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DESA Produces Draft Note on Happiness Consultations

27 November 2012: The UN Division for Social Policy and Development (DSPD), Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), has issued a draft note on the outcome of consultations regarding indicators of well-being. UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 65/309 of August 2011, titled “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development,” inviting States and UN entities to elaborate on measures for the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development.

The note summarizes input from Bhutan, France, Italy, Japan, Qatar, the UK, and the EU regarding national actions on well-being policies and indicators, and from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Women, UN Volunteers (UNV) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) regarding policy approaches.

The resulting recommendations encourage governments to: use broader concepts of well-being that capture the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development; use large-scale data on happiness and well-being to inform policy making and service delivery; conduct stakeholder consultations to identify and prioritize appropriate well-being indicators; expand the well-being content of national statistical systems and use them to evaluate public policies; and prioritize minimum conditions for happiness, such as access to food and basic human rights.

The note also recommends linking the work of the Bhutan International Expert Working Group to existing initiatives of the UN Secretary-General, the UN Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index, follow-up mechanisms to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), and academic and civil society initiatives in related areas.

The note provides background on the difficulties of measuring and making international comparisons of happiness and well-being, but affirms the value of such efforts. [Publication: Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development] [UNGA Resolution 65/309] [DESA Press Release]