Celebrating the United Nations International Day of Happiness
Monday 20 March 2017 1pm To 3 Pm
Conference Room 8 – United Nations Headquarters, New York
Remarks From H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser
High Representative of the United Nations Alliance Of Civilizations
Excellency Ms. Katalin Bogyay, Ambassador of Hungary to the United Nations,
Excellency, Dr. Mohammed Ali-Al-Hakim, Ambassador of Iraq to the United Nations,
Dear Professor Emeritus, Hamid Al-Balata,
Dear Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Professor, Columbia University Teacher College,
Dear Dr. Ani Kalayjian, Fellow of New York Academy of Medicine,
Distinguished Participants, Colleagues and Friends,
Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of the United Nations International Day of happiness. What is the value of life without happiness?
You all know by now, that the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 66/281 in 2012 proclaimed 20 March “the International Day of Happiness”. While the credit of this initiative is to be given to the Kingdom of Bhutan, this happened during my tenure while I was President of the 66th Session of the GA. It is with deep responsibility that I will highlight the importance of the pursuit of “Happiness” as a fundamental Human goal for building sustainable and healthy communities.
We can observe in the 2030 UN Agenda presenting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, by connecting the dots between water, food and energy security, climate change, urbanization, fighting inequality, empowerment of women and eradication of extreme poverty, that all of these goals lead to well-being and happiness.
The very fact that Member States have come to agree on the need to incorporate the subject of happiness as an integral part of Sustainable Development is proof enough to explain the importance of the issue in the lives of people everywhere and the desire for change in that direction.
It is inspiring to witness a shift in the priorities of the international community to address the Happiness underlying issues that can make all the difference in resolving grave matters of concern in terms of economic, social and political priorities.
It is therefore an honor for all who participate in this Happiness dynamic objective which if and when achieved will definitely become the latest global landmark achievement to bring change for the better in life as we know it.
While the unparalleled advancement in the areas technology, rising economic growth in many parts of the world under incredible levels of productivity and potential for even more, deserves to be celebrated, it has however proven not being sufficient in and of itself to conquer the persistent threats to society. They take the form of hunger, illness, lack of access to basic necessities and services, resulting in destitution, extreme suffering by many across the world. This venom left to spread freely is a proven cause not just for physical illness, but equally importantly for deterioration in mental wellbeing of those affected.
Since we have in our Panel two eminent persons from the science and medical field, I can venture to say that the concept of happiness in psychology is mainly about how satisfied people feel with their own lives and whether they mostly experience positive or negative emotions. Essentially therefore, happiness is about the feeling or experience of joy, peace, serenity, and overall wellbeing together with believing that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile. It is partly about the feeling of positive emotions that come with happiness, along with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in life.
Human nature as we know it is so complex that anything and everything that happens at every step in life affects the state of the mind as well as the physical body. It is therefore imperative that society as whole in all its fabrics takes serious look into how to better engage in improving the activities that affect happiness at the individual, community and national level.
The pursuit of happiness as a measure of people’s well-being is influenced by many aspects including, but not limited to prosperity, level of success in achievement of personal endeavor, social inclusiveness, unquestioned understanding and acceptance of individual and societal heritages, belief systems, cultural, ethnic/racial backgrounds, freedom of expression and, of course, respect for human rights, irrespective of gender, creed or status in societal ladder.
While overall growth in terms of GDP/GNP, technology, academic advancement, and many other indicators is to be embraced and welcomed, more still remains to be done to lift up all members of society from the twisting adversities of poverty and dreadful living conditions as witnessed in many parts of the world.
In this context, note is to be taken that while economic development or growth is of great importance for society to achieve, it can be sustainable into the far future only when done with mindful awareness of the need to protect the environment.
It is no secret how climate change has become a major threat to the ability of securing a reasonable capability of sufficient agricultural products to meet society’s basic needs for survival without suffering from starvation and destitution. This urgently calls for global cooperation to determine the causes and to come up with effective solutions to be implemented jointly to once and for all, bring this imminent threat under control. Needless to say, the public’s awareness should come from all members of society, including governments, public enterprises, private sector businesses, civil society, religious institutions, academia, the media and the younger generations starting very early in life.
Similarly, governments have the responsibility to synchronize political and justice systems to facilitate in promoting society’s general effort towards national economic and social advancement with the vision of realizing better living conditions for the public at large. Political and social stability are among the primary and fundamental requirements for any society to focus attention, resources and capability to work towards effective sustainable growth and development for the achievement of better living conditions for all. Equally important is the role of communities to participate in this direction as partners with the government systems.
As the good old wisdom “united we stand, divided we fall” implies, there is no price tag that can be attached to the reward of creating and fostering a united front to aggressively tackle the menace of poverty, exclusion, violence, intolerance, xenophobia and marginalization of members of societies.
Combatting these threats has been the main concern of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. The Alliance was established at a time when grave tensions deep-rooted in cultural and religious differences spellbound our world. Today through several successful programmes, we serve as a bridge for more peaceful and tolerant human family. To name just few of these projects: The Fellowship Programme, the Youth Solidarity Fund, The Young Peace builders in West Africa and the Plural+ program. They all bring together young men and women from diverse cultures and religions to meet, discuss and work together. They learn to accept their difference and understand how much they can gain from cooperating with one another and find happiness in working TOGETHER.
Focusing on such fundamental programmes that serve the greater good not just within a society, but across the world would attract friendly neighbors and even those far away inspired by the outcomes of the good policies that keep changing peoples’ lives for the better.
This is definitely a challenge that modern society should dwell on to see how it could influence thinking and acting in constructive manner leading to a prosperous, happy, peaceful society enriched with civility, vision, passion and the desire to even go further and further for greater good.
I am determined to combat xenophobia and hatred. However, current events all over the world show us that we still have a long way to go to achieve our goal of global peace and harmony.
My UNAOC Team relentlessly dedicate its efforts to foster respect and tolerance between peoples of different cultures and religions. We work on engaging everyone, from political leaders to grassroots organizations, men and women, youth and elderly, in the pursuit of a peaceful and inclusive world and happiness!