Defining Human Development


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

People are the real wealth of nations. The basic goal of development is to create an environment that enables people to enjoy a long, healthy, creative life. This fundamental truth is often forgotten in the immediate concern with the accumulation of goods and money.
 Preoccupation with economic growth and the creation of wealth and material opulence has obscured the fact that development is ultimately about people. It has had the unfortunate effect of pushing people from the centre to the periphery of development debates and dialogues.
Human development can be simply defined as a process of enlarging choices. Every day human beings make a series of choices – some economic, some social, some political, some cultural. If people are the proper focus of development efforts, then these efforts should be geared to enhancing the range of choices in all areas of human endeavour for every human being. Human development is both a process and an outcome. It is concerned with the process through which choices are enlarged, but it also focuses on the outcomes of enhanced choices.
 Human development thus defined represents a simple notion, but one with far-reaching implications.
First, human choices are enlarged when people acquire more capabilities and enjoy more opportunities to use those capabilities. Human development seeks not only to increase both capabilities and opportunities but also to ensure an appropriate balance between them in order to avoid the frustration that a mismatch between the two can create.
 Second, as already implied, economic growth needs to be seen as a means, albeit an important one, and not the ultimate goal, of development. Income makes an important contribution to human well-being, broadly conceived, if its benefits are translated into more fulfilled human lives, but the growth of income is not an end in itself.
 Third, the human development concept, by concentrating on choices, implies that people must influence the processes that shape their lives. They must participate in various decision making processes, the implementation of those decisions, and their monitoring and adjustment to improve outcomes where necessary.
In the ultimate analysis, human development is development of the people, development for the people, and development by the people. Development of the people involves building human capabilities through the development of human resources. Development for the people implies that the benefits of growth must be translated into the lives of people, and development by the people emphasizes that people must be able to participate actively in influencing the processes that shape their lives.
The definition of human development has always been flexible and open-ended and there are as many dimensions of human development as there are ways of enlarging people’s choices. But applying the approach generally requires one to identify things that matter to a particular community at a point in time and the Human Development Reports, since the first in 1990, have published the Human Development Index (HDI) as a measure of human development. The authors of the reports have always recognized, however, that the concept of human development is much broader than the HDI. It is impossible to come up with a comprehensive measure, or even a comprehensive set of indicators, because many vital dimensions of human development are non-quantifiable. But while a comprehensive single indicator is impossible, progress is being made on identifying indicator sets covering issues that are widely recognized as important around the world.
 That said, some core dimensions of human development include:
- Education, Health and Command over resources (income and nutrition).
-  Participation and freedom: particularly empowerment; democratic governance; gender equality; civil and political rights; and cultural liberty; particularly for marginalized groups defined by urban-rural, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, physical/mental parameters, etc. Social support is also included here.
-  Human security : security in daily life against such chronic threats as hunger and abrupt disruptions including joblessness, famine, conflict, crime, etc.
-  Equity: in the distribution of all of the above.
-  Sustainability: for future generations in ecological, economic and social terms. This chapter will return to some of these areas in due course.
 


Thursday, 06th Aug 2015, 07:47:40 AM

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