In a few days, the world will be marking the International Day of Happiness. As the global pandemic rages on, we would all be excused for asking to what extent we can afford to raise a glass this year, as we endure a health crisis that has isolated us from our loved ones and placed so much strain on our livelihood.
And yet, our task as politicians begins right here —in safeguarding the well-being of our citizens and ensuring we all come out of this moment ready to rebuild.
In my work at the European Parliament and other fora in the past months, I have stressed on the need to place sustainability as a key approach in shaping a post-Covid policy for our societies, and for Europe’s economies.
First of all, our societies can become truly sustainable if a stronger sense of well-being is achieved for their working population.
As I led the Report on Europe’s Strategy for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises on behalf of the S&D Group last year, I emphasised the need to ensure more incentives and resources for our businesses so that these can adopt more sustainable models, better support their employees, and hence be better placed for the challenges ahead.
As a member of the Tourism Task Force within the EP, I have also urged for the need to find a stronger balance between visitors, the needs of local communities and the local ecosystems of destinations.
Elsewhere, I have also insisted on the urgency to achieve better connectivity for Europe’s peripheral regions, including Malta and Gozo, and to ensure a more competitive footing for enterprises based in them.
It is only fitting that, in outlining its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has pointed out the need to reduce inequality, end poverty, and protect our planet as three key aspects that lead to social and personal well-being and happiness.
At a time when an increased sense of isolation, bigger challenges in achieving work-life balance, and less physical social interaction are having an impact on the mental health of our populations, sustainability also means making sure every member of our society feels cared for, included, and their contribution recognised across our local communities.
The first months of 2021 have brought me in contact with people from all walks of life —social carers, individuals on rehabilitation programmes, entrepreneurs and members of non-governmental organisations, to mention a few.
The shared sentiment I have noticed is that the more we look out for each other, the more we think in sustainable ways, and the more we involve one another, the stronger we will emerge from this moment.
Now is the time to act together.
Dr Josianne Cutajar is a Member of the European Parliament
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