The International Day of Happiness sounds nice. How is your day so far? Are you glowing with effervescent rays of happiness coming out of your body? As most of us are either in work or at school, I doubt that's the case. As for me, my tire blew out on the way to work and I'm now sitting at an overcrowded coffee shop drinking some watered down version of a latte trying not to punch the woman speaking irrationally loudly behind me. But hey, you can't say the UN didn't try to make your day better!
Sure, the intent of the UN is good-natured; hopelessly ineffective, but good-natured. Apparently, the genesis of the Day of Happiness came from the Kingdom of Bhutan (a small state in the Himalayas) that adopted a Gross National Happiness Index as a way to measure their state's prosperity more accurately rather than use a metric entirely based on income. Now, for a small state like the Kingdom of Bhutan a Gross National Happiness Index makes sense. The CIA World Factbook classifies the economy of Bhutan, as "one of the world's smallest and least developed." So naturally, an index that places the importance of personal and spiritual growth over material goods measures the prosperity of Bhutan more accurately.
According the Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon, the International Day of Happiness is meant to "reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others." OK, I'll bite Mr. Secretary-General. What has your organization done to advance this mission?
Over the past few years, the United Nations has consistently elected known human rights violators to the Human Rights Council (HRC). Let's take Libya for example. Muammar Gaddafi publically executed, tortured, and hanged thousands of people. By the grace of God, Gaddafi was killed last year but what was the UN thinking allowing Libya to remain on the HRC while Gaddafi was its leader? Compared to the countless other blunders by the UN, Libya's election to the HRC is just a drop in the bucket. As another example, this past year, the UN peacekeepers caused a deadly outbreak of cholera in Haiti that killed 8,000 people and sickened countless more. The UN denies responsibility for this outbreak and refuses to give Haitians any compensation.
Unfortunately, the UN shows no signs of increasing its effectiveness. Declaring an International Day of Happiness does next to nothing to help address these issues. In my opinion, this is just one of the many examples of why the U.N has lost its legitimacy. An organization that tries to raise awareness about world problems but that can't actually deliver when it counts has no real place in the world. I begrudgingly will admit that the UN does serve a purpose in so far as it provides a framework for international diplomacy. We live in a globalized world and a structure to communicate, negotiate, and arbitrate between and among nations must exist.
But that should be the extent of the United Nations' influence. Globalized solutions to localized problems cannot work and do not work. The U.N. suggests that we should look to the Kingdom of Bhutan as a leader in progress towards increasing global prosperity. I feel the same, but for a different reason entirely. Bhutan is a prime example of how localized solutions, rather than centralized or globalized ones, are the most effective. The Kingdom of Bhutan saw that traditional GDP didn't work for them, so they moved to a different system.
We should approach all world problems in this manner. What solves hunger, poverty, and human rights violations in Zimbabwe is most likely not the most effective way to solve those same issues in India. Different cultures and socio-economic factors demand different solutions.
So how will you celebrate the International Day of Happiness? Me, I'm going to crack open a bottle of wine and wait to see what fluffy, feel-good initiative the U.N. takes on next.