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses, in Statement for International Day of Happiness

20 March 2017

Well-Being Does Not Depend on Income Alone, Deputy Secretary-General Stresses, in Statement for International Day of Happiness

Following is UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks as prepared for delivery for the International Day of Happiness observance today:

The United Nations has always existed to promote and secure the well-being and happiness of all peoples.  This commitment became even more enshrined in 2011, when the General Assembly adopted the resolution “Happiness:  towards a holistic approach to development”.  The resolution recognized that gross domestic product was not designed to, and does not, adequately reflect the well-being and happiness of people in any given country.  In short, it recognized the need to recognize indicators of well-being and sources of happiness that go beyond economic indicators.

We need more inclusive, equitable and balanced approaches to development that promote sustainability, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being of all peoples.  In the pursuit of such an approach, many countries have undertaken efforts to develop broader measures of progress, often through public consultations, parliamentary commissions and efforts to develop new indicators and understanding of well-being.  I acknowledge and applaud such efforts and encourage other Governments, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, to pursue similar endeavours.

For my part, I would like to emphasize a few points from a global perspective.  Let us remember that Governments have a duty to ensure the minimum conditions for happiness for all peoples, such as access to nutrition and basic services, basic human rights and social protection, particularly for those left farthest behind.  When Governments pursue only economic growth and forget about social and environmental dimensions, it negatively impacts human well-being and can result in growing inequalities and environmental degradation.

Let’s keep in mind that the goal of development is to increase people’s well-being, but not at all costs, not at the cost of the environment or the marginalization of the poor and other vulnerable groups.  As the science on well-being is growing and new indicators are being adopted, we should build on lessons learned, share such good practices and cooperate at the regional and international levels.  We should also think of building alliances with the private sector.  Let’s not forget that happiness is good for business and happy workers are more productive.

Well-being does not depend on income alone.  People are happier when they have personal and job security; when they enjoy freedom of expression; when the environment is clean; when they have strong family relations, based on intergenerational solidarity; when they have a network of trusted friends.  These human needs can be fulfilled in societies where people are empowered to pursue their own goals that ensure their personal well-being, in societies that are inclusive and egalitarian, and where human rights are cherished and respected.

Together, we have built a blueprint on how to come close to building such societies — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — a plan of action for the people, planet and prosperity.  The 2030 Agenda recognizes that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and environmental protection.

Let’s renew our commitment to continue building more just and equal societies to increase people’s happiness and well-being worldwide.

For information media. Not an official record.