- Human Development
- Components of Human Development
- Human Development Reports
- The Human Development Index (HDI)
According to the UNDP, human development may be defined as “a process of enlarging people’s choices.” At all levels of development, the three essential choices for people are, to live a long and healthy life, to acquire better knowledge and to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living. If these essential choices are not available, many other opportunities to improve the quality of life will remain inaccessible.
Human development has two dimensions: acquiring human capabilities and the use people made of these acquired capabilities for productive, leisure and other purposes. The benefits of human development go far beyond the expansion of income and wealth accumulation because people constitute the very essence of human development.
A major difference between economic growth and human development is that the former focuses on the enlargement of one option (income or product), while the focus of the latter is on enlarging all human options. In other words, education, health, clean environment and material well being do not necessarily depend on income. Thus, the options available for improving people’s lives are influenced by the quality of economic growth in its wider sense, and the impact is by no means confined to quantitative aspects of such growth.
A distinction can also be drawn between human resources development and human development. The former focuses on the production aspect and as such deals with people as a factor of production like material capital and natural resources. Thus, the end goal of investment in human capital, in terms of health, education, nutrition and training, is to boost production and generate additional income.
Components of Human Development
The UNDP defines the components of human development as involving four basic elements:
- Equality: Defined as equal access to opportunities. This concept implies the existence of competitive markets and competitors with equal access to productive assets and knowledge.
- Productivity: Human development does not run counter to the theory of economic growth. It is rather dependent on the contention that economic growth and improved productivity can be achieved through development of human resources and creation of a conducive environment where people can make use of their capabilities optimally. In the same vein, adequate focus is placed on the quality aspect of growth, rather than exclusive emphasis on its quantitative aspect.
- Sustainability: To ensure sustainability of choices in order to accommodate the needs of future generations.
- Empowerment: Empowerment and participation imply provision of an adequate social environment in which people participate for achievement of a better life.
Thus, the concept of human development, in line with its focus on enabling people to enjoy a better life as the ultimate goal of human endeavor, highlights that this goal cannot be achieved solely through improvements in income or material well-being.
The concept further emphasizes the inter-dependence between the key components of human well-being: without adequate income, many health and education services may not be accessible; and without a good education rewarding jobs and income opportunities may not be available to an individual.
Therefore, these components of human development must be treated within a comprehensive framework. And while their evaluation by people may change over time and differ between countries and even groups within the same country, the basic components of human development - income, education and health - are nevertheless considered essential at all levels of development.
Furthermore, if these three essential choices or ingredients were not available, other opportunities, which are also important for human well-being, would remain inaccessible. The expansion of choices in the areas of education, income and health not only provides necessary conditions for a better material life, but also paves the way for the creation of a suitable environment for people’s spiritual advancement and creativity.
The broad scope of the prerequisites for human development as outlined above raises an important issue as to their applicability to individual countries. Their policy implications are certain to vary from one country to another as what constitutes appropriate some of the human development policy is likely to be unique to each individual country and will be influenced by its religious, cultural, social, political and economic values.
Human Development Reports
Global Human Development Reports (HDR), which UNDP publishes annually since 1990, constitute the first comprehensive and systematic attempt to measure achievements in development from a human perspective, expressed in terms of numerical indicators that permit inter-country and inter-temporal comparisons. No less significant have been the reports’ contribution to enriching the concept and in giving it a worldwide dissemination. They are a reliable source containing an alternative perspective on critical issues for human development worldwide.
Featuring the Human Development Index, every report presents agenda-setting data and analysis and calls international attentions to issues and policy options that put people at the center of strategies to meet the challenges of development today - economic, social, political, and cultural.
Regional Human Development Reports (AHDR) are highly encouraged by UNDP, whereby each Region produces a report that focuses on relevant and pressing issues. They are an instrument for measuring human progress and triggering action for change.
They serve to promote regional partnerships for influencing change, and address region-specific human development approaches to human rights, poverty, education, economic reform, HIV/AIDS, and globalization.
The UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States (UNDP/RBAS) has started since 2002 producing an annual regional report. more
National Human Development Reports (NHDR) provide a tool for national policy debate placing human development at the forefront of the national political agenda. They are A tool for policy analysis reflecting people's priorities, strengthening national capacities, engaging national partners, identifying inequities and measuring progress.
The Human Development Index (HDI)
The Human Development Index (HDI) In 1990 the UNDP introduced a new concept in the indication of development, the Human Development Index (HDI), with the objective of measuring human progress and quality of life at the global level. The initial report made so much of an impact on public and academic opinion that a few years later, the international community adopted the HDI as “the” indicator to measure a countries development progress.
The HDI constitutes the first comprehensive attempt to measure achievements in development from a human perspective, expressed in terms of numerical indicators that permit inter-country and inter-temporal comparisons. The HDI combines in one composite index, indicators of health, education and income and intends to reflect achievements in the most basic human capabilities: living a long life, being knowledgeable and enjoying a decent standard of living.
The index also provides an initial working tool that could be further developed and refined, and that could guide country efforts to establish relevant databases. Additional indexes based on the HDI have been developed to examine, in more depth, specific issues, such as the Gender-related Development Index (GDI), the Gender-Empowerment Measure (GEM) and the Human Poverty Index (HPI). Some countries have also developed complementary indexes to help policy-makers deal with specific national issues.
For more information on human development and Human Development Reports, please visit: http://hdr.undp.org.