Many governments are now focused on putting the happiness of citizens at the forefront of their priorities. Researchers argue that true happiness depends on social capital and not only on financial resources. Research shows that “happiness is intertwined with all elements of sustainable development, and it is integrally linked to the promotion of human rights, especially gender equality.”
The concept of happiness from a German and Arab perspective was the subject of discussion during the Euro- Mediterranean-Arab Association (EMA), third German-Arab Women’s Forum held in Berlin on November 10, 2016. The discussion among four prominent panelists focused on the meaning of happiness and whether the state can be responsible for bringing happiness into the lives of citizens.
UAE Ambassador Ali Alahmad spoke about the UAE’s experience in introducing a Ministry for Happiness and its role in society. He highlighted the role of the government in creating an environment where people can reach their potential and find happiness. He said the Ministry is keen on building the skills of the people and providing services. The UAE government has linked happiness to the principle of gender equality. Societies cannot be happy and cannot function if one-half of their members are not empowered, he said.
The UAE is ranked as the 28th happiest country in the world and the happiest country in the region. According to the 2015 UN World Happiness report, Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland occupied the top three slots. The US is high but behind several European countries and Canada.
During the panel discussion, Prof. Jutta Allmendinger, President of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center and professor of educational sociology and labor market research at the Humboldt University in Berlin, said that according to research, happiness is life satisfaction and a sense of belonging.
She outlined a study conducted by WZB researchers on the quality of life. The data shows that richer people are happier than poorer people because wealth makes them feel successful. Happiness may be a crucial ingredient for success. Unemployment, doubts about career prospects, and job dissatisfaction affect happiness.
Arab countries are in desperate need of promoting innovative approaches to the well-being of their citizens. Happiness can provide them a boost to overcome their challengesSamar Fatany
Productivity and positivity
Science has shown that people are more productive when positive. When we feel positive our intelligence, creativity and energy levels rise. In order to have success and happiness in our lives, we must stop thinking that happiness is dependent on success, and realize the success is aided by happiness.
Today, happiness research has become politically more relevant. Many economists and political analysts view happiness as a serious job for governments. Martina Nibbeling-Wriebnig, head of the government strategy, good living in Germany, Department of Culture and Communication of the Federal Foreign Office, emphasized the need for policies that provide a better life for people and the need for government to focus on the quality of life for citizens as well as economic growth.
According to research, the concept of wealth-creation is no longer the goal of government. Success and achievement bring happiness; therefore, policies should be directed at increasing economic mobility.
Economists advocate increasing educational opportunities and stimulating the spirit of entrepreneurship. Researchers emphasize that those who believe there is opportunity to advance through hard work are happier than those who do not. They also emphasize that people are happier when they are content and have stability in their lives.
There is a lot of evidence that trust is also relevant to happiness. Research suggests that the trusting live longer and are healthier, happier and more successful. Government policies should focus more on gaining the trust of citizens to build a more stable and prosperous society.
Researchers argue that it is important for citizens to learn how to make choices that will increase community happiness. They stress the value of increasing employment and education, and specifically suggest an emphasis on “moral education.” That is, education in the value of helping others, as well as the “control of one’s own emotions, parenting, mental illness” and citizenship.
The discussion was very informative and brought to light a new perspective that could be of great benefit to our region. Such initiatives and innovative solutions could have a great impact on our troubled societies. We need to bring happiness to our communities and work toward implementing policies and practical rules that can promote a happier society and a more positive outlook toward life.
Arab countries are in desperate need of promoting innovative approaches to the well-being of their citizens. Happiness can provide them a boost to overcome their challenges and the determination to achieve a happier environment for their children.
During these times of turmoil, uncertainty and suspicions that prevail within our region, EMA’s role comes as a breath of fresh air.
The genuine German-Arab women exchange is a positive initiative that can enable Arab women to serve and make a difference. Women in the region have the potential to play a bigger role to help their societies prosper. It also remains critical for Arab governments to empower women and support their contributions to protect the future of their children.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on November 19, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”