Shaikh Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman. Image Credit: Courtesy Rana Al Borno

Ajman: The UAE ranks highest among Gulf countries — as well as and above Britain and Iceland — in the World Happiness Report, it was revealed during the Quality of Life conference in Ajman on Tuesday.

Out of 156 countries ranked, the UAE is 17 — the regional best — beating Saudi Arabia’s 26. A step below the UAE is Britain at 18 while Iceland ranks 20.

Denmark is the world’s happiest country while the least happy is Togo, a small West African state, the report suggests.

The conference, at Kempinski Hotel Ajman, was held a day ahead of the International Day of Happiness (March 20).

The opening ceremony was attended by His Highness Shaikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Ajman. Opening remarks were made by Shaikh Ammar Bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman.

Shaikh Ammar said the UAE’s success was due to its leadership’s commitment to residents’ well-being. He highlighted efforts to increase jobs, essential services, security and infrastructure.

The report — commissioned for the 2012 UN Conference on Happiness under a UN General Assembly mandate — was issued by the Earth Institute of Columbia University in the US.

Report co-author John Helliwell told Gulf News several thousand Emiratis were surveyed between 2005 and 2011 to rate their happiness on a 10-point scale. The report data mainly came from Gallup World polls, which was averaged in the 2012 edition.

A variety of factors like family issues, work conditions and health were also included in the study. Other criteria were based on “business corruption” and “freedom to make life choices”.

The UAE was above world averages in happiness, below in business corruption, while women in the UAE were found to be happier than men.

“You can’t say about the UAE ranking: ‘It’s all because of the oil riches.’ That’s not sufficient explanation,” Helliwell said.

He added that his country — Canada — also had oil wealth but there had been “quite a lot of friction” in how it was spent.

“In the UAE, issues of redistribution of wealth have been without rancour. I admire that. But that is not an accident. We know there are magic keys of happiness — trust, generosity and social connections.”

He had earlier told the conference: “If you dropped a wallet or something valuable on the street, how likely is it to be returned by strangers, the police or neighbours?”

“Someone actually did this, with cash in the wallet, in many places. Helsinki [capital of Finland] was the only place the wallets were returned every time,” he later told Gulf News.

The conference was organised by the Ajman Executive Council in collaboration with Emirates Competitiveness Council.

The conference was attended by over 250 senior officials and decision-makers in the UAE. Panellists included Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Ali Al Nuaimi, Official Environmental Adviser to the Ajman government; Major General Mohammad Ahmad Rashid Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) in Dubai, and Dr Mouza Obaid Ghubash, Chairperson of Standing Committe of Community Affairs at Supreme Council for National Security.