Moving towards human development


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Koehler, G. (2010). Moving toward Human Development Policy.

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Moving towards human development

  1. 1. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: Gabriele Koehler Moving towards human development policy 1 2010 is the 20th "anniversary" of the human development paradigm. It has become a leading concept in development, next to and, to some degree in competition with, more action-oriented terms which find application in policy making. These include the Millennium Declaration and the MDG agenda, socio-economic security and decent work discourses, and the concept of human security. Recently, the academic discussions on happiness or wellbeing, or their inverse, multidimensional definitions of poverty, are also gaining policy traction. This paper discusses these approaches, assesses their usefulness in informing policy making, and then makes suggestions for a human development policy anchored in the concept of human security. The human development paradigm and competing concepts and their role in policy As a notion, human development has been informing development discourse and development practice - national development plans or strategies, as well as development programmes of bi- and multilateral donors, since its introduction in 1990. Human development is a rights-based approach and explicit in its concern with the integral link between economic and social development. The human development concept has quasi-institutionalised the Sen’ian notion of a broadening of choices as the desired outcome of “development”, which is in turn anchored in normative principles of rights, participation and empowerment. The commitment to human rights and empowerment and the equal significance devoted to economic and social development has been a major contribution to development discourse, and marked a departure from the economistic notions of earlier development paradigms which overemphasised the role of economic development. For policy and practice, the annual country rankings by UNDP using the human development index (HDI) have become a major political yardstick for progress in developing and transition countries, and the trend lines that can be produced with the HDI convey, in a powerful fashion, progress over time in that conglomerate index. Shortcomings in the approach are both methodological and conceptual. Methodological shortcomings reside in the choice of indicators - education proxies such as school enrolment or literacy do not capture actual literacy, numeracy and legal literacy; and health proxies such as life expectancy do not capture the quality of life, or wellbeing. However, these "shortcomings" were deliberate choices made to reach a comparable and 1 This text was prepared for the conference Twenty Years of Human Development: the past and future of the Human Development Index, convened by the Van Huegel Institute, Cambridge University, and UNDP in January 2010. Sincere thanks especially to Flavio Comim and Des Gaspar for comments and ideas. 1
  2. 2. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: computable indicator with sufficient data sets and series, and the decision to do so has been well justified in light of the HDI's impact on policy and public opinion. Conceptually, precisely because of its socio-economic sensitivity, another issue with the HDI is with the lack of reference to decent work and missing parameters for social exclusion or income equality. The - monodimensional - reliance on per capita GDP as a proxy for incomes does not reflect the precariousness of livelihoods in the formal and informal economies, the lack of dignity in work, nor the systemic inequalities due to income, wealth and asset inequalities and the processes of social exclusion which create and recreate social and economic poverty and marginalisation. Possibly because of these conceptual lacunae, despite its presence in discourse and advocacy, human development has not led poverty alleviation discussions or cohered into a particular policy approach. In short, in development advocacy, the HDI plays a major role, while it seems to have been eclipsed by "the MDGs" in terms of development concepts and practice where arguably, the most highly utilized paradigm is the MDG agenda, as the operational version of the Millennium Declaration. It maps out eight overarching development goals, of which seven are in the domestic policy domain, while goal 8 is in the international arena. As is well known, the seven "domestic policy" goals cover poverty, employment, nutrition, education, gender equality, maternal health, child health, HIV/Aids, and environment. Since its adoption at a UN General Assembly meeting in 2000, and a document issued by the UN Secretary General in 2002, the MDG discourse has arguably become the most widely quoted development agenda in developing countries and among donors, as well as in more conceptual development discussions. It has created enormous momentum as a commonly agreed and measurable agenda for developmental progress, with its 18 targets and 50 indicators, of which 32 relate to economic and social development at the national level. In many countries, the indicators are disaggregated by sex, and also by location, ethnicity, language or religion, and other vectors which serve to illustrate the discrepancies in achievements caused by systematic economic and social exclusion. The MDG approach, too, has systemic shortcomings. Methodologically, similar to the HDI, the poverty and hunger goals do not provide space to reflect income and asset disparities and inequalities. Conceptually, neither the MDG Declaration nor the MDG texts contain the notion of human development, although it had gained some discourse traction when the Millennium Declaration was launched. More crucially, the MDG discourse does not have a set of policies connected to it, and is limited to spelling out objectives and targets. The bulk of development discourse in UN agencies is on measurement of progress in the indicators’ performance; but there is rarely a discussion on which policies would be conducive to achieve each of the MDG targets (Koehler and Stirbu, 2007). Policy discussions have been eclipsed by a focus on measuring gaps and calculating investment to achieve the goals, without delving sufficiently into the policy choices and paths. 2
  3. 3. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: Those policy discussions that do take place tend to remain sectoralised within each domain. The outcome and policy discussions related to the education or health goals, for example, give insufficient consideration to crosscutting synergies, and the interplay among nutrition, health and education, and incomes. Moreover, the MDGs have narrowed down the set of core policy areas by concentrating on policies within the “soft” domains”: education, health, water and sanitation, or HIV/Aids. These have gained prominence – and rightly so - in domestic strategy discussions and fiscal budget allocations as well as in donor commitments. This has, however, in many developing and transition countries, come at the expense of strategic thinking and resource allocation on hunger, poverty alleviation or employment, and wider economic development investments. 2 In general, the design of anti-poverty or pro-poor growth policy is by default left to the international and regional financial institutions, leading some analysts to argue that the MDGs have succeeded in drawing attention to social development - or human development - but left the economic agenda to stagnate in its neoliberal mode (Fukuda-Parr 2009). This suggests that the MDGs - and their broader setting in the Millennium Declaration need to be used more effectively than they are to date, to discuss policy approaches, if they are to form a basis for human development policy. A third developmental concept builds on the notion of socio-economic security. In its ILO version, it works with seven areas considered prerequisite for individual and household economic security: labour market security through adequate employment opportunities and government guaranteed full employment, employment security as regards protection against arbitrary dismissal, job income security related to minimum wages, security in the sense of career opportunities, skill reproduction security in the sense of skills building and upgrading, work security such as protection against accidents at work, representation security related to trade union representation (ILO, no year). These security dimensions are equipped with a set of indicators, but more importantly correspond to the established areas of the ILO mandate, and hence implicitly connect to policy domains. Indirectly, these dimensions have recently converged into an initiative for a global social protection minimum or global social floor initiative which covers objectives around education, health, shelter, social protection, and empowerment. 3 A fourth "popular" concept is that of human security. This concept has several distinguishing features. Historically, it derives from the origins of the UN and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This is based in principles of seeking a world "free from fear" and "free from want", which implicitly proposes that public policy needs to address economic, social and political development in a combined effort. It thus 2 This critique has been elaborated by UNCTAD in its Least Developed Country Report (UNCTAD 2005). It has been partly addressed by the UN Millennium Project which has spawned a process of MDG costing exercises across developing countries which have developed costing methodologies for economic infrastructure such as transport and energy as well as for the core MDGs - education, health, water and sanitation. 3 Another notion, related to socio-economic security, is the decent work agenda. It is situated in the normative and standards domain of the core labour standards as codified in the ILO conventions, which is a point in its focuses on policy, albeit limited to employment and livelihoods. 3
  4. 4. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: bridges the - subsequent - artificial divisions introduced in the 1960s on civil and political rights on the one hand and economic, social and cultural rights on the other, and offers a unifying view on development. Secondly, the notion of human security combines the political and human rights agenda with the socio-economic one, in that it covers seven policy domains – food security, health, the environment; economic, personal and community-level security; and political security. The validity of this approach has been re-confirmed by the financial and economic crises of 2008/9 which coincided with situations of severe food insecurity in at least 20 countries, leading to an increase in the number of people living in hunger and malnutrition by at least 100 million globally. Covering a longer time period of 19962006, 35 countries were registered as facing a severe food crisis due to vulnerability to natural hazards and or social-political factors including violence and civil strife (UNDESA 2008, p. 2 f). The human security concept captures this vulnerability and extreme crisis, which does not reflect in the human development paradigm or the MDG hunger indicator, which is static. Thirdly, human security can be used for both subjective and objective approaches to assessing progress in human development, so that actual situations, measured by objective variables, and perceptions - which are extremely important notably for vulnerable groups (see Koehler 2004; UNDP Latvia 2004). 4 And finally, it explicitly proposes the concept of human security as an operational tool for policy formulation and implementation (Human Security Commission 2003). The notion of human security is thus capable of addressing, in one integrated concept, the entire spectrum of development concerns, including food insecurity, climate change and associated natural disasters, political strife and conflict, and human rights violations, as well as economic inequality and social exclusion in its objective manifestations and its subjective perceptions. This appears as a structural advantage compared to the human development or MDG concepts. Overall, however, the human security notion seems to have receded from mainstream development discourse, compared to its far more visible conceptual and policy presence in the early 2000s. Reasons for this include the - erroneous - conflation of the concept of human security with military security (see for example Gasper 2009), which risks narrowing the approach, and the policy space ascribed to it. Nevertheless, in the UN system, the concept has maintained policy traction for example at UNESCO, which is using it for its peace and development programming and for policy dialogue in developing countries, and at UNDP, which has been applying the concept in some of the national human development reports. The 2008 UN World Economic and Social Survey has examined economic security in a broad sense, with an emphasis risk, vulnerability and uncertainty both the in the immediate economic domain, and the vulnerabilities 4 The UNDP Latvia Human Development Report 2002/3, for example, examined human security in Latvia using a questionnaire that examined subjective feelings of security, combined with objective criteria. See UNDP 2002/3. also see Jolly/ … 2009. The report then fleshed out ideas for action by individuals, communities, the government and international actors, organized around the human secirty threats perceived and de facto. 4
  5. 5. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: created in the vicious cycle between economic insecurity and civil conflict and natural catastrophes (UN-DESA 2008). At the country level, the government of Thailand established a Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (Government of Thailand), and UNDP Thailand in 2008/9 researched a Human Development Report on Human Security. Development concepts in practice How do these concepts influence policy making and development practice? In the UN system - a main generator of development concepts - there is a certain disconnect between concept and policies. Beyond the overarching, common MDG agenda, each UN agency has a mandate with a distinct set of objectives and results, and applies different sets of concepts and policy approaches to reaching these - each agency tends to operate around its own concepts and policy paradigms. UNDP primarily applies the human development concept. UNICEF refers to social policy - which comes close to, but is not identical with, a human development policy. The World Bank uses social development, the ILO decent work, and UNCTAD productive capacity, to cite random examples of lead paradigms. This divergence is based in the disparate evidence bases guiding each agency in terms of its approach to realising its mandate and contributing to a particular MDG target. Policy positions and stances as to the optimal and most efficient approach to reach a result - such as, for example, decreased poverty or increased child survival - vary widely among agencies. Thus, despite the common commitment to human development as a concept, or to the MDGs as a developmental agenda, there are two big gaps in UN development policy: – the policy domains in which each agency works do not interface, and – the policy content is rarely subjected to inter-agency discussion. Globally, including among developing countries, their policies are not harmonised, especially in the economic development domain. They compete with each other on labour laws, tax legislation, trade policy, and environmental requirements. This - inadvertently often propels a race to the bottom – despite the commitments to common global development goals and undermines progress towards human development or the MDGs outcomes. In countries even more so, the world of actual policy making is pragmatic rather than concept-led, despite the many offers of development concepts with a policy dimension. In real policy at the country level, policies remain siloed in line ministries. They rarely converge around human development outcomes or MDG synergies. Reasons include the fact that government ministries are responsible for discrete outcomes, and moreover compete for finite resources for their particular area of development investment. 5 A recent interesting exception is India under the government’s common minimum programme, where the large "missions" - flagship policy campaigns – such as for education for all, global health and others – are being revisited to create a convergent, 5 5
  6. 6. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: Structurally, the idea of a developmental state devoted to striving for human development eschews the question of interests - in whose interest is the state, or the individual government, taking policy decisions? As a result of this "blind eye" to the role of the state, issues around income distribution or empowerment or rights become marginalized in policy making. From the above emerges the case for a holistic conceptual and policy approach. There is a need to combine the various concepts or paradigms and pull together the policy domains so as to achieve rights-based human development. Obviously, specific policy approaches in each country will differ, depending on history, political, cultural and social institutions, economic trajectories, and ultimately, the role of the state. Nevertheless, the case can be made to search for a paradigm for the new decade – or the post-MDG era? – which would move the concept of human development towards a holistic and transformative human development policy. In such search, one option might do two things. Firstly, retain the original human development index, with its methodological and conceptual imperfections, since it has served very well to track progress and compare countries' ranking, and does so in a functional way. It is an excellent tool for analysis and for advocacy. Secondly, complement the HDI with a second concept, that of human security which can combine and integrate the various other concepts. A human security policy framework could conceivably draw together a set of policy domains that could be connected for more impact: o the MDG sectoral policies for food security, education, health, water and sanitation and related areas; o broader macroeconomic policies including those to create and promote decent work, overcome poverty, which would include a combination of growth, income redistribution, and sector policies around equitable and sustainable trade and industrial strategies; o policies addressing human security in the more narrow sense of the word which are so fundamental as conflict and natural disasters intensify; o policies to address climate change and "green", environmentally sustainable growth; o policies for "social justice" - addressing decent work, income equality, and universal social protection; and o policies to create genuine gender equality and rights- based social inclusion, rights, participation, dignity, and a subjective sense of being secure o policies to enable socio-economic transformation. cross-sectoral policy approach. 6
  7. 7. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: One example how a human security approach could both serve to reflect on development situations as well as inform policy comes from Nepal. In the HDI, Nepal has been moving up the latter, since poverty at the macroeconomic level has decreased and there have been success in education and health. At the same time, not captured in the HDI are several core aspects of the human condition. In the economic domain, remunerative decent employment is available for only a small share of employees in the formal economy, and income distribution has been deteriorating - some data suggest that Nepal has the worst Gini coefficient in all of Asia. Moreover, the progress in poverty alleviation has been associated mainly with the effect of remittances, and migration comes with a massive downside in terms of emotional deprivations of both the migrant and the family left behind, and economic exploitation in the host country. Food insecurity in parts of the country is rampant and the number of people living in hunger increased from an estimated 4 to 6 million people between 2007 and 2009. In the social domain, social exclusion based on caste, ethnicity, and language is rampant and magnified by an ongoing discourse on ethnically based geographical federation. The health and education indicators and progress differ enormously by gender and across ethnic groups. Political insecurity, despite the end of the civil war in 2006, is rampant. None of these indicators reflect in the tracked HDI performance, but could be expressed in a human security approach. Revisiting and perhaps revising the original human development concept towards human security understood in this broader may offer a way forward. Timing is good. A new decade has begun - always a stimulus to re-visit concepts and policies. It is time to restrategise on a common agenda, as the MDG “deadline” of 2015 approaches. Indeed, governments and UN agencies are beginning to rethink the Millennium Declaration and the scope of the MDGs. Moreover, the new - and dynamic- global governance architecture - such as the G20, or international fora such as Davos , or new donors - suggest that the UN needs to get back “ahead of the curve” (Emmerij, Jolly, Weiss 2001). But, most importantly, inclusive and transformative human development remains elusive for a majority of humanity, and this must change. References Commission on Human Security, 2003. Human Security Now. New York. Emmerij, Louis, Richard Jolly and Thomas Weiss 2001, Ahead of the Curve? UN Iddeas and Global Challenegs. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko, 2010, Reducing Inequality – The Missing MDG: A Content Review of PRSPs and Bilateral Donor Policy Statements. IDS Bulletin Volume 41 Number pp 26-35 7
  8. 8. Gabriele Koehler, 30 March 2010. circa 3000 words. Contact email: Gasper, Des, 2009, The Human and the Social - a systemised comparison of the discourses of Human Development, Human Security and Social Quality. Asia Social Quality Network Meeting, 9-11 December 2009. Bangkok Gaspar, des, Laurent J.G. van der Maesen, Thanh-Dam Truong and Alan Walker, 2008, Human Security and Social Quality: Contrasts and Complementarities. ISS Working Paper 462. The Hague ILO, no year. Social Security Department, Socio-Economic Security Dimensions accessed 8 February 2010 Jolly, Richard and Deepayan Basu, 2007, Human Security - National Perspectives and Global Agendas: Insights from National Human Development Reports. Journal of International Development Vol 19, pp 457–472 Koehler, Gabriele, 2004, Human Development and Human Security: Tracing the Concept through History. Socialo Zinatnu Vestnesis. Daugavpils University, Latvia. Volume 1. pp 24-29. Koehler, Gabriele and Mariana Stirbu, 2007, MDG-based Planning for Development: Policy Interface and Synergies of Outcomes for South Asia. Report of Millennium Development Goals related Policy and Programme Review. Unicef ROSA, Kathmandu Government of Thailand, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, type=0&lang=2&Qsearch=ministry+of+human+security&b=Go. Accessed 19 March 2010 United Nations DESA 2008, World Economic and Social Survey 2008. Overcoming economic insecurity. United Nations New York. UNCTAD 2005, Least Developed Countries Report. Geneva and New York: United Nations. UNDP. Various years. Human Development Report. New York: Oxford University Press. UNDP 1994, Human Development Report. Human Security. New York: Oxford University Press. UNDP Latvia 2003/4. Human Development Report: Human Security. Riga. development reports UNESCO, 2008. Human Security: Approaches and Challenges. Paris. 8