“UNDP ve Küresel Kalkınma Paradigması olarak İnsani Gelişmenin Yükselişi” - Boğaziçi Üniversitesi Sosyal Politika Seminerleri


Inaugural Lecture by
Kamal Malhotra
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Turkey
Resident Representative, UNDP Turkey

Executive Summary

The premises, conceptual underpinnings and substantive policy positions and prescriptions of UNDP’s global Human Development Reports (HDR) which began in 1990 represented a significant paradigm shift for the global development debate. The Human Development concept pioneered by UNDP was and remains much more holistic and multi-faceted compared with the then prevailing international financial institution (IFI) paradigm emphasizing primarily or even only economic and per capita income related indicators.

It is now clear that UNDP has significantly contributed to progressively shifting the global development debate to a point where the Human Development paradigm has become mainstream wisdom and thinking at global, regional, national and local levels even if implementation unfortunately lags significantly behind. All major stakeholder groups from relatively conservative governments to the most progressive civil society organizations, nevertheless, now largely accept its relevance and universal validity. This inaugural lecture will trace the history, reach and influence of the paradigm which continues to be led by UNDP, also highlighting some of its limitations, especially in the areas of indices and measurement.


1- UNDP as the leader of a new development paradigm: From income based development measurements to a multi-faceted human development approach and measures

There have been longstanding efforts to define and elaborate the concept of development and introduce development policies as part of development economics. One critical and important contribution to this global debate has been (and continues to be) made by UNDP, starting with the 1990 introduction of and further advancement of the human development concept and its measurement.

The development debate began in the post World War II period with the early history of welfare economics and went through a number of evolutions culminating in human development thinking. We can confidently argue that UNDP has been able to shape this dialogue significantly towards a broader human development approach.

My talk today will be about this UNDP contribution to the global debate since 1990 and the influence it has had on both the global development debate’s evolution since then and the policy choices of major actors, including the international financial institutions, governments, academics and civil society. UNDP turned 50 this year and its 50th Anniversary celebration, involving over 150 countries and 80 Presidents, Prime Ministers and Ministers just took place in less than 10 days ago in New York! The Human Development Report remains one of its most celebrated achievements over the last 50 years. It is, therefore, timely and a privilege for me to be invited to give this Inaugural Lecture here today.

Traditional macro-economic theory is based on the concept of ‘utility’, which is defined as a measure of preferences for some set of goods and services over others. It underpins the rational choice theory in economics and game theory, representing the satisfaction experienced through consumption of a good or service. Since satisfaction cannot be measured easily, a proxy measure of satisfaction was introduced and designated in monetary terms, more specifically through income per capita as the measure.

Utilitarianism and later theories based on it dominated western economic thought after the Second World War, focusing mainly on aggregate welfare and monetary measures of welfare. In this context, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and economic growth emerged as leading indicators of national progress and hence welfare in many countries, even though GDP was acknowledged to have severe limitations as a measure of wellbeing. The main reasons for this (this list is non-exhaustive) are because:

(i) National income accounts only register monetary exchanges- No other measure of development and capabilities, measuring the welfare of a country, are captured by it.

(ii) Economic measures equate goods with commodities and services that are not always ‘goods’, but sometimes ‘bads’ such as nuclear weapons, the production of which might contribute to economic growth, and even increase per capita income although it tends to lower social welfare. This confirms that economic growth does not always lead to enhanced welfare or well-being.

(iii) Such an approach counts both “bads” and their cures –or “anti-bads” such as the costs of cleaning petroleum spills.

(iv) Such an approach treats natural resources as free and limitless.

(v)  Such an approach places no value on leisure-time.

(vi) Such an approach ignores freedoms and human rights.

(vii) Such an approach ignores the distribution of income within society.

In the 1970s and 80s the development debate included a discussion of alternative approaches going beyond GDP, including putting greater emphasis on employment, followed by redistribution with growth, and then the basic needs approach. These debates and ideas helped pave the way for the human development paradigm (both the approach and its measurement).

Modern theorists including Nobel Economics Laureate and Indian economist and philosopher, Dr. Amartya Sen introduced a new concept of social welfare which was unbound by the rules of neo-classical economics. He convincingly pointed to the lack of pluralism in utilitarianism, arguing that the latter theory insists on the importance of having a single measure of well-being, as opposed to different and non-commensurate elements. As an alternative, Sen defended a pluralist understanding of well-being emphasizing that one can be well-off without actually being well.

There is now an increasing understanding and agreement on the limitations of monetary measurements of well-being and public policies built solely on such measures, markets and economics. Since 1990, with the introduction of the concept and measurement of human development in UNDPs first global Human Development Report that year, produced under the intellectual leadership of two well-known economists (Dr. Sen and Mahbub-ul-Haq, one Indian, the other Pakistani, one a renowned academic, the other an economist  who had led Research at the World Bank earlier), we have witnessed a general shift towards a broader definition of development, integrating multi-dimensional elements of well-being based on “rights” such as access to opportunities, a healthy-life, education and dignity.

Although there are critics of the human development approach who argue that it is not an alternative to growth and income dominated understanding of development, even calling it ‘old wine in a new bottle’, it is widely acknowledged that this approach has been one of the most important contributions both to enlarging the concept and our understanding of what development is as well as to diluting the dominance of national income as a measure of development and well-being.

2- Human Development Reports as the key global policy making and advocacy tool of the new human development paradigm

The Global Human Development Report (HDR) was launched in 1990 by UNDP with the central premise that positive human development outcomes enlarge people’s choices since human development encompasses not just income and wealth, but better access to education, health, environmental sustainability, political freedom, human rights and personal dignity. Social policy issues, therefore, have been central to its conceptual underpinnings and many such reports over the years have emphasized or prioritized an in-depth discussion of such issues, not in a welfarist or “add on” sense, but in a more core, fundamental manner. The human development paradigm has also broadened the definition of what constitutes social policy to areas which are much broader than basic education, primary health and other conventional areas. Indeed, every issue identified has important social policy dimension in the human development discussion.

Human Development (HD) involves the development of human capabilities as well as the use of these capabilities. Furthermore, human freedom is a critical underpinning of human development.

Contrary to the approach of many International Financial Institutions (IFIs), UNDP also introduced a multi-faceted approach to poverty including both income and non-income dimensions of poverty (human poverty) from the beginning of its HDRs, and increasingly integrated this concept into its policy discourse and programme work around the world. In terms of measurement, the Human Development Index (HDI) covered three main components on which global comparable data was available for most countries over a significant time period: a long and healthy life, level of knowledge and a decent material standard of living.

The human development concept also acknowledged and advocated that there was no automatic link between economic growth and human development. There may be countries that perform better in terms of human development, without high economic growth rates and vice versa. High human development outcomes without high economic growth rates are possible with well-structured social policies and public expenditures, and social subsidies especially for poor income groups.

Another distinguishing element in the human development paradigm is the priority placed on participation of citizens in all policies, as active contributors to their societies.  Indeed, democratizing development through the enhancement of human, economic and political freedoms and by active citizen participation in decision-making processes is central to the human development concept. It is also widely observed and acknowledged that high levels of human development tend to be achieved when human beings enjoy higher levels of freedom.

Moreover, human development requires that sustainable development strategies meet the needs of the present generation without disadvantaging future generations. In other words, human development also needs to be inter-generationally sustainable.

Human development can be achieved with more equitable economic growth and more participatory development. The 1991 HDR, Financing Human Development, clearly suggested that capital flows need to be regulated, corruption needs to be prevented, and public institutions need to be reformed. Furthermore, existing resources need to be used more efficiently by adopting more decentralized, participatory approaches to human development. Support for primary education, health care, water and sanitation, and local use of tax revenue can be given as examples of human development friendly policies.

The 1991 HDR also emphasized choosing the correct political strategy as another key aspect of human development. Such political strategies include ensuring political freedom and emphasizing common interests, maintaining a balance between weaker and powerful groups, and ensuring access to credit for poor people.

The 1991 HDR also examined the possible impacts of global markets from a human development perspective. Since markets have technological and economic underpinnings, their contribution to human development will be limited if they are left to themselves and so it is essential that the state designs and ensures the implementation of more equitable policies to democratize markets.

The 1992 HDR, Global Dimensions of Human Development, analysed the global distribution of income and opportunities highlighting significant increases in income inequality that hinder human development progress. It was estimated in this report that the richest 20 percent of the world’s population had incomes 60 times greater than the poorest 20 percent in 1990. The Report suggested that trade and financial markets encouraged income inequality between developed and developing countries due to market rules that are frequently changed to prevent truly free and open competition.

The next HDR published in 1993, People’s Participation, mainly focused on the collapse of the socialist regime in the former USSR and the consequent transformation of numerous countries. The report highlighted the risk of anarchy, ethnic violence or social disintegration if this process is not managed well. If managed well, it could become a source of tremendous vitality and innovation for the creation of new democratic societies. It argued that transformation processes happen at different speeds for different countries and regions, depending on their initial endowments, existing capacities and the development levels of nations.

The concept of human security has changed since threats to human security are no longer just personal, local or national, but are becoming more global including AIDS, terrorism, climate change, pollution and nuclear proliferation. In this regard, a new paradigm of sustainable human development that gives a new role to the UN was suggested in the 1994 HDR New Dimensions of Human Security.

This report highlighted that people should be placed at the centre of the development process in the new human development paradigm not only for present generations but also for future generations by protecting life opportunities and respecting the natural systems on which all life depends. The human development paradigm enables all individuals to enlarge their human capabilities to maximize and to put them to best use in all areas i.e. economic, social, cultural and political.

The human development paradigm places very high priority on poverty reduction, productive employment, social integration, and environmental regeneration. Most importantly, it emphasizes that economic growth is only a means for improvements in human lives and its value will only be positive if it does not destroy the natural capital which is needed to protect the opportunities of future generations.

The HDR continued to elaborate on the need for equitable growth, with a focus on gender equality in the 1995 HDR Gender and Human Development, which highlighted that the process of enlarging choices for all people, not just for one part of society, is another fundamental characteristic of human development. The report clearly stated that the continuous exclusion of women from economic, social and political opportunities undermines human development progress.

The report suggested that even though gender equality is a political process, equality of rights between women and men needs to be viewed as a fundamental principle of the human development paradigm. As a result, the gender-related development index (GDI) was introduced in HDR 1995. The GDI reflects gender disparities in basic human capabilities which do not depend on a high income or financial wealth. In addition to GDI, the gender empowerment measure (GEM) was also introduced as another indicator that seeks to measure women’s representation in parliaments, women’s share of positions at the managerial and professional levels, women’s participation in the labor force and their share in national income.

The 1996 HDR Economic Growth and Human Development explored the nature and strength of the links between economic growth and human development. Contrary to the conventional IFI approach to development, rather than emphasizing the magnitude of economic growth, it emphasized the importance of the structural composition and quality of growth. The report emphasized the need for development policies which reduced poverty, protected the environment and ensured sustainability. By doing so, the 1996 HDR explicitly highlighted and advocated new patterns of economic growth to prevent imbalances and inequalities across the world.

The Report also highlighted that income poverty is only one dimension of poverty and there has to be a focus on all of poverty’s multi-faceted dimensions in order to empower people and to eradicate poverty. In order to enable this, the human poverty index was introduced in the 1997 HDR Human Development to Eradicate Poverty which combines the basic dimensions of human poverty such as a short life, lack of basic education, and lack of access to public and private resources, and reveals interesting contrasts between measures of human poverty and the use of just the income poverty measure.

Consumption expenditures can contribute to human development. However, the extent and direction of this contribution depends on whether and how consumption enlarges capabilities and enriches the lives of people without negatively affecting the well-being of the people concerned or others. The present situation is one in which consumption often undermines the environmental resource base and exacerbates inequalities and this is not sustainable.

The human development paradigm aims to enlarge and improve all human choices including those of consumers but in a manner which results in a better human life. As a result, consumption needs to be equitably shared, socially responsible and sustainable.

Globalization is another critical factor that increases interdependence across the world economy. In the globalization process, finding rules and institutions that ensure stronger governance are important if we are to build on the advantages of global markets, global competition and to provide enough space for people, not just for profits.

Stronger global cooperation and action is necessary to narrow the gaps between rich and poor, and the extremes between countries which are beyond the scope of national governments to manage. Appropriate social policies are, therefore, even more relevant today to make globalization work for human development. There were among the key messages of the 1999 HDR.

As mentioned in the 1999 HDR, Globalization with a Human Face, one of the key aspects of global governance is its responsibility to people on issues of equity, justice and to enlarge the choices of all. Furthermore, as just indicated, stronger global governance is essential if we are to preserve the advantages of global market competition and to harness the forces of globalization to support human advance.

The 2000 HDR on “Human Rights and Human Development” focused on the relationship between the two concepts. Human rights and human development have a common vision and purpose which is to secure freedom, well-being and the dignity of all people. Individuals, governments, NGOs, corporations, policy makers, and multilateral organizations have a role in transforming the potential of global resources and the promise of technology, know-how, and networking into social arrangements that truly promote fundamental freedoms everywhere. In this regard, human rights and human development can be realized universally with stronger international action to offset growing global inequalities and marginalization.

Creating and using new technologies (e.g. ICT and biotechnology) to improve people’s lives in favour of human development is another critical issue emphasized in the 2001 HDR Making New Technologies Work for Human Development. There is an important role for public policies in this area. Without innovative public policies, these technologies become a source of exclusion, not a tool of progress.

The 2002 HDR focused on “Deeping Democracy in a Fragmented World”. In a more interdependent world, politics and political institutions are central to human development. In this regard, discussions on development need to place more emphasis on institutions and governance by focusing specifically on the effectiveness of public institutions. Such an approach recognizes that when countries have fully accountable and democratic governance systems, countries can promote human development for all people.

The role of a free media is also very critical in the human development paradigm. It must be free not only from state control but also from corporate and political pressures.

The 2003 HDR Millennium Development Goals: A Compact Among Nations to End Human Poverty focused on the Millennium Development Goals, which were the first universal compact among nations to end extreme human poverty. Indeed, it can and has been argued that the MDGs incorporated many aspects of the human development paradigm, albeit at a basic level. In that sense, part of the global influence of the human development paradigm can be seen in the design of the MDGs and their indicators.

The 2004 HDR Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World focused on cultural liberty as another critical aspect of human development. Particularly in the era of accelerating globalization, people want to cling on to their diversity in the globalized world. When cultural liberty is managed well, greater recognition of identities brings greater cultural diversity in society, enriching people’s lives. Otherwise, such diversity can be a source of instability within states and between them, and struggles over identity can lead to regressive and xenophobic policies that negatively impact human development. The 2004 HDR strongly defended an approach that respects and promotes diversity while keeping countries open to global flows of capital, goods and people.

Due to differences in people’s gender, ethnicity, group identity, wealth or location, there are significant gaps between poor and rich people across the global economy. This is both economically wasteful and socially destabilizing. Most importantly, without a strong commitment to cooperation among nations, these structural problems will continue to negatively affect human development progress. In this context, the UN introduced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the early part of this century based on the Millennium Declaration of world leaders made in 2000 at the UN. The UN recently announced agreement on the universal and much more ambitious Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which replaced the MDGs from January 2016.

Clean water and sanitation are among the most powerful drivers of human development through extending opportunity, enhancing dignity and helping create a virtuous cycle of improving health and rising wealth. As was previously highlighted in the 1994 HDR New Dimensions of Human Security, water security is an integral part of the broader concept of human security.

The 2006 HDR Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis examined the global water crisis and stated that the availability of water is a concern for some countries but scarcity of global water is rooted in power, poverty and inequality, not in physical availability. In other words, both access to water and lack of basic sanitation are rooted in institutions and political choices, not in the availability of water.

The 2007/08 HDR Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World focused on the role of climate change in impacting human development progress since this has been gaining greater significance given the real threat it poses to livelihoods, our common planet, human freedoms and limiting people’s choices. Moreover, this focus was important because climate change is different from most other problems facing humanity since all nations and people share the same earth, atmosphere and we are all ecologically interdependent. Therefore, fighting climate change needs to be both a global and cross-generational endeavour and needs a binding international agreement.

The HDR argued that emerging risks and vulnerabilities are the outcomes of physical processes as well as the consequences of human actions and choices. Furthermore, high levels of poverty and low levels of human development limit the capacity of poor households to manage climate risks.

The 2009 HDR “Overcoming Barriers: Human Mobility and Development” is very topical today. In the human development paradigm, policies supporting mobility are important because this is one way of expanding human choices and freedoms, in order to reap gains in the form of higher incomes, better access to education and health and more generally, opportunities and choices.

The 2010 HDR The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development released on the HDRs 20th Anniversary introduced three new measures focusing on inequalities. These indicators are, respectively, the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index.

These inequality-based indices improved the measurement of the concept of human development whose scope had been and still is quite limited in comparison to the concept as a whole.

This was followed by the 2011 HDR Sustainability and Equity: A Better Future for All which focused on two concepts and issues at the core of the human development approach: sustainability and equity.

The 2013 HDR The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World focused on the changing global architecture and rise of key developing countries in the South in this transformation process which it argued, can be attributed to proactive developmental states, the selective tapping of global markets and determined and effective social policies and innovation.

Furthermore, HDR 2013 argued that enhancing equity, enabling voice and participation, confronting environmental pressures and managing demographic change are considered the key factors for the continuation of human development progress in the long-term.

It also argued that global and regional governance arrangements represent a multifaceted combination of new arrangements requiring new reforms in global institutions to enable stronger cooperation with regional institutions. More specifically, greater representation for the South and civil society can accelerate progress on major global challenges.

HDR 2014 Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience then focused on the concepts of vulnerability and resilience as interconnected and immensely important to secure human development progress. It argued that reducing vulnerabilities necessitate strengthening the resilience of communities and nations. Furthermore, there are structurally vulnerable groups of people who are more vulnerable than others since their vulnerability has persisted over long periods of time and is linked to either one or more of the following: gender, ethnicity, indigeneity or geographic location.

HDR 2014 also argued that strong social policies such as universal access to basic social services, especially health and education; stronger social protection including unemployment insurance and pensions; and a commitment to full employment should be prioritized and implemented in order to reduce vulnerabilities and improve resilience to future shocks.

It is also vital to have responsive and fair institutions and increased social cohesion for building community-level resilience.           

Absent effective policies for reducing vulnerabilities, crises will continue. In this context, building capacities for shocks and disasters at the global level is vital since many risks are trans-border and necessitate global commitments and better international governance.

The concepts of vulnerability and resilience are highly important in order to eradicate poverty, significantly reduce inequality and to promote sustainable human development.

Last year’s HDR 2015 Work for Human Development focused on “work”, including unconventional forms of work. Since human development is about enlarging people’s choices, decent forms of work are central to advancing positive human development outcomes. On the one hand, significant progress has been observed in many dimensions of human development such as increased life expectancy, more school enrolment, more access to clean water and basic sanitation, increases in per capita income for many, reduced aggregate poverty has diminished, and the digital revolution has connected people across countries and societies. In this ongoing process, decent work has provided people with a sense of dignity and an opportunity to engage fully in society.

On the other hand, the challenges of persistent poverty and inequalities for many, conflict, climate change and unsustainable environmental practices continue to exist which prevent many people from fully engaging in decent work. Therefore, appropriate strategies and proper policies need to be implemented to ensure decent work for all which will be the best guarantor of sustainable human development progress.

The quality of such work is also a critical dimension when assessing whether it is indeed “decent” as well as when evaluating its potential to enhance human development. Violence and discrimination diminish the positive link between work and human development.

Enhancing human development outcomes through work necessitates creating work opportunities, ensuring workers’ well-being and developing targeted actions. But, most importantly, the 2015 HDR argues that a New Social Contract, a Global Deal and Decent Work Agenda has to be universally established and agreed.

I have quickly taken you through the rich UNDP journey of human development over the last 25 years. It should be clear that the global Human Development reports have significantly shaped and contributed to the evolution of the global development paradigm by advocating the different dimensions of human development. Furthermore, essential social policies and people-centred strategies have been placed on the agenda in a dynamic way to capture the imbalances in the global economy covering economic, social, political, cultural and technological issues.

There are several reasons for the success and attractiveness of the human development paradigm as also outlined by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and the Mahbub ul Haq Foundation for Human Development.


- First, Human Development Reports are built on a solid foundation of evidence, which is a key ingredient for trustworthy and reliable policy documents.

- Second, global rankings are a powerful agent of change and global data and global reporting is crucial for ensuring progress. The conversations around the HDI each year – about why some countries outperform others –demonstrates this well. These debates have had a profound impact on the development discourse. Describing, analysing, comparing, even inspiring competition among countries and actors, to be measured and counted, to be transparent and accountable, has been a great gift to humanity and helped us all in moving forward.

- Thirdly, as Human Development Reports have been published regularly, they have provided avenues for coherent, continuous and consistent advocacy and dialogue for human development. Every global Human Development Report, published annually, is anticipated with interest by many academics and scholars, journalists, policy makers and governments, since they come up with a new theme and contribute to broadening both the policy debate and the policy choices available and on the table.

- Finally, and maybe most importantly, the human development approach, and Human Development Reports, recognize the complexities and interdependencies in life. We know that the challenges that we face in life, be they economic or social, are never simple. They cannot be solved by unidimensional or unilateral approaches. Human Development Reports have been successful in providing a way, in easy to read language, of both recognizing that but also providing heterodox policy options to address humanity’s multi-faceted challenges.

The global Human Development Report has been acknowledged as a flagship product of UNDP since 1990 but, in addition, more than 700 national and regional human developments reports have been published around the world under UNDP auspices, highlighting specific development priorities and challenges facing their geographical area of focus.

3. Human Development Indices as Key Tools for the Measurement of Development Progress:

HDRs now, since 2010, use five different indices to measure human development progress. These indices are the human development index (HDI), Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), Gender Development Index (GDI), Gender Inequality Index (GII), and the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI).

Calculations of HDI as a measure of human development started with the launch of the first global Human Development Report in 1990. The HDI was initially comprised of three components to measure the human development progress of nations. These dimensions are a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.

A long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy, the knowledge level is measured by mean years of education among the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a life-time by people aged 25 years and older while access to learning and knowledge is measured by expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age. The standard of living is now measured by Gross National Income per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars, converted, using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) rates.

HDI is, therefore, a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development by taking into account the geometric mean of these three dimensional indices.

The human development performance of countries is divided into four sub-categories according to their HDI scores. In this context, there are countries with very high human development; high human development; medium human development, and low human development.

The HDI does have important limitations, however, (including the ones common to all indices based on averages!) even though it is immensely better than unidimensional indices such as per capita income. The original HDI was an average measure of basic human development achievements. Since it was computed by using the average values of each component, it masked inequalities in the distribution of human development across the population at the country level.

The Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), introduced in the 2010 HDR by taking into account inequality in all three dimensions of HDI and by discounting each dimension’s average value according to the level of inequality, sought to address this deficiency, at least partially.

The loss in human development due to inequality is indicated by the difference between the HDI and the IHDI and can be expressed as a percentage. As the inequality in a country rises, the loss in human development also increases.

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) was also introduced in the 2010 HDR and it reflects gender-based inequalities in three dimensions, namely reproductive health, empowerment, and economic activity.

Reproductive health is measured by maternal mortality and adolescent birth rates; empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and attainment in secondary and higher education by each gender; and economic activity is measured by the labor market participation rate for women and men.

The GII seeks to better expose differences in the distribution of achievements between women and men by measuring the human development costs of gender inequality. Thus, a higher GII value signifies that there are greater disparities between females and males and that there is a more significant loss to human development. The GII also yields insights on gender gaps. Its component indicators highlight areas in need of critical policy intervention and the GII value can serve to stimulate proactive thinking and facilitate public policy choices which can help overcome systemic disadvantages caused by the gender gap which are faced by women in particular.

The 2010 HDR introduced the MPI as another indicator for human development progress. The MPI identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in health, education and living standards. The health and education dimensions are based on two indicators whereas the standard of living dimension is based on six indicators.

A deprivation score of 33.3 percent is used to distinguish between the poor and non-poor. If it is 33.3 percent or higher, the household is classified as multi-dimensionally poor. Households with a deprivation score greater than or equal to 20 percent but less than 33.3 percent are classified as approaching multidimensional poverty. If households have a deprivation score greater than or equal to 50 percent they are categorized as living in severe multidimensional poverty.

The GDI was introduced in the 2014 HDR based on the sex-disaggregated HDI, and defined as the ratio of female HDI to male HDI. Since it originates from HDI scores, it focuses on the three dimensions of human development but from the perspective of gender inequalities.

These dimensions are respectively health, measured by female and male life expectancy at birth, education, measured by expected years of schooling for female and male children and mean years for adults over 25 years and older. The standard of living is measured by female and male estimated GNI per capita.

There are definitely critics of the HDI and, indeed, both the old and new indices and the methodology is open to valid criticism.

Nevertheless, measuring human development is not an easy task since it has many facets which suggest that human development indices should, ideally, incorporate a range of indicators to capture this complexity. However, all countries do not have relevant and comparable statistical information to enable this, and this is therefore a limitation of country level and global data.

Data from all, especially developing countries, may also not be very reliable and may be difficult to confirm. Additionally, the measures chosen may seem arbitrary to some since there are other ways of measuring the relative quality of health and education.

Too many indicators could also produce a confusing picture for policymakers. On the other hand, the chosen human development indices have the power and have demonstrated the potential to elevate the human development paradigm as a priority in both the global and national public agenda.

There is now a widespread and mainstream use of human development indices to compare development levels since these do not only focus on economic development, and but take into account social policy and other ways to measure human development progress.

Human development indices can also serve to identify areas requiring policy attention and specific human development strategies can be formulated accordingly.

The need for data to enable the calculation of human development indices can and has also contributed to diversifying the data base of and strengthening National Statistical Systems.

Another limitation is that there are clearly other indicators needed which are important for human development but these are hard to quantify and even more difficult to agree on; for example, human freedom and human security are part of the concept of human development but it is very difficult to reflect them in a formula and through quantitative measures. This is also valid for accounting for the costs of environmental exploitation and pollution, although these have been easier to quantify and partially internalize through social accounting methodologies.

4- How the Human Development Paradigm’s Influence has gone Global, National and even Local

If we take a retrospective look at the development debate over the last 25 years, it is clear that we have witnessed a noticeable shift in the development discourse of many organizations shaping the world, influenced by UNDP’s human development paradigm and approach.

For example look at how the focus areas of the World Bank’s Development Reports have evolved over the years. Until the early 2000s, the themes captured in the World Development Reports were mainly on macroeconomic and related policies including monetary and market based policies. In time, we have seen a shift towards other topics such as ‘Making Services Work for Poor People (2004), Equity and Development (2006), Conflict, Security and Development (2011) and most recently, in the forthcoming World Development Report (2017) ‘Governance and the Law’. This transformation and shift in the focus of Development Reports of the influential World Bank is not unrelated to the power and influence of the HDRs and is also reflected in the shift in the programme and policy areas recently prioritized by such institutions.

This shift is also seen in the more recent choice of indices for the measurement of development among international organizations and countries. Since the mid 2000s, we have observed a search for additional measures of welfare in addition to income and monetary measures. One example is the Better Life Initiative of the OECD. This initiative aims to come up with a new approach to well-being and find answers to critical questions concerning how new policies improve our lives. They aim to understand what drives the well-being of people and nations and what needs to be done to achieve and sustain progress for all. The OECD’s approach focuses on individual well-being as well as the sustainability of well-being over time. Individual well-being -as opposed to income related measures of development- include, in addition to material conditions, health status, work-life balance, social connections, civic engagement and governance, as well as subjective well-being as ingredients of a better life. These are all reflections of a broader understanding of the human development paradigm. The OECD, in support of its Better Life Initiative, has also developed guidelines and toolkits for measuring subjective well-being.

In terms of adopting human development, some countries such as Brazil and India have been ahead of other countries in embracing the human development concept into their development agenda at the national and sub-national levels. The latter is driven by State and local governments in both countries.

The Brazilian experience of national human development reports began in 1996. In these reports, detailed and disaggregated data of each state and of each municipality was utilized using human development criteria. By doing so, it was more easily possible to tackle poverty and social and regional inequality. Furthermore, municipal indices were introduced to reach a broader audience. The series of national, state and municipal indices provided detailed disaggregated data in an electronic database with information on 135 human development indicators for all 26 states, the federal capital and for all Brazilian municipalities. It should be noted that human development reports in Brazil have also played a crucial role in stimulating the federal government to look for new ways to enhance human development progress and create incentives for politicians, policy makers, journalists, academics, NGOs, entrepreneurs and advocacy groups to accept, adopt, and discuss human development principles and approaches.

India has the largest programme in the world for the preparation of human development reports.  At the sub-national level, there are 21 states which produce human development reports. One of the major contributions of such State level Human Development Report preparation has been the documentation and highlighting of disparities among districts. Through these reports, a better understanding of the development process is sought by the States by focusing on what and where the inequalities are, how capabilities can be enhanced, what has been the progress, and where the shortfalls lie, in order to identify where the thrust of efforts to promote human development should focus. The government’s achievements in rural development, poverty, disaster management, income, health, education, infrastructure, the status of women and food security are now being regularly examined at state level through a human development lens.


Thank you.

UNDP Dünyada

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