How happiness is at the core of a healthy society

  • 2 May 2017

‘Happiness is the ultimate purpose of human existence," said Aristotle. The UAE seeks to reach this ambition through its policies for happiness, welfare and better living standards.

The decision to establish a Ministry of Happiness is historic. The ministry aims to instil happiness as a core value among citizens.

This is evident in the launch of the National Programme for Happiness and Positivity, which aims to convey happiness to Government policy and work environments. An example of this was the selection of 60 "CEOs for happiness and positivity" for federal and local government entities, who have qualified through a comprehensive training programme.

When thinking about the UAE’s pioneering position, I recall the words of Sheikh Zayed, our Founding Father, who said: "Money is not useful if it is not dedicated to serving the people."

This quote is a source of inspiration in the journey to promote happiness, progress and evolution.

It is also the pathway adopted by Sheikh Khalifa, the President, and is at the core of the Stage of Empowerment launched in 2005, which aimed to create an "appropriate environment for the empowerment of citizens by providing them with the necessary capability to enhance their contribution and participation in the country’s social and political life and enhance the country’s economic production and knowledge base".

This is strongly reflected in the quality of services provided for citizens: from the importance placed on education to the development of health care, housing, culture and even the media.

It is also evident in the drive to establish modern infrastructure that meets world-class standards, through the provision of an environment of security and stability and by empowering citizens to work, create and innovate.

On these grounds, it is no surprise that, according to several reports measuring development and progress, the UAE occupies an advanced position in the GCC, the Arab region and the world.

Undoubtedly, the UAE’s initiatives to instil happiness cannot be separated from the country’s vision to invest in human capital. People are our most precious resource. That’s why the state places people’s well-being at the forefront of its priorities.

This vision was emphasised by Sheikh Khalifa before of the 39th celebration of National Day in 2010.

He identified a set of objectives to be achieved by the state, at the top of which was "working hard to achieve social development, to improve quality of life and to realise its development goals through a comprehensive national vision that aims to provide excellent educational standards, adequate housing and world-class healthcare services in a sustainable environment".

His priorities also included empowering women, protecting motherhood and children, supporting the youth, caring for the elderly, paying attention to individuals with special needs, the development of remote areas and "setting the foundations for a rich cultural and social life guaranteeing equality between citizens in terms of rights and duties, offering them opportunities to take part in policy and decision making with a full commitment to respect the country’s traditions and laws".

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, restated this vision on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Abu Dhabi Government on October 2016, saying that: "We want Abu Dhabi Government employees focused on putting happiness of citizens at the forefront of their priorities and to treat citizens well and process their transactions quickly."

According to the 2016 World Happiness Report, released by the UN Sustainable Development Solution Network, the UAE is ranked first in the Arab world and 28th among 157 countries measured worldwide.

The report hailed the UAE Government’s decision to appoint a Minister of State for Happiness. The country is also among the countries that are rated as "very high" in the UN Development Programme’s annual report.

These high rankings did not come out of the blue. They are the fruits of wise plans that seek to continuously invest in building human capital at all levels.

When a community enjoys satisfaction and happiness, it looks at the present and future with confidence and optimism and advances steadily along its development path.

This is what the UAE has accomplished. This is also the secret of the successful Emirati experience. The leadership makes its people’s happiness a priority through policy.

If happiness and satisfaction are the incentives to exert greater and more distinctive efforts, they are also a trigger for the embellishment of positive values in society, such as loyalty, belonging and faithfulness.

These are the values that strengthen cohesion and reinforce the comprehensive stability that the community enjoys.