This year marked the fifth annual celebration of the International Day of Happiness (March 20), a day that also marked the New York City launch of the World Happiness Report 2018 at the United Nations. The dynamic event aptly connected dialogue on the first-ever Global Happiness Policy Report alongside the 6th World Happiness Report, fostering discussion along the lines of both policy and practice. Participation was diverse with thought leaders from academia, government, and civil society coalescing to enhance the discourse. 

The first session, titled Happiness at the Centre of Government Work, was hosted by the United Arab Emirates Permanent Mission to the United Nations in partnership with SDSN. The ultimate goal of the session was to encourage more governments to join the global happiness movement by engaging with the Global Happiness Policy Report and considering joining the Global Happiness Coalition, currently chaired by Costa Rica, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia, and the United Arab Emirates. After welcoming remarks from the UN Under-Secretary-General (Department for Public Information), Alison Smale, the representatives of each country reaffirmed their commitment to the happiness agenda and the government’s duty to ensure the well-being of its citizens by working to close the gap between policy and happiness. H.E Hamid Al-Bayati, former UN Permanent Representative of Iraq, spoke on the historical significance of the International Day of Happiness. This introduction was followed by a presentation on the key themes by the authors of the Global Happiness Policy Report Professor Jeffrey Sachs, Director of SDSN, and Lord Richard Layard, Founder-Director of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

Launched in February 2018 at the World Government Summit in Dubai, the report is written by expert working groups on happiness for good governance. The report provides evidence and policy recommendations on best practices to promote happiness and well-being for all citizens. The session concluded with thematic roundtables encouraging discussion on health, education, employment, personal happiness, cities, and metrics amongst the participants. 

The second session, titled World Happiness Report 2018: Focus on Migration, was hosted by SDSN in partnership with CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) and Illy. With opening remarks from the Chef de Cabinet to the President of the General Assembly, Ambassador František Ružička, this session delved into the World Happiness Report 2018, a landmark survey of the state of global happiness. The report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, and new to this year, 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants—Finland topped the charts for 2018.

“Coffee is quite literally the beverage of happiness, something remarkably simple yet complex that brings so much pleasure to so many every day, while creating development in producing countries with every cup. So the idea of supporting a project like The World Happiness Report, and the brilliant work of Professor Sachs and his team, is only natural for illy,” said Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffè and Member of the Board of Fondazione Ernesto Illy. “This year’s focus on happiness throughout Latin America means a great deal to us. Two-thirds of our coffee is purchased directly from farmers in Latin American countries, who receive a large premium over market prices for meeting our high quality standards, and whom we educate to help them achieve that quality. This model puts into motion virtuous cycle that enables farmers to invest deeper in quality and land, which creates economic growth that sustains over time, and with it more pleasurable lives for them, and more pleasure in the cup for devotees of our coffee.”

The World Happiness Report 2018 was also launched internationally at The Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on March 14, with opening remarks from notable speakers: Monsignor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, President Joachim von Braun, Andrea Illy, and Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

This year’s rankings were presented by Professor John Helliwell (University of British Columbia, CIFAR) followed by a brief presentation of the importance for a focus on migration. With happiness increasingly considered to be a key measure of social progress and a fundamental goal of public policy, and with migration emerging as a defining feature of the 21st century, Professor Helliwell emphasized the timely release of the report and the ability for its data to inform policy-making at large. The rankings were followed by a discussion with two of the authors of the report, Martijn Hendriks and Julie Ray, outlining their chapter: “Do International Migrants Increase Their Happiness and That of Their Families by Migrating?” Finally, Professor Sachs presented his chapter on America’s Health Crisis and the Easterlin Paradox, positing that the three interrelated epidemic diseases that systematically undermine America’s subjective well-being are obesity, substance abuse (especially opioid addiction), and depression.

SDSN was thrilled to be involved in this key dialogue, amalgamating policy work and data research on both happiness and migration. Indeed, 2018 promises to be an enterprising year for the global happiness movement.