Smiley Movement logo

50 years of good news for humanity

Words by Smiley Team

Daily news headlines might feel sombre, but in the past 50 years, huge leaps have been made for peace and humanity across our world. 

Huge advances have been made to bring people out of poverty and away from hunger – plus we have more people in work than ever, and humanity has doubled. 

In the Smiley book – 50 Years of Good News – it looks back at all the good that has happened in the world since the 1970s, when Franklin Loufrani first drew a 'Smiley' to mark good news in a French newspaper.

Here's a snapshot of positive news for humanity in the past 50 years. 

1976: Habitat for Humanity Is Founded 

Habitat for Humanity believes that every person is deserving of a decent, affordable, safe place to live. To achieve this vision, the nonprofit organization works in local communities in over seventy countries around the world and in all fifty U.S. states to build and improve homes with the help of volunteers. To date, Habitat for Humanity has helped over 35 million people build, rehabilitate or preserve homes since it was founded in 1976.

1976: Portugal Becomes First Country to Abolish Death Penalty Completely 

When Portugal adopted its new constitution in 1976, it became the first country in the world to completely abolish the death penalty for all crimes. Denmark soon followed suit with the same ruling in 1978. Then came Luxembourg, Nicaragua and Norway in 1979. Since Portugal’s bold modern move, more than seventyfive nations have completely eradicated the death penalty, while many others have abolished it for ordinary crimes.

1978: U.S. Supreme Court Rules Affirmative Action Is Constitutional 

In 1978, a groundbreaking case about racial discrimination in higher education called Regents of University of California vs. Bakke was tried before the U.S. Supreme Court. The case found that universities were not allowed to implement racial quotas in the admissions process, meaning no applicant could be excluded from consideration because of race.

1985: Les Restos du Coeur Is Launched to Fight Hunger 

Founded by French comedian Coluche in 1985, Les Restos du Coeur is a charity organization that was launched to fight hunger and poverty by gathering food donations and serving free meals to anyone in need. Every year since its launch, the crème de la crème of French singers give their time and voices to put on free concerts and raise funds for charities. By banding together, their musical efforts have helped the organization serve over 1.5 billion meals and expand its mission beyond food insecurity to help those looking to re-enter society, find stable work and housing, receive school support and get access to legal advice.

1986: Hands Across America Raises $15 Million to Fight Hunger 

In an effort to raise money to fight homelessness and hunger, participants formed a recordbreaking human chain that stretched from New York City all the way to California, as millions of people held hands for fifteen minutes.

1987: ​​Akhtar Hameed Khan Launches Microfinance Project 

The Orangi Pilot Project – Orangi Charitable Trust (OPP – OCT) was established in 1987 as an independent and autonomous institution in Orangi, a low-income settlement of over one million people. Spearheaded by Pakistani microfinance pioneer Akhtar Hameed Khan, the program aimed to empower communities to take an active participation in their own development by providing credit in urban and rural areas. 

1988: Second Summer of Love Takes Place 

Inspired by the sounds of Ibiza nightlife, a new sound came to the clubs in London in the summer of 1988. Donning bandannas, baggy pants, Converse shoes and shirts with smiley faces galore, clubgoers ushered in the rise of acidhouse music and a new era of music production, creating a new energy among the crowds. This spirit of human connection found on the dance floor superseded years of street violence and hooliganism, bringing people together under the banner of “the Second Summer of Love.”

1989: The Berlin Wall Is Torn Down 

The fall of the Berlin Wall marked the first step toward reuniting East and West Germany. The barrier between East and West Berlin was torn down in 1989, lifting travel restrictions and reuniting family, friends and loved ones.

1990: Nelson Mandela Freed from Prison

Nelson Mandela’s release from prison marked a major milestone for South Africa, as it came during a time of great progress for the country taking the steps to move away from apartheid. The afternoon of his release was a grand moment of celebration in Cape Town, as he gave his first speech as a free man and led the way to ending racial segregation in South Africa.

1993: World Conference on Human Rights 

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (VDPA) is a human-rights declaration adopted by consensus at the World Conference on Human Rights on June 25, 1993, in Vienna, Austria. This conference marked a turning point for human rights, as the Cold War had ended. Looking ahead to a more just world, the declaration sought to set an international standard for human rights.

2002: Timebanking Expands to the UK 

Timebanking UK was founded, and since then, million of hours have been exchanged, often to the benefit of those in dire need, such as refugees and the homeless. The result? A new global community of sharing and a new perspective on currency.

2010: Norway Pursues Restorative Justice 

The Norwegian approach to “restorative justice” is generally regarded by experts as an effective model and one of the most comprehensive in the world. The country’s new restorative justice saw prisons reimagined as rehabilitation facilities, leading to a 60 to 70 percent decrease in recidivism.

2011: Christian Egyptians Show Solidarity with Muslim Egyptians

A group of Christian Egyptians joined hands in forming a protective circle surrounding hundreds of Muslim Egyptians as they knelt in prayer to protect them from protestors. That Sunday, the Muslim Egyptians returned the favor to their Christian counterparts who were celebrating Mass. Showing the unity of one nation despite their religious differences.

2017: Shakira Builds Seven Schools in South America 

Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation in 1997 with her goal to provide innovative educational infrastructure for public education in Colombia and Latin America. The singer focused on building the schools in rural areas to give the children an equal opportunity of education. In 2017, she announced plans to build her seventh school, in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia.

2018: Afghanistan Province Is Declared Free of Land Mines 

The HALO Trust de-mining group cleared Afghanistan’s Herat Province of land mines as part of a ten-year project funded by the British government. The land mines were estimated to have been laid since the 1980s, and with the mines gone, the province has potential for major economic improvement now that its agricultural land is safe from land mines.

Want more good news?

Read 50 years of good news, from the 1970s until now

Buy the Smiley book from Assouline

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…