United Arab Emirates (UAE) Prime Minister Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al-Maktoum announced, through tweets on Wednesday, new cabinet members. Among those he gave a newly created portfolio is Ohood Al Roumi whom the PM appointed as Minister of State for Happiness.
Fortune reports that the reason why al-Maktoum appointed Al Roumi to the position was to boost the joy of UAE citizens. As it is, UAE ranked 20th in the 2015 World Happiness Report, based on well-being scores on a six-point criteria.
Al Roumi is not new to government service since she is a member of the Global Entrepreneurship Council of the United Nations Foundation, being the first Arab member. She would remain the director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office, reports Al-Jazeera.
The task of Al Roumi is to “align and drive government policy to create social good and satisfaction” The PM says that the creation of a ministry, tasked with boosting the emirates’ overall mood, is the start of “a new journey of achievement and giving to the people.”
Although UAE is not the first nation to explicitly state a desire for its citizens to be happy, since Bhutan, as early as 1972, put in place a Gross National Happiness Index, human rights group accuse the emirates of using the ministry to distract the world from human rights issues. Nicholas McGeehan, researcher at Human Rights Watch, says the ministry “sounds sort of Orwellian and sinister given that this is a surveillance state.”
However, McGeehan acknowledges the creation of the ministry is in line with UAE’s “quite high self-regard.” UAE placed 20th in the latest Happiness Index by getting a total score of 6.901. Topnotcher Switzerland had a score of 7.587.
UAE’s commitment to happiness was noted by the authors of the report on Happiness Index who points out that by being the happiest of all nations “its citizens feel proud to belong to the UAE” which is part of UAE’s Vision 2021 plan.
The PM also created a Ministry of State for Tolerance, which used to be known as Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, although he apparently has not filled in the post yet.