I recently had the amazing opportunity to join The World Government Summit’s pre-summit in Dubai, where world leaders openly discussed how to keep people happy. In retrospect, this event is rather remarkable. Here we are in 2017 and we are finally discussing humanity and happiness.
During the event, we heard from a variety of successful academics, government officials and corporate executives. The open dialogue was insightful, empowering and eye opening.
This is the global dialogue on happiness from global leaders.
Her Excellency Ohood bint Khalfan Al Roumi, UAE Minister of State for Happiness
Her Excellency Ohood Al Roumi opened the summit by giving us a brief description and set of expectations of the day. “The role of the World Government Summit is to answer the key questions facing society by bringing together scientists and officials from public and private sectors to exchange views and seize the opportunities to come up with effective solutions for these challenges,” she said. “The Global Dialogue for Happiness is one of the most important events on the agenda. More than 300 experts have converged to exchange views and spark a conversation on trends and happiness for people of the world.”
Her Excellency also said that 20 percent of the world’s population is affected by conflict. Her belief, and the belief of the UAE, is that it is the government’s duty to create an environment for the people that nurtures and promotes happiness.
Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan
In his main address at the opening session, Bhutan’s Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said, “If the basic purpose of development were changed from the pursuit of profit to the pursuit of well-being in all its dimensions, the true level of happiness in the planet would certainly go up.”
Tobgay’s speech was not just an opinion piece, but more of a request—to other governments to focus on the pursuit of happiness instead of the pursuit of profit. Tobgay has implemented this theory into his own governing in Bhutan, replacing the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) with GNH (Gross National Happiness).
During his speech, he showcased a number of images of the people of Bhutan and introduced the four main elements of GNH: equitable social economic development, protection of culture, preservation of environment and good governance.
Robert Waldinger, Harvard Medical School Professor of Psychiatry
Robert Waldinger presented on a 78-year-old study from Harvard Medical School on what makes people happy. The most interesting part of this presentation and the study was that over the 78 years of data, the results were mostly the same. According to Waldinger, “None of it was about wealth, none of it about fame. None of it about how much they achieved in the world. Close relationships were the strongest predictor of what kept people happy throughout their lives.”
The study also reveals that loneliness has the most negative impact on our health. Being less connected is toxic for health and happiness. But being connected doesn’t mean more time on social media. In fact, social media distorts our reality and can have a negative impact on the personal relationships in our lives that make us happier and keep us healthy.
Helen Clark, Administrator of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
Helen Clark held the position of Prime Minister of New Zealand for nine years, and during her tenure, she made significant investments into health and education. She believes that happiness is a balance, and that although technology can help us with happiness, a balance between technological advancements, well-being and human progress is necessary.
“The UNDP welcomes this interest in happiness as a way of broadening the conversation about human progress,” she said. Quoting the English saying man does not live on bread alone, she also said, “While economic progress and income generation are important, they certainly did not encompass the whole aspect of growth.”
Gross Domestic Product alone, she pointed out, is not enough. “It is important to broaden the conversation beyond the tyranny of the GDP indicator. There is much more in life than the interest in how much money is generated per capita.”
We now have more information, technology and connectedness than we could have ever imagined. What this summit is trying to do is inspire world leaders, educators and progressive thinkers to increase the knowledge, awareness and dialogue on happiness worldwide. Because if we are a happy world, we are a healthier world. It’s all about progress.