August 29, 2022
The “World Happiness Report 2022” was published on March 18, 2022, by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative of the United Nations.[i] This was three weeks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and nearly three years after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. The first report was issued in 2012. These reports are written by a group of independent experts and the views expressed in the reports do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization, agency, or program of the UN.
The reports by the SDSN reflect assessments combining “external key determinants of happiness” and the more “personal features”. The former includes income, work, community and governance, values and religion, and the latter mental health, physical health, family experience, education, gender, and age. Thus, their findings are based on analyses of the environmental elements of happiness as well as the human mind.
For the fifth year in a row, Finland continues to occupy the top spot, with a score significantly ahead of other countries in the top ten. Denmark continues to occupy second place, with Iceland up from 4th place last year to 3rd this year. Switzerland is 4th, followed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The top ten are rounded out by Sweden, Norway, Israel, and New Zealand. The following five are Austria, Australia, Ireland, Germany, and Canada.
The Report says that with trend convergence in happiness between Eastern and Western Europe, the three countries with the greatest growth in average life evaluations over the past 10 years were Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania, with gains averaging 1.4 points on the 0 to 10 scale, or more than 20% of their levels in the 2008-2012 period. Bulgaria and Romania became member states of the EU on January 1, 2007. Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012. How the war in Ukraine will impact their ranking in the next report remains to be seen.
Under “Global Patterns of Peace with Life” the Report says:
“The list is topped by the Netherlands (97.6), followed by Iceland (97.3), Taiwan (95.6), Finland (95.1), Norway (94.9), Lithuania (94.6), Saudi Arabia (94.6), Malta (94.4), Denmark (94.1), and Austria (93.9). These high levels are in contrast to the bottom ten, featuring Pakistan (65.7), Hong Kong (65.1), Iran (64.1), Zimbabwe (63.9), Uganda (63.5), Turkey (62.6), Congo Brazzaville (62.3), Georgia (57.2), Mali (50.5), and Lebanon (46.9).”
In the ranking of happiness 2019-2021 list, Türkiye ranks 112among 146 countries. At the end of the list is Afghanistan. In other words, if it were to be read in reverse Türkiye would rank 34 on the unhappiness list.
In the ranking of happiness 2010–12 list, it ranked 77. Had there been a report in 2006, Türkiye could have ranked higher, reflecting an even more dramatic later fall.At the time, it was on the democratic path and a pillar of regional stability whose partnership was sought. Yes, the EU accession process was an open-ended exercise fraught with difficulties, but it enhanced our regional role. President Obama had made a landmark visit to Ankara praising Turkey’s secular democracy. Our relations with Russia were stable and continued to expand. Relations with China, India, and other emerging powers offered new prospects. None of this is to say that we had no external challenges. But our agenda was a positive one.
Then, our democracy started to falter as the Arab spring threw the region into turmoil. Türkiye’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) saw the protests as a window of opportunity to recklessly support the Muslim Brotherhood across the region. It assumed a leadership role in the regime change project in Syria. Non-interference in Arab affairs ceased to be an axiom of Turkish foreign policy. Soon, we were back on the Bosporus Bridge again, this time moving in the opposite direction. Inevitably, our horizons narrowed down to the Middle East and thus I proved wrong.
Today, Türkiye is a deeply polarized country with its democracy, economy, and global standing in sharp decline, and its people suffering from deep anxiety. How could we possibly rank higher than 112th in the World Happiness Report 2022?
Next year will mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of the Republic under the visionary leadership of Ataturk. It will also be the year of reckoning for the Turkish people.