Inclusive Happiness, Culture, and Sustainable Urbanization in the MENA Region

United World Infrastructure to Co-Host Wellbeing Experts Panel at World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi

UWI to Co-Host panel of authors with the Editor of the Middle East Journal of Positive Psychology, Dr. Louise Lambert, at global event expected to attract 23,000 delegates.

Abu Dhabi, UAE – February 6, 2020: Next week, Abu Dhabi will welcome over 23,000 urban leaders and stakeholders for the 10th World Urban Forum, convened by UN-Habitat. Featured as part of the event’s Urban Library, Dr. Lambert and Mr. Aziz Mulay-Shah, Managing Director of Global Communications Agency (GCA) in Dubai, will facilitate a lively discussion around Inclusive Happiness, Culture, and Urbanization with UAE-based book contributors from United World Infrastructure, Du, and CARMA.

“The UAE’s aspiration to be one of the happiest nations in the world has inspired a generation of locally-based professionals to find innovative ways to address happiness and wellbeing objectives through their respective sectors,” Dr. Lambert said. “[Co-Editor Dr. Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi] and I wanted to share these perspectives from the Middle East to the global dialogue around happiness.”

Every two years, UN-Habitat convenes the forum to provide an inclusive platform for urban leaders and stakeholders to collaborate, share, and learn from best practices for sustainable urbanization.  This year will be the tenth bi-annual forum with the theme Cities of Opportunities: Connecting Culture and Innovation. The United Nations established the World Urban Forum in 2001 to address the impact of rising urbanization on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

Co-edited by Dr. Lambert, professor and positive psychology researcher at the UAEU and Dr. Nausheen Pasha-Zaidi, formerly at the Petroleum Institute, Abu Dhabi,  Positive Psychology in the Middle East/North Africa: Research, Policy, and Practise (Springer, 2019) is a reader for researchers, practitioners, policy makers and post-secondary students, and features international and UAE-based contributors as well as examples of Dubai-based businesses.

“Thoughtful urban design and management considers the happiness, health, and sociability outcomes for residents and visitors. For example, aesthetically pleasing communities can encourage higher self-reported wellbeing and walkable communities encourage more outdoor physical activity,” said Aubrilyn Reeder, Associate Director at United World Infrastructure, who contributed a chapter on the role of city design and infrastructure in building wellbeing. “Culture, gender, religion, vulnerability, and other factors impact how we interact with our cities and whether we experience those positive outcomes,” she added.

Dr. Lambert will be joined by several guests who each contributed a book chapter, respectively exploring urban spaces, media and social stereotypes, commercial wellbeing, organizations and their impact on wellbeing. Accordingly, the panel will explore how science can be harnessed to build cities that are happy, healthy, inclusive as well as profitable.

Mr. Mulay-Shah will discuss the question of how city governments and public policy can adapt to globalising trends and the needs of a 21st century community. “A wellbeing and happiness approach to governance is a new model that can solve many socio-economic issues and part of the solution is a more inclusive and holistic decision-making process. Accordingly, consideration must be given to the role of the private sector as an important actor as their impact is the most widely felt by the public.”

Joining the panel is Dr. Mansoor Habib, Head of Happiness & Tolerance at Du, who proposes “collective efforts that focus on creating cities where cycling is easier than driving, where smokers are outliers, and where keeping one’s house door open is the norm”. Mrs. Muna Odeh, a media analysis manager at CARMA, also believes such cities are possible by attending to “advertisements in metro stations, bus stops or other public areas, which are part of the stream of visual stimuli, and influence how we are perceived and feel.”

“We captured the most current science within various fields of positive psychology, like positive health, positive education, positive clinical psychology, and positive community development and subfields where the science of wellbeing has much to offer, such as building and infrastructure, big data, Islamic identity, national policy development, and youth employment” said Dr. Lambert. “This World Urban Forum panel will be an opportunity to consider how that work can be applied in urban development and planning.”

The World Urban Forum takes place from February 8 – 13 at the Abu Dhabi Exhibition Center. The panel on Inclusive Happiness, Culture, and Urbanization is part of the Urban Library series on February 10, from 3:00-3:30.


Operating globally, United World Infrastructure (UWI) invests in the acquisition, development, and management of real-estate and infrastructure assets to stimulate economic growth, knowledge sharing, and local and increased investment. Committed to people-centric communities, UWI transforms underutilized land into real-estate assets that attract development catalysts such as theme parks, hospitals, and schools.  Its infrastructure assets for new cities include: road networks, water and drainage systems, sewage systems, electricity, telecom networks, and systems for renewable energy and recycling to ensure environmental sustainability.

UWI’s financial products, including yield-driven development models and infrastructure and commercial concessions, optimize returns to city investors.  Most recently, UWI began offering advisory services to governments and government-linked entities to advance the development of happier cities through measurement and targeted policy, infrastructure, and service recommendations.