United Nations – Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development

Jay Owen Beyond GDP


United Nations – Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development

As reported by IISD, February 2013, the UN Secretary-General has
released a note on “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to
development <http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=3DA/67/697>
” (A/67/697). This report, dated 16 January 2013, gathers the views of
Member States and international organizations on the identification of
indicators for the “pursuit of happiness and well-being.”

The report was invited by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in its
resolution 65/309, in which it recognized that gross domestic product
(GDP) does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of
people. Reflecting recent research on happiness and well-being, the Note
highlights national, regional, and international initiatives for the
creation of broader measures of economic and social progress.

Addressing the challenges of measuring happiness, such as the
difficulties of making individual and cross-cultural comparisons, the
report reasserts the importance of focusing on new indicators of
well-being “in the face of persistent, extreme poverty and global
warming.” It suggests that the combination of both subjective and
evaluative data on life satisfaction is one of the best
policy-orientated methods for measuring well-being. National and
regional initiatives to measure happiness include those by Bhutan,
France, Italy, Japan, Qatar, the UK, and the EU.

Overall, the note recommends that governments develop new methods for
fostering well-being beyond GDP growth. This could include better
integration of economic and social policies, the development of specific
environmental policies, and policy indicators that promote sustainable
development. A final recommendation suggests consultations with a wide
range of stakeholders to create happiness indicators containing a shared
view of social progress, to be collectively achieved and sustained over
time. [Publications: Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to
Development <http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=3DA/67/697>
and UNGA Resolution 65/309
<http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=3DA/RES/65/309> ]