While trying to catch up with my email today I discovered one from the editor dating back a couple of weeks, alerting me to the fact that the United Nations has declared March 20 International Happiness Day. I don’t know how I could have missed this item as happiness is one of my special portfolios in this job. Must have been enjoying myself too much. We are very keen on happiness at MercatorNet.
Anyway, the story is this. There’s a been an international happiness movement for a few years now with the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan taking the lead -- it already has its own “gross national happiness index”, which governments in France, Britain and a few other places (but presumably not Greece, Italy, Spain or Ireland) are trying to emulate. The idea is to bring social, economic and environmental wellbeing into balance, which seems a worthy goal.
Above: The UN happiness team.
March 20th has been chosen, says the UN, because, “Each year, on this date, a universal phenomenon occurs. The sun is on the same plane as the earth’s equator so that day and night are of equal length, creating balance in the earth’s celestial coordinate systems.” Actually, I thought the equinox occurred March 21st, but let’s not quibble. The alignment of the planets is certainly not ppart of my expertise.
This auspicious day is also Nawruz, the Persian New Year, which the UN added to its List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. That should make the Iranians happy, or a bit happier. The Christian world has its own big celebration somewhere around that date for an event which many of us believe is the answer to the world’s unmet need for happiness -- but don’t expect the UN to promote that remedy any time soon.
I’ve just introduced a term that is peppering page one stories in the media this week. According to bigwigs gathered at the London Family Planning Summit there’s a really shocking “unmet need” for contraception in the developing world. Trouble is, the folks there just don’t know it. Michael Cook has a great article on this, with quotes from a Harvard professor.
Also in our latest articles there a piece from Edward Pentin about a priest who faced off the Mafia and is on the way to sainthood; some reflections by Bronwyn Lea on why some poetry is popular; and a piece by me on The Piano Guys -- a musical team that is doing its bit towards increasing the sum of human happiness.