People in Tunisia, Nigeria, Mali, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Haiti are happier than those in Botswana. Tunisia is where the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (better known by its street acronym, ISIS) has begun terrorising both citizens and non-citizens alike; Nigeria is where not a day goes by without Boko Haram beheading people; the OPT is where the indigenous people – who are not on Survival International’s list, live under brutal Israeli oppression; Ethiopia is where millions are suffering effects of the worst drought in 25 years; Zimbabwe is where hundreds of thousands are starving; and Haiti is an ill-fated wasteland that suffered a devastating earthquake six years ago and just happens to have the lowest Human Development Index in the Americas.
However, all these countries score more than Botswana in the latest edition of the World’s Happiness Report for which 157 countries were surveyed. The measurement considers six factors: GDP per capita, healthy years of life expectancy, social support (as measured by having someone to count on in times of trouble), trust (as measured by a perceived absence of corruption in government and business), perceived freedom to make life decisions, and generosity (as measured by recent donations).
The report says that differences in social support, incomes and healthy life expectancy are the three most important factors. Respondents were asked to evaluate their current lives on a ladder where 0 represents the worst possible life and 10, the best possible. For the world as a whole, the distribution is very normally distributed about the median answer of 5, with the population-weighted mean being 5.4. Averaged over the years 2013 to 2015, Botswana’s ranking of happiness is 137, meaning that it beats only 20 countries. The country scores 3.974 on a 10-point scale, with the lowest averages being for generosity and corruption.
Compared to the 2005-2007 score when the country was in position 123, the country has dropped by 0.765. Alongside Greece, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, India, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Yemen, Botswana is in the group of “the 10 largest happiness declines.” Some would be inclined to associate the report with the frivolity that often characterises western scholarship but the United Nations now considers happiness to be a proper measure of social progress and the goal of public policy. Four national governments ÔÇöBhutan, Ecuador, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela ÔÇö have appointed ministers of happiness responsible for coordinating their national efforts.
The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012, in support of the High Level Meeting at the United Nations on happiness and well-being. One of the report’s editors is Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s leading experts on economic development who is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Sustainable Development Goals and played the same role with Millennium Development Goals. This is the fourth World Happiness Report. Although it was supposed to have come out next year, the editors say that they were invited to prepare a shorter report in 2016 that would be released in Rome in March 2016, close to World Happiness Day – March 20.