Across the globe everyone is celebrating International Happiness Day, but for Ohood Al Roumi, the UAE’s Minister of Happiness, this is just another day in her plan toward making everyday a happy one in the region…
To celebrate International Happiness Day (March 20), Ohood Al Roumi wrote a comment piece on Project Syndicate to explain her plans on how she will make the UAE one of the happiest places to live in the world – in the recent World Happiness Report, it only ranked at 28th in the world.
Her sentiments were echoed by Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations, who also delivered remarks on the UAE’s efforts to foster happiness at home and abroad.
In her comment piece Al Roumi discusses how the idea to place more emphasis on happiness and well-being came in 2011 after the United Nations called on member states to start measuring social and economic development. “Since then, many countries have come to realise that placing happiness at the heart of their governance objectives makes perfect sense,” she wrote.
Al Roumi, who recently created a 100-day plan for happiness with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, explained how happiness is a serious business in the UAE.
“The question we ask is not whether we are providing adequate services and sound economic policy to our people, but whether we are making our people happy,” she added. But how do you measure happiness? According to Al Roumi, it’s less of an indicator but more of a “state of being beyond satisfaction.”
“Happiness is knowing that you and your family are safe,” she explained, “that there is opportunity open to you and your children; and that you can depend on a high degree of care, dignity, and fairness in your society. Happiness is not something that is bestowed from on high; we all must work to achieve it.”
The Minister of Happiness explained how her role and the role of the UAE government is to “create an environment that enables happiness and a positive attitude toward life to flourish.”
This isn’t an easy job in a region which is home to over 200 nationalities and is neighbour to countries with ongoing conflict. As Al Roumi pointed out: “We live in a tough neighbourhood. The Middle East is usually not associated with happiness; at times, the bad news from our region seems to drown out the good. And yet we are all bound by the desire to see ourselves and our loved ones thrive and be the best we can be.”
Al Roumi believes the UAE can make a positive impact – “We must ensure that, beyond maintaining appropriate legislative and regulatory frameworks, our country’s entrepreneurs act on the basis of enlightened self-interest.”
Ambassador Nusseibeh is also confident that Al Roumi has what it takes, stating: “Happiness and overall well-being has been a pillar of how the UAE defines its success as a country and is ingrained in our culture and our leadership’s approach… The UAE believes that this conversation should be front and centre, and our new Minister for Happiness has been tasked with making that a reality in our country.”
Seeing women take on more powerful roles within the community is a big part of the region’s planned success. “The UAE firmly believes that gender parity and promoting women’s rights and participation are at the core of peaceful and prosperous societies,” said Nusseibeh.
While both ladies were careful not to reveal too much of the ‘happiness plans’, Al Roumi rounded up her comment piece with promise and hope – “We can work together to create an environment where people can truly flourish and aspire to fulfill their human potential.”