Beware “human development”

In: Uncategorized

13 Jan 2010

The Human Development Report 2010, to be published later this year, will be important to monitor to see how far it goes in redefining development. According to the report’s website:

“The 2010 report aims to take this contribution significantly further by showing how placing human development at the center of our priorities changes the ways in which we think about, formulate, implement and monitor development policies designed to promote empowerment, address inequality and tackle sustainability.”

Twenty years ago the Human Development Report 1990 published by the United Nations was a path-breaking document. It essentially took the work of Amartya Sen, an Indian economist who later won the Nobel prize for his work, and adapted it for policymakers.

Development was no longer primarily about economic growth. It was about people. What this meant in practice was giving up on economic transformation and increasingly intervening in the personal lives of individuals.

The definition is discussed in more detail in chapter one of the Human Development Report 1990 available here.

Sabina Alkire, the director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, has written a useful review of the concept of human development based on the numerous global and national reports on the subject. It is available here (PDF).

Duncan Green of Oxfam has also written on this topic on his blog.

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