Pharrell Williams mobbed at UN on International Day of Happiness

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - The UN podium has been the scene of countless speeches both passionate and dull, but on Friday the audience was not world leaders but children, and they mobbed the speaker.

Pop star Pharrell Williams - best known for his viral hit "Happy" - addressed the UN General Assembly on International Day of Happiness as he raised his voice on the dangers of climate change.

After he spoke, "Happy" came on the speakers of the normally solemn hall as dozens of teenagers and younger children raced toward him with their camera phones in hopes that he would dance.

UN security guards rushed into the crowd in fear of a stampede as an official took the microphone to urge everyone to step back.

Williams has been working with former US vice-president Al Gore to organise global concerts in June to build public pressure for a UN-backed agreement on climate change at a conference late this year in Paris.

"You should know that happiness is your birthright," Williams told the hundreds of assembled children, whose placards all read "#happyplanet" instead of the usual names of UN member states.

"If you don't take care of your home, you don't have a life, so we have to now transition from climate change to climate action," he said.

Environmentalist Philippe Cousteau Jr joined Williams to warn that climate change's effects were looking even worse than initially feared, pointing to Cyclone Pam, which recently ravaged the Pacific island of Vanuatu, as well as the rapidly melting Arctic ice.

"One of the scary things about climate change is that all of our predictions have been too conservative," said Cousteau, the grandson of legendary French ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

- 'Happy' playlist -

As part of the International Day of Happiness, the United Nations worked with streaming service MixRadio to create a playlist.

Numerous musicians and actors offered selections when asked to name songs that made them happy.

Pop diva Britney Spears picked Prince's infectious hit "Kiss," British DJ Fatboy Slim chose the 1976 R&B peace anthem "Harvest of the World" by The Isley Brothers and cello great Yo Yo Ma offered a Bach work recorded by the late Pablo Casals, often considered the greatest master of the instrument.

Two artists chose works by themselves - Portuguese singer David Fonseca and Indian film composer A.R. Rahman.

And in a selection that was especially intriguing, singer-songwriter John Legend chose late Motown great Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."

Williams earlier this month lost a US$7 million (S$9.68 million) lawsuit from Gaye's family, which accused him and Robin Thicke of stealing "Got to Give It Up" for their 2013 hit "Blurred Lines." Williams denies the charge and has called the verdict an affront to artists.

The United Nations declared an International Day of Happiness - which coincides with the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere - in 2012 after an initiative by Bhutan, the Himalayan land that measures "Gross National Happiness" instead of a standard economic indicator.

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