human rights

PH ranked among ‘weak states’ in 2023 UN World Happiness Report
PH ranked among ‘weak states’ in 2023 UN World Happiness Report
According to the UN report, effective governments are shaped by establishing peace and security, among other capacities

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines was classified under the bottom-most “weak states” cluster of the 2023 World Happiness Report (WHR) by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The clusters were based on government effectiveness, which was linked to the people’s level of happiness.

The Philippines also ranked 76th among 109 countries in the happiness report. The ranking was based on a three-year average of life evaluation from 2020 to 2022. 

The Philippines’ average score of 5.523 was culled from 2020 and 2021 survey answers to the Cantril ladder, with 10 representing the best possible life, and 0 the worst. 

The latest score was lower from the Philippines’ average of 5.88 from the report in 2022 which placed the country at No. 61 among 149 countries.

According to the UN report, effective governments are shaped by establishing peace and security, among other capacities. Maintaining internal peace and security, however, was a problem in the Philippines and other countries that saw higher repression from 2006 to 2016.

These countries also faced consequences such as limitations in raising revenue, protecting property rights, supporting markets, and delivering welfare services.

Repression in the Philippines

Human rights workers and activists in the Philippines, for example, continued to face challenges and were red-tagged.

Recent cases include the red-tagging of community doctor Natividad Castro, who helped set up community health centers in Mindanao, and environmental activist Daisy Macapanpan, who advocated against hydropower dams in Southern Luzon.

This led the Civicus Monitor to rate the Philippines in 2022 as “repressed,” along with eight other countries in the Asia Pacific region with a score of 34 over 100.

The Philippines also remained to be among the deadliest countries for journalists, ranking 7th in the CPJ Global Impunity Index in 2022. The report mentioned the murder of radio commentator Percival Mabasa in 2022, a critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in 2020 listed the Philippines among the top three countries with the most retaliatory journalist killings globally. At least three journalists in the country were murdered in retaliation for their work despite Duterte’s presidential task force assigned to look into media killings in 2016. 

The Philippines was also the deadliest country for environmental defenders in Asia, with 19 land and environmental activists killed in 2021 alone. The mining sector was linked to most of the killings, with six cases.

At least 270 environmental defenders have been killed in the country from 2012 to 2021, including 12-year-old Lumad student Angel Rivas on June 16, 2021.

On April 14, 2021, Duterte lifted the nine-year nationwide moratorium on new mining projects, which environmental groups warned, could further endanger defenders. And in his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was silent on the human rights issue in the country.

Filipino resilience

The WHR report noted that global happiness was “remarkably resilient” considering the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. It added that trust and benevolence have supported happiness over the past three years.

However, Filipinos have refused to glorify their resilience in the past. With Filipinos experiencing disasters such as strong typhoons and extreme floods on top of the pandemic, the emergence of resilience from the familiar bayanihan spirit should be a sign to call for better governance and disaster response.

The report said that trust and benevolence have helped Finland remain to be the happiest country throughout the pandemic, for the 6th year in a row. Completing the top 5 happiest countries are Denmark, Iceland, Israel, and the Netherlands. Niger was the least happiest, followed by Pakistan, Ghana, Turkey, and Namibia. – Laurice Angeles/

Laurice Angeles is a chemistry graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman and is currently a volunteer under Rappler’s Research unit.

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