Human Development

The term “human development” has come to mean “an expansion of human capabilities, a widening of choices, an enhancement of freedoms and a fulfillment of human rights.” It was not always thus. It is primarily due to Amartya Sen and to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that human development has come to mean more than expansion of real income and economic growth. Since 1990, UNDP has been producing the Human Development Report (HDR) that yearly measures human development progress and the 1990 report specifically explored the relationship between economic growth and human development. The primary metric used for measuring human development in the HDRs is the Human Development Index (HDI) – a metric that combines measures of life expectancy, education, and income by country. Although the HDI has become the primary metric in measuring human development, the HDRs also contain dozens of other measures by country that are related to expanded capabilities, widening choices and enhanced freedoms and human rights.

Since this list is designed to track the RAND Pardee Center’s interest in aiding progress in human development, it is important to include books on human rights and on the history of human development, and to include at least a few of the Human Development Reports themselves.

  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It2007

    Paul Collier

    Paul Collier is a professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the study of African Economies at Oxford University. He is the former director of development research at the World Bank. The “bottom billion” are the people in states largely, but not entirely, in Africa whose economies are declining in absolute terms. It is these states (58 in all) that he argues are most in need of development aid.

    This book is based on a variety of careful statistical studies of the problems of the bottom billion. Collier finds four traps that bedevil the countries containing the bottom billion: conflict, natural resources, being landlocked, and bad governance. He also discusses four instruments that can be used to help those countries break out of the particular traps in which they find themselves. He finds uses for the most common instrument – aid – but has recommendations for how it could in a more focused way. The other three instruments are underutilized in Collier’s opinion and include, security, laws and charters, and trade.

    At the end of the book, Collier recommends the specific instruments that can be used to help countries escape each of the individual traps. The book is purposely void of detailed study results to facilitate the argumentation, but relevant studies are compiled in a references section.

  • The Evolution of International Human Rights1998

    Paul Gordon Lauren

    This is a comprehensive history of human rights. Starting more than two thousand years ago in China and Persia, it captures the growth and evolution of human rights down to modern times. Lauren distinguishes usefully between the ‘first-generation’ civil and political rights that arose out of the American and French Revolutions in the 18 th century and the ‘second-generation’ social and economic rights that emerged in the nineteenth century. There are nice chapters on the abolition of slavery and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The two main points I took away: 1) what we consider to be human rights continue to expand and 2) the achievement of human rights is a slow, evolutionary, bottom-up process. As Lauren says, “The struggle for human rights has always been and always will be a struggle against authority.” It is hard to escape the notion that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (that all United Nations countries signed and have reaffirmed on more than one occasion) form the comprehensive set of goals for human development. In the 30 articles of the declaration are every imaginable human right. The goals, then, have been set and the challenge today is to speed progress in ensuring those rights for everyone.

  • Readings in Human Development1998

    Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and A. K. Shiva Kumar

    This is a nice compilation of articles that enables the reader “to trace the conceptual origins and evolution of the human development approach; to better understand the issues related to its measurement; and to get a flavour [sic] of some innovative policy applications.” Particularly useful for understanding the HDRs is a chapter on the ten basic conceptual choices (e.g., human condition or human development? reducing poverty or improving well-being? human development for all or equitable human development?) that shaped those reports.

    On the more technical side, there is a nice regression analysis of the relationship between human development and economic growth and a chapter on technical aspects of several other indices typically included in HDRs (including the human poverty index, the gender-related development index, the gender empowerment measure, and the technology achievement index). The policy explorations are taken from a variety of the early HDRs.

  • Human Development Report 2000: Human Rights and Human Development2000

    United Nations Development Programme

    This report, according to the long-time directory of the Human Development Office, “afforded a major conceptual breakthrough in clarifying the relationship between human rights and human development. The Report identifies seven freedoms as inherent to both. These span the spheres of social, economic, political and civil life, including freedom from discrimination, from fear, of speech, from want, to develop and realize one’s human potential, from injustice and violations of the rule of law, and to obtain decent work.” The year 2000 was also a time for reflecting on the 20 th century and there is a nice list of unprecedented advances worldwide in each of the seven freedoms.

    Each of the Human Development Reports has a large set of tables in the back covering a wide variety of data related to human development. In addition to the HDI and other UNDP-developed indices, there is data for every country (where available) on health, education, economic performance, resource use, aid flow and debt, energy use, environmental profile, and others.

  • Human Development Report 2001: Making New Technologies Work for Human Development2001

    United Nations Development Programme

    This report start out by noting that “the 20 th century’s unprecedented gains in advancing human development and eradicating poverty came largely from technological breakthroughs” including antibiotics and vaccines, and breakthroughs in plant breeding, fertilizers and pesticides. It also notes, however, that technology is created in response to market pressures – not the needs of poor people, who have little purchasing power. Further, market failures are pervasive where knowledge and skills are concerned and governments have provided funding to substitute for market demand in every technologically advanced country today. Developing countries, then, tend to lack both market and non-market mechanisms for getting technology to support development.

    The good news in this report is that the network age is changing how technologies are created and diffused in ways that aid developing countries. While there are continuing worries about the “digital divide”, the network is already helping developing countries with political participation, transparency in markets and institutions, health service delivery, and income. The UNDP created a technological achievement index to track the diffusion of technological progress in countries. While the report acknowledges that there are still significant challenges in getting technology to work for human development, it provides several examples of how developing countries are creatively surmounting these challenges.

  • Human Development Report 2002: Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World2002

    This report argues that “for politics and political institutions to promote human development and safeguard the freedom and dignity of all people, democracy must widen and deepen.” It argues that the central challenge for deepening democracy is building the key institutions of democratic governance: a system of representation, with well-functioning political parties; an electoral system that guarantees free and fair elections; a system of checks and balances based on separation of powers; a vibrant civil society; a free, independent media; and effective civilian control over the military. The report says that, since 1980, 81 countries have taken significant steps towards democracy and 140 of the world’s nearly 200 countries now hold multiparty elections. On the other hand, only 82 countries, with 57% of the world’s population, are fully democratic. There’s an interesting set of tables that gets at objective measures of governance. Included are data on levels of democracy, the rule of law and government effectiveness, corruption, participation in governance, civil society, and ratification of rights instruments.

  • Human Development Report 2003: Millennium Development Goals: A Compact Among Nations to End Human Poverty2003

    The 2003 report takes on the Millennium Development Goals – they’re challenges, progress since they were agreed to in 2000, and the Millennium Development Compact. Ten tables are introduced that track each of the goals. Several of the tables are sparsely populated with data, emphasizing the difficulty in even measuring the problems, let alone progress or success. Two regions of the world, Sub-Saharan Africa and Central & Eastern Europe & CIS have actually suffered setbacks in their Human Development Indices since 1975. Those are also the regions doing worst at achieving the MDGs, though there are other regions that are not making sufficient progress towards some of the goals. The goal least likely to be achieved is the goal for primary education. The report suggests several steps that rich countries can do to help achieve the goals.

  • Human Development Report 2004: Cultural Liberty in Today’s Diverse World2004

    This report argues that human development requires that people’s cultural identity must be recognized and accommodated by the state. It argues for multicultural democracy and presents several emerging models, including political participation in New Zealand, India and Croatia; religious freedom in India and France; legal pluralism in Guatemala, India and South Africa; language policies in Tanzania; and socio-economic policies in Malaysia, India, South Africa, and the United States. This report adds new tables with demographic trends and with water sanitation and nutritional status. It also presents the human development indices from a regional perspective.

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