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UN Resolution 65/309. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development

I am very happy to note that on Monday 2nd April 2012, the United Nations implemented Resolution 65/309, which had been adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011, placing “happiness” on the global agenda.

The Resolution notes that:

“Bearing in mind the purposes and principles of the United Nations, as set forth in the Charter of the United Nations, which include the promotion of the economic advancement and social progress of all peoples,

Conscious that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal,

Cognizant that happiness as a universal goal and aspiration embodies the spirit of the Millennium Development Goals,

Recognizing that the gross domestic product indicator by nature was not designed to and does not adequately reflect the happiness and well-being of people in a country,

Conscious that unsustainable patterns of production and consumption can impede sustainable development, and recognizing the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and well-being for all peoples,”…

Resolution 65/309 then empowered the Kingdom of Bhutan-who has adopted the “The Gross National Happiness” as opposed to “Gross National Product” to measure the success or failure of its economic policies- to convene a high-level meeting on happiness as part of 66th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

As mentioned above, I was very happy to note this. But you might ask why? The answer is that for the past number of years, I have been campaigning for the teaching of “Happiness, Well-being and Contentment” at our universities world-wide. With this in mind, it is worth recalling a passage from what I had written awhile back:

“Helping to produce happy and contended students, ready to face the real world when they graduate should be the highest priority of any committed academic and university. I have been saying this for the last many years and more , but only in the past couple of years have I begun to realise this isn't just an airy-fairy aspiration, but one can in fact learn happiness in classes…I believe that our education in universities is fundamentally ill-balanced. Of course exams matter greatly - they are the passport to an individual's future work and career. A university which fails to let every student achieve the best grades and results of which their students are capable of is failing to do its job properly. But education is far more than this. It is far more than grades and percentages here and there…As a university lecturer with many years of experience, I have seen far too many tortured and unhappy students who have achieved very high grades. If they can achieve these grades while leading balanced lives, taking part in a wide variety of activities which will develop different facets of their character, and if they blossom as happy and contented human beings, then all is well and good. But as any teacher will know, this isn't always the case with high achievers. Neither is it with high achievers in life. These driven people see their lives flash by in fast living and fast cars, and most fail to realise they are missing the point of life. Is it more important to be highly “successful”, or to be a respected colleague and a valued friend, and a loving parent whose children grow up in a secure environment in which they know they are valued and treasured? I have had to learn the hard way myself, the answers are obvious. Hence the need to teach happiness at schools and universities”…

A plea with all concerned citizens:

We should all seek to identify and bring forward the main Ancient concepts of happiness and their relation to morality, ethics, education, business, economics, politics, finance, management, media and environment, amongst others. The guiding theoretical principle of this undertaking is to clarify and characterize the essential constituents of the concept of happiness as these are reflected in the ancient writings and debates, and to consider their enduring validity within the context of the study of socio-economic well-being and happiness, both at individual and societal levels. At the same time—as politicians, governments and economists and others seek to identify the key components of happiness and how to measure it as an essential dimension of economic policies and planning behaviour— we should examine whether these ancient concepts may facilitate and provide workable platforms for developing a view, or views, on the nature of well-being and happiness that are viable today. We can go a long way towards achieving these goals, if we can begin to seriously consider teaching “Happiness, Well-being and Contentment” at our universities.

Read more:

Resolution 65/309. Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development


Why Happiness Should be Taught at Our Universities?

The Common Good Happiness Project: A Spiritual Quest for the Good Life



Edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs