The 2019 H-20 Summit: Governments Focused on Citizen Wellbeing class=

The 2019 H-20 Summit: Governments Focused on Citizen Wellbeing

The H-20 FAQ

Growth and GDP focus often disconnects policy from citizen aspirations. Science demonstrates the linkage between citizen perceived happiness and satisfaction in government performance. The H-20 invites government leaders, economists, academics, activists and researchers to discuss wellbeing policy. Attendees share societal and national wellbeing policy challenges and good practices.

What is the H-20?

Much like the G20 focus on growth economics, the H-20 (Happy 20) examines wellbeing economics. Social and cultural values differ among countries and within countries. Growth and GDP focus often disconnects policy from citizen aspirations. Science demonstrates the linkage between citizen perceived happiness and satisfaction in government performance.
Invited government leaders, economists, academics, activists and researchers discuss wellbeing policy. Attendees share societal and national wellbeing policy challenges and good practices.

What is the H-20 2019?

The H-20 Summit explores public policy innovation aligned with national priorities. Lisbon, named “Felicitas Julia” by the Romans, welcomes the Summit. Hosted by Universidade de Lisboa, the third annual H-20 welcomes attendees from over 40 countries.  This largest and most prestigious university in Portugal provides peace and policy innovation. Inspired from the Roman concept of “Felicitas Publicas”, the Summit focuses on “Smart Prosperity”:

  • Smart prosperity driven by policy simplification and the latest science
  • Smart social investment practices for lasting national peace and social cohesion
  • Smart economic returns from wellbeing and happiness policy
  • Smart orchestration of health, employment, education, and inclusion policy
  • Smart government performance management through aligning national priorities with budget implementation

H-20 2019 also includes:

  • Global policy lessons learned
  • Updates from the World Happiness Report
  • Roundtable discussions with policy thought leaders

When is the H-20 2019?

The H-20 2019 takes place on Tuesday March 12th 2019 in at the University of Lisbon.

Why is Lisbon Portugal an ideal venue for the H-20?

Lisbon was originally called “Felicitas Julia” by the Romans. Portugal is one of the six inaugural country members of the Global Happiness Council launched in Dubai in 2018.

What is the venue for the H-20?

Salão Nobre at the University of Lisbon
The 2019 H-20 will be held at the Salão Nobre at the University of Lisbon.

What is the concept of citizen happiness?

Government Happiness Policy is Much More than Happiness
This concept extends beyond happiness to include all aspects of citizen wellbeing including health, education, environment, equity, and peace. Sustainable development is a key theme. It is best to present this concept to politicians and public servants as “citizen wellbeing”.
Well-being Concepts

Who attends the H-20?

The H-20 is an invitation-only exclusive summit.
Attendees include:

  • Senior government politicians with policy responsibilities
  • Senior public servants with policy, budget, and fiscal planning and implementation responsibilities
  • Renowned international experts including economists, political scientists, sociologists, psychologists, and policy practitioners

How can you secure an invitation to the H-20?

You can request attendance by sending an email to

Who has attended previous summits?

The H-20 Government Summit will include representatives from over 50 countries.
Government participants from Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, Jamaica, Kosovo, Liberia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Timor-Leste, United Kingdom, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates have attended previous Summits.

Who has spoken at previous Summits?

Past H-20 speakers include Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox; spiritual leader and peace negotiator, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar; World Happiness Report co-editor and co-director of the Well-Being Programme at London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance Lord Richard Layard;  Harvard happiness researcher and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar; Smart Dubai’s Director General Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr; director of United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and world-renowned professor of economics, Dr. Jeffrey D. Sachs.

What is the University of Lisbon and UNESCO link to the H-20?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has provided the University of Lisbon with funding to create a Chair for Global Peace Sustainability. The purpose of the Chair is to advance understanding on how to create more peaceful societies. It is not about peacekeeping or post-conflict reconciliation.
Unesco Program on Education for Global Peace Sustainability

Who are the H-20 2019 Sponsors?

The core H-20 sponsors are:

FreeBalance assists the H-20, as a social enterprise, by providing marketing and logistics support. FreeBalance President and CEO, Manuel Pietra, is the Chairman of the WOHASU® Advisory Board.

What is Manuel Pietra’s View on the H-20?

Manuel Pietra's View on the H-20
I am proud to announce the third edition of the H-20 Government Meeting, an exciting project and business endeavor for which I have a great passion and deep commitment. I’ve spent decades working on international development helping governments around the world leverage good practices in resource management. But, I must say, I am quite inspired and moved by what we have created with the H-20.
My work at FreeBalance has brought new perspective to the concepts of good governance and how transparency and accountability can help build nations. We have also seen the impact of strong, meaningful relationships by building value over time and creating “customers for life.” These beliefs have helped ensure that corporate social responsibility is the foundation of our company and an important contributor to our success.
But how do we measure success? And, how do governments measure success? Let’s consider Bhutan– a tiny country nestled in the Himalayas– to help shed light on a key human development indicator that is typically undervalued and underleveraged.
In 1971, The Kingdom of Bhutan implemented and began tracking a set of guiding principles with an eye toward equitable society and national wellbeing. Such guiding principles include nurturing children to become good people, putting nature at the heart of public policy, promotion of good governance, and cultural preservation. What Bhutan created is known as the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index. It expands a county’s metrics of growth and development to encompass more than just Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
World Happiness index
It’s the “science of happiness” that has significant academic validation. For example, The World Happiness Report, first issued in 2012 with 5 updates, by the United Nations, validates the alignment between citizen happiness perceptions and:

  1. GDP per capita
  2. Life expectancy at birth
  3. Generosity
  4. Freedom of life choices
  5. Corruption perception
  6. Social support

Is the notion of happiness as government policy a new idea?

Happiness has been a core idea of government policy since ancient times.
And of this nature happiness is mostly thought to be, for this we choose always for its own sake, and never with a view to anything further: whereas honour, pleasure, intellect, in fact every excellence we choose for their own sakes, it is true, but we choose them also with a view to happiness, conceiving that through their instrumentality we shall be happy: but no man chooses happiness with a view to them, nor in fact with a view to any other thing whatsoever.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Thomas Jefferson
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
Robert Kennedy

What is the linkage between citizen happiness and public policy?

Wellbeing and happiness provides governments with the cultural context for policy. Social values differ among countries. Many countries with good economic growth (i.e. Chile) have much lower levels of perceived happiness than countries will limited economic growth (i.e. Costa Rica).
Good government policy seeks to leverage scarce resources effectively. Governments make trade-offs among possible spending programs. Policymakers who leverage happiness science better align spending with citizen desires. The alignment of public policy with wellbeing results in perceived improvement of government performance.
Wellbeing in policy is aligned with government digital transformation. Digital tools can be used to improve citizen financial, health and education decisions.

Why is happiness in government a breakthrough idea for the 21st Century?

Happiness in government is not a new idea. The measurement of citizen happiness was a breakthrough idea by the Government of Bhutan. The concern about unsustainable development led to the idea of Gross National Happiness.  The Government of Bhutan measures:

  1. Psychological well-being
  2. Health
  3. Education
  4. Time use
  5. Cultural diversity and resilience
  6. Good governance
  7. Community vitality
  8. Ecological diversity and resilience
  9. Living standards

The use of GNH has enabled the Government of Bhutan to take control over development and reform, rather than under the control of donors. The GNH has helped Bhutan in the transition from absolute monarchy to democracy by engaging citizens.
Other methods have emerged including:


What is the controversy about happiness in public policy?

Critics Unhappy About Happiness as Policy
Critics of happiness as policy identify the following characteristics:

  • Unscientific: there is significant scientific and economic studies correlating good governance characteristics with perceived happiness
  • Lack objectivity: happiness science uses multiple inputs to understand citizen context, therefore more objective than using traditional measurements like GDP per capita
  • Immoral and undemocratic: provides government with deeper understanding of citizen needs and aspirations than political dogma while augmenting traditional democratic processes like periodic elections
  • Nothing government can do: science shows that individuals are mostly responsible for perceptions of happiness, however there is significant evidence that government actions to improve stability, economic resilience, education and health improves overall happiness perception among citizens


What is the linkage between citizen happiness, good governance  and sustainable development?
Worldwide Governance indicators VS World Happiness Report VS Sustainability Development Goals Table
Citizen wellbeing, good governance, and sustainable development are aligned on multiple dimensions. All aspects of citizen happiness and sustainable development improve through good governance. There are more direct linkages between the 6 of the 6 Worldwide Governance Indicators, 4 of the 6 World Happiness Report measures, and 3 of the  17 Sustainable Development Goals.

What is the linkage between citizen happiness and public financial management?

Consider the Complexity & Interrelation of Public Investments
Policy-making is complex. Wellbeing simplifies budget decision-making. Wellbeing measures as outcomes in government performance management. These outcomes (formalized in something like a Chart of Goals), can be aligned to budgets (formalized in the Chart of Accounts). Public finance professionals can monitor and improve spending performance. Budgets become better planned.