Monaco, 20 March 2013
Dear Mr. Pierre Cristodoulis, President of CIFA
Dear Mr. Jean-Pierre Diserens, Secretary General of CIFA
Distinguished Representatives of Civil Society,
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me, in my capacity as High Representative of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, to address this unique audience, in this wonderful place on the occasion of the first celebration of the International Day of Happiness! I sincerely thank CIFA for hosting this innovative event, here in beautiful Monaco!
The International Day of Happiness is an initiative, which aims to promote happiness as a universal goal for all. The enabling resolution (A/66/L.48) was adopted on 28 June 2012, by consensus at the United Nations General Assembly, during my tenure as GA President.
The initial documents of the United Nations, such as the Charter, do not make specific reference to human happiness as an overriding goal of international institutions. The Charter does however specifically mention the “untold sorrow” and misery brought upon mankind by the “scourge of war.” It makes explicit provision for promoting “social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,” the necessary conditions for promoting human happiness. But, the entire framework and impetus for better international arrangements to promote peace and human progress do bring in mind, ideas that have roots in the Enlightenment and the writings and actions of such men as John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Jean-Jacque Rousseau, among others. These thinkers helped to establish life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as a transcendent statement of human rights and existence.
The International Day of happiness grew out of a high level meeting addressing: “Happiness and well being: defining a New Economic Paradigm” convened by the Kingdom of Bhutan and myself, President of the GA. The Secretary-General, for his, saw this initiative as a new paradigm, which recognizes a linkage with the pillars for sustainable development: “Social, economic and environmental well being are indivisible”. For my part, I stated during that high level meeting that: “It is imperative that we build a new creative guiding vision for sustainability and our future, one that will bring a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach that will promote sustainability, eradicate poverty and enhance well-being and happiness”.
Indeed, I am very proud that the General Assembly under my leadership acknowledged that in order to attain global happiness in humanity, a balance between family and work must accompany social development. “The development and general well being, for economic family has an irreplaceable role for the happiness of its members, for peace and social cohesion, for educational growth and social integration.” Let’s preserve that happiness!
There is, at last, an awakening from the government side that happiness does not depend exclusively on a solid economic structure, but must also rely on a sustainable development which is more equitable. Protecting our own natural environment contributes to our well being.
While the 193 member States called it an “holistic approach to development that promotes sustainable happiness and well being”, let’s give back the credit for this initiative to the Bhutan, a small Kingdom in the Himalayas, which is the only country that maintains since the 1970’s a Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. This index is constructed around nine broad categories: Psychological well being, Health, Education, Time use, Cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards.
Alliance of Civilizations:
I am glad to see that several of these domains are also found in the priorities of the “Alliance of Civilizations”.
The Alliance of Civilizations is a platform on which the international community can build greater understanding and communication to stem the tide of intolerance and misunderstanding, which is sometimes deliberately promoted for political ends. It can offer the family a new perspective of hope and peace for security and development.
Let me also call the attention of gathering to the role of sports, arts, music and other forms of collective expressions of human values. These celebrations of humanity’s noble yearnings can foster the culture of peace, and the Alliance of Civilizations should make every effort to use them to that end. I am deeply convinced that in a world with so much violence, intolerance, xenophobia, marginalization, tensions and conflict, the Alliance of Civilizations teaches us how to cultivate peace.
Happiness as a personal Odyssey!
What brings happiness? Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Locke, and many others found it difficult to agree on what constituted human happiness since each offered different criteria for judging happiness. In recent times, we have taken a more pragmatic, survey-oriented approach. In 1999, before adopting the 2000 Millennium Declaration, the United Nations conducted the world’s largest ever public opinion poll with 57,000 adults from 60 countries. On the question “What matters most in life?” people from everywhere valued good health and a happy family life more highly than anything else (doc. A/54/2000 of 27/3/2000). In that survey, the 2nd highest priority was job creation.
Not surprisingly, we can observe in the landmark 2000 Millennium Declaration signed by 191 heads of States and governments, as well as in the 2001 roadmap for the 8 Millennium Development Goals, the great emphasis given to health and the basic needs of the family, such as: water, food, primary education, child mortality, empowerment of women, eradication of extreme poverty. This is where, for a billion of human beings, happiness can begin, and where we must contribute our collective support. In 2015, these 8 UN millennium development goals, known as MDGs, will become SDGs or sustainable development goals, which is where “happiness” can start for millions of people.
One can find happiness in doing something for others, in valuating friendship and family as the meaning of life, putting some cheerfulness in the work place. Celebrating by giving back to others! Being creative, being together, opening up to people, keep smiling, back to basic: say hello! Finding your soul mate, continually growing and expanding. In the end, happiness may simply be having a purpose in life.
In 2013, the predominant factor listed in surveys by young people as being integral to their happiness is a positive relationship with their family. As we can observe, happiness has not changed since the 1999 survey! Let’s preserve that happiness!
The great religions of the world all have their ideas of happiness. In Buddhist philosophy the stress is on “karunâ” and “bikku” which are forms of solidarity and compassion and are close to « zakat », a pillar of Islam, or to the « tsedeka » in Judaism (which also means « justice »!). These have the same tonality as love and charity in Christianity. These concepts are as old as humanity and they constitute the basis for human well-being, solidarity and happiness.
These universal concepts simply give a purpose in life from whatever cultural background we come from! Let’s embrace them with passion…beginning with the eight UN millennium development goals as the basic principles for sound, equitable, just and happy societies.
While Aristotle held virtue to be necessary for a person to be happy, Plato saw the human soul consisting of three parts: reason, will and desire. He was convinced that “a man is happy when all three parts of the soul are in balance.” But in closing we may turn to our friend Mathieu Ricard since every thing at the CIFA Forum last year on the issue of “happiness” started with him! If we are truly happy, writes Ricard, “We can change the world because of our compassion for others and our desire to end hatred and bring happiness even to those we don’t like “.