What Saudi Arabia’s impressive rank in World Happiness Report 2021 signifies

Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (AN file photo))
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 May 2021

What Saudi Arabia’s impressive rank in World Happiness Report 2021 signifies

What Saudi Arabia’s impressive rank in World Happiness Report 2021 signifies
  • Societies with higher trust in public institutions and greater income equality appear more successful in fighting COVID-19
  • Increased attention to mental health, wellbeing and happiness may well be one positive consequence of the pandemic

DUBAI: It goes without saying that happiness, or the lack of it, is a subjective experience, unique to every individual.

As such, measuring an entire society’s emotional state and ranking it against another might be considered an imperfect science — though perhaps a fairer reflection of comparative social wellbeing than gross domestic product (GDP) figures alone.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain: The coronavirus pandemic and its myriad of social restrictions have done little to lift humanity’s collective spirits, leading to a palpable sense of loneliness, anxiety, and all-round existential dread.

Indeed, few people outside the world’s conflict zones and epidemic-prone regions can recall a more miserable year in recent memory.

What the experts are keen to know is whether a society’s handling (or mishandling) of the pandemic has had any discernible impact on just how fed up their citizens are, and which countries are outperforming others in fostering wellbeing.

Cue the World Happiness Report 2021, published by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network in March. In the past year, the annual report has sought to measure the effects of COVID-19 on global quality of life and ranked 95 countries in its happiness index.




Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)

Compiled by a team of independent experts, the report incorporated data from the ICL-YouGov Behavior Tracker as part of the COVID-19 data hub from the Institute of Global Health Innovation.

Jeffrey Sachs, one of the report’s co-authors, said: “This is definitely the strangest year in our lives for most of us and in producing the World Happiness Report, because we have been trying, in real time, to understand and monitor an incredibly complex set of challenges and changes that people around the world are facing.”

The 2021 report evaluates government responses to the pandemic’s toll on health, the economy, and psychology, identifying links between trust in state institutions, how COVID-19 was addressed, and the happiness of societies.

Parts of the report measured the impact of the pandemic on the work environment, the quality of social relations, individuals’ mental health, confidence in government procedures, and the country’s ability to overcome the repercussions of the virus outbreak. Other sections examined unemployment rates, inequality, and the prevalence of loneliness.

For the fourth year running, Finland topped the index for happiness, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The bottom five spots were occupied by Cambodia, India, Jordan, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.

Saudi Arabia ranked first among Arab countries and 21 globally. The UAE ranked 27, followed by Bahrain (35), Morocco (80), Iraq (81), Tunisia (82),and Egypt (87).

Trust was shown to be the key factor linking COVID-19 and reported happiness. Of all the six factors supporting happiness, trust was seen as playing the strongest role in helping countries find and implement successful COVID-19 strategies.

The report found that trust was even more important when COVID-19 required the whole structure of private and public lives to be refocused on fighting the pandemic.

“Societies with higher trust in public institutions and greater income equality were shown to be more successful in fighting COVID-19, as measured by 2020 rates of COVID-19 deaths,” the study said.




Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)

“The most successful strategy was shown to be to drive community transmission to zero, and to keep it there. Countries that did so saved lives and achieved more open societies and economies at the end of 2020. This is likely to help them to be happier societies in 2021 and beyond.”

During a webinar marking the launch of World Happiness Report 2021, Sachs said the world was today more focused on happiness and wellbeing than it was 10 years ago, offering hope that improved understanding would ultimately contribute to improved happiness.

John Clifton, global managing partner at Gallup, which powered the report’s data, said research into happiness had demonstrated the highly detrimental effects of loneliness.

“COVID-19 has only exacerbated loneliness. Today, over 300 million people in the world experience that kind of loneliness where they do not spend a single hour in a week with a single friend or family member, which is widening the gap. This is where we can start to make these people’s lives better,” he added.




Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)

Among Arab countries, the data on life satisfaction has shown improvement, especially in Saudi Arabia whose scores have risen steadily since 2017.

“Life satisfaction is very highly correlated with GDP — providing housing, education, healthcare, access to employment, roads, electricity, and people’s basic needs,” said Dr. Louise Lambert, editor of the Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology.

“Life satisfaction is easy to attain provided you have good governance and wealth, so it’s not surprising that Saudi Arabia ranks high because it has more means to be able to take care of people. It’s also certainly the case in the UAE. There are more social welfare programs, for instance.”

But wealth aside, Lambert highlighted some of the “tremendous changes” taking place in Saudi Arabia, which have undoubtedly generated a sense of optimism among the population. “It’s not just noise,” she told Arab News. “It’s being backed up by action.”

She noted that was especially the case for women, who were now able to drive, enter the workforce, and make their own income and choices, thanks to changes to guardianship laws. “You can even go to concerts now and these things really add to the quality of life,” Lambert added.




Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (AN file photo)

“This is one of the strongest things that the Saudi government has been able to do: Offer young people a sense of real optimism, not just a bunch of smoke and mirrors, and these have been profound changes for men and women, but especially for women, and they really back that up by policy and economic changes, which translate into very real social changes.”

Other positive indicators for the Kingdom include GDP growth, social support, average life expectancy, freedom to make life decisions, and generosity. The country has recorded a significant statistical drop in its score for negative feelings, including stress, worry, and sadness.

Lambert pointed out that Saudi Arabia’s social structure and cohesiveness provided a built-in support system for the local population.

“Although people get mental health services in the Middle East in general, there is a benefit if you live with big families because you get to talk to someone,” she said.




Offering young people a sense of real optimism is one of the strongest things that the Kingdom has done. (Supplied)

Looking ahead, she said the Kingdom was on the right track with Vision 2030, the country’s economic diversification plan. For the wider region, she suggested improvements could be made in physical and mental health, rates of obesity, diabetes, and bringing down levels of early heart attacks.

She added that COVID-19 had the unexpected positive consequence of placing more emphasis on mental health, psychological wellbeing, and happiness.

“People are taking it seriously and it has put a spotlight on the fact that how people feel really matters," Lambert said.

“This is part of Saudi Arabia’s vision. I hope they will really back that up now with programs, services, initiatives, mental-health hotlines, and research in universities around mental health and not just around problems because these are a small part, so it’s more about opportunities for wellbeing. This is where positive psychology comes in.” 

__________

• Twitter: @CalineMalek


Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases

Saudi Arabia records 16 COVID-19 deaths, 1,077 new cases
  • The Kingdom said 906 patients recovered in past 24 hours
  • 8 mosques reopened in 3 regions after being sterilized after some people tested positive for coronavirus

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia recorded 16 new COVID-19 related deaths on Saturday, raising the total number of fatalities to 7,553.
The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,077 new confirmed cases reported in the Kingdom in the previous 24 hours, meaning 464,780 people have now contracted the disease. 
Of the total number of cases, 10,267 remain active and 1,562 in critical condition.
According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in Makkah with 348, followed by the capital Riyadh with 225, the Eastern Province with 149, Asir recorded 97, and Jazan confirmed 70 cases.
The health ministry also announced that 906 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 446,960.

The ministry renewed its call on the public to register to receive the vaccine, and adhere to the measures and abide by instructions.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Islamic Affairs reopened eight mosques in three regions after temporarily evacuating and sterilizing them after some people tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of mosques closed and reopened after being sterilized to 1,555 within 126 days.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected over 176 million people globally and the death toll has reached around 3.80 million.


Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
Updated 53 min 55 sec ago

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents

Saudi Arabia to limit Hajj pilgrimage this year to 60,000 citizens and residents
  • The decision was made due to the coronavirus pandemic

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ministries of Health and Hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year, which will begin mid-July.
It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and to be within the ages from 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures. 
Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.
The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”
Meanwhile, a deputy to the Hajj minister said that Saudi Arabia found great understanding from Muslim countries over the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage participants.
Nayef Al-Hajraf, secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, praised the “generous care” accorded by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to serve pilgrims and visitors of the Two Holy Mosques.
He said the decision to limit this year’s pilgrimage stems from the utmost attention that the Kingdom gives to the health and safety of pilgrims.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League (MWL) also welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision.
Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-​Issa, MWL secretary-general, said that a number of senior Mufti and scholars of the Islamic world also welcomed the decision, adding that Sharia (Islamic) law states that it is imperative to take all safety precautions during such pandemics.
The UAE said it supports the Kingdom in all steps and measures it is taking as part of efforts to combat the pandemic, limit its spread, and preserve the safety and security of pilgrims and society.
Minister of State Khalifa Shaheen Almarar praised the great progress made by the Kingdom in the field of science in combatting COVID-19, saying that Saudi Arabia’s “recent scientific achievements demonstrated the extent of its awareness of the importance of science, which is a key driver in supporting the health sector and facing great challenges.”


Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

Saudi Foreign Ministry launches e-service to extend visitor visa validity

RIYADH: Saudi ministries have launched an e-service that allows visitors coming to the Kingdom to extend the validity of their unused or expired visitor visas due to a travel ban imposed by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Kingdom will allow a cost-free extension, granted on the directives of King Salman, for those who were suspended from entry to 20 countries previously announced in February.  
The initiative launched by the Saudi foreign and interior ministries and the General Directorate of Passports would allow the extension of visas until July 31, 2021.
Travelers who wish to extend their visitor visa can head to ministry’s e-platform to perform the necessary extension.


Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
Abdulrahman Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an ‘amazing opportunity’ to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company. (Supplied)
Updated 12 June 2021

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties

Saudi artist’s paintings helping sell luxury Hollywood properties
  • Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million

JEDDAH: A Saudi artist is making a name for himself in Hollywood after his paintings were selected to adorn the walls of some of the famous Los Angeles neighborhood’s most luxurious properties.

Abdulrahman Hamdi’s artwork has been decorating homes up for sale in the film capital of the world, and some of the residential properties his pieces hang in are on the market for more than $14 million.

Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it.
Abdulrahman Hamdi

Hamdi, backed by his mother, his biggest supporter, secured an “amazing opportunity” to work for Premier Stagers, a leading US luxury staging and interior design company, a breakthrough that has helped to provide a shopwindow for his paintings.
And his American success story does end there: A Los Angeles-based real estate magazine has published one of his works on its front cover, and Vogue Arabia ran an article about Hamdi accompanied by a picture of another of his paintings.
His artistic talents were first spotted by his kindergarten teachers but at elementary school he said students paid more attention to football and his tutors often frowned on his drawings.
Now living in Los Angeles, Hamdi, who gained a master’s degree in law, told Arab News that he had been obsessed with fine art from an early age.
“At the time, my kindergarten peers were waiting for the physical education class, while I was counting hours for the arts class to begin. I used to save up money (to buy painting tools) from the amounts I received from my relatives on Eid occasions.”
Abstractionism slowly began to capture his interest and he started displaying his artwork on social media platforms, such as Instagram, with the hope of one day becoming a professional artist.
“I consider abstract art, with its broad scope, as an interesting art. Every day, one sees something new in an abstract painting and feels more of it,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• At first, Hamdi felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.

• Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.

However, in late 2014, Hamdi was involved in a traffic accident that completely changed his outlook on life.
“I was locked up in memories and pains. I even failed to express my feelings in words. I became completely destroyed. I then realized that drawing was the only way to take me out of my sufferings.
“When the unpleasant event was over, colors began to mean something else to me, and I began to deal with them differently,” he added.
At first, he felt apprehensive about displaying his abstract paintings in public, fears that were soon to be justified as exhibition halls rejected his approaches. But he said the reforms now taking place in Saudi society had changed attitudes and art had been given a raised profile through the support of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and bodies such as the Misk Foundation.
Hamdi’s first participation in an exhibition came at the Misk Historic Jeddah event in 2017, and the following year he took part in Misk Art, which encouraged artists to promote their cultural identity in their works.


New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
Updated 12 June 2021

New Saudi fashion forum to launch next week with live event in New York and Riyadh

Fashion Futures was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom. (File/Screenshot)
  • The Kingdom’s Fashion Commission has redesigned the groundbreaking Fashion Futures initiative as an interactive digital platform
  • The inaugural event, Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation, takes place on June 17

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Fashion Commission has announced a new digital initiative that will launch next week with an event that will be broadcast live from Riyadh and New York.
Fashion Futures, which was introduced in 2019 as the first event dedicated to the fashion sector in the Kingdom, will be relaunched as a digital platform on June 17 with Fashion Futures Live: Moving Towards Sustainability, Diversity and Innovation.
The event, which will take place simultaneously in the Kingdom and the US, will be streamed online to participants through a specially designed, interactive virtual platform. It is being presented in cooperation with Fashinnovation, a global platform for sustainability, innovation and entrepreneurship in fashion.
The organizers of Fashion Futures says its aim is “to bring together fashion’s most inspiring leaders, digital distributors and design mavericks for unprecedented conversations surrounding innovation and sustainability.”
Notable international speakers due to appear at the event include: Susan Rockefeller, the president and trustee of Oceana, a non-profit marine-conservation foundation; Rebecca Minkoff, a fashion designer and author of “Fearless: The New Rules for Unlocking Creativity, Courage, and Success;” Oskar Metsavaht, an environmental activist and founder of fashion brand Osklen; Helen Aboah, the CEO of luxury lifestyle brand Urban Zen; and Abrima Erwiah, co-founder of Studio One Eighty Nine, a social enterprise that promotes and curates African fashion.
The discussions will cover topics such as diversity, sustainable-development goals, entrepreneurship and innovation in the fashion industry. They will be moderated by Fashinnovation co-founder Jordana Guimaraes from New York City, and Taghrid Alhowish, a TV presenter and producer from Dubai.
“We are honored to host some of the world’s greatest minds in business sustainability to discuss the pressing issues we are facing today, especially the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” said Burak Cakmak, CEO of the Fashion Commission.
“And since there is no sector that has not been affected by it, virtual platforms such as Fashion Futures enable discussions to break down barriers by engaging experts from all over the world in this critical dialogue, and by collaborating and exchanging ideas we can draw on a wide range of expertise and strive toward a sustainable global fashion industry.”
He said that Saudi Arabia can serve as an example of how to build an innovative, sustainable and appropriate fashion sector, locally and internationally. By working with innovators in the sector, attracting retail experiences and establishing partnerships for education, business development and entrepreneurship, he added, the Kingdom will be able to develop the processes and brands of local businesses to improve them in line with international best practices.
In addition to broadcasting talks and discussions, the Fashion Futures platform will also offer training courses and workshops, with the aim of providing a fertile environment for the exchange of knowledge, innovation and ideas. Another live event is scheduled to take place in December in Riyadh.
The Fashion Commission is one of 11 Saudi cultural bodies established in February last year by the Ministry of Culture to oversee the development and success of cultural sub-sectors.
With the Fashion Futures initiative, the commission aims to lead the way in achieving a more globally sustainable fashion sector, in addition to developing the local fashion industry.