Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Two (2) decades ago the United Nations Development Program or UNDP released a new ‘social technology’ for measuring development. The overall methodoly & tool has been known as the Human Development Index or HDI.
The HDI, from its very inception, looked at measures of development other than the stereotype economic growth indices: GNP, GDP, GDP per capita. Among the novel measures that it introduced are: (a) health, measured thru longevity; (b) education, measured thru literacy rates; and, (c) gender parity, thru the gender empowerment measurement or GEM.
After two (2) decades of consistent assessments and evaluations of nations using the HDI, we hear the gladdening news straight from the UNDP that human development has been improving. However, developing countries or DCs shouldn’t be complacent and leave everything to natural processes, just because their respective HDIs are improving.
The specific country HDIs should serve as yardsticks and alarm bells for country stakeholders—state, market, civil society—to act upon. The message is clear hence: that infrastructures and natural resources alone do not make a country developed.
77% of development requisites are in the nature of human & social capital, which requires heavy investments in human development as a whole. Institutional development and capacity-building are the keys to waging a successful campaign to accelerate human development.
Below is the latest capsule summary of the UNDP regarding HDI.
[Philippines, 10 July 2011]
Summary – The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development
“People are the real wealth of a nation.” With these words the 1990 Human Development Report began a forceful case for a new approach to thinking about development. That the objective of development should be to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives may appear self-evident today. But that has not always been the case. A central objective of the Report for the past 20 years has been to emphasize that development is primarily and fundamentally about people.
This year’s Report celebrates the contributions of the human development approach, which is as relevant as ever to making sense of our changing world and finding ways to improve people’s well-being. Indeed, human development is an evolving idea—not a fixed, static set of precepts—and as the world changes, analytical tools and concepts evolve. So this Report is also about how the human development approach can adjust to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
The past 20 years have seen substantial progress in many aspects of human development. Most people today are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved. And there has been progress not only in improving health and education and raising income, but also in expanding people’s power to select leaders, influence public decisions and share knowledge.
Yet not all sides of the story are positive. These years have also seen increasing inequality— both within and across countries— as well as production and consumption patterns that have increasingly been revealed as unsustainable. Progress has varied, and people in some regions—such as Southern Africa and the former Soviet Union—have experienced periods of regress, especially in health. New vulnerabilities require innovative public policies to confront risk and inequalities while harnessing dynamic market forces for the benefit of all.
Addressing these issues requires new tools. In this Report we introduce three measures to the Report family of indices—the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index. These state-of-the-art measures incorporate recent advances in theory and measurement and support the centrality of inequality and poverty in the human development framework. We introduce these experimental series with the intention of stimulating reasoned public debate beyond the traditional focus on aggregates.
Today’s challenges also require a new policy outlook. While there are no silver bullets or magic potions for human development, some policy implications are clear. First, we cannot assume that future development will mimic past advances: opportunities today and in the future are greater in many respects. Second, varied experiences and specific contexts preclude overarching policy prescriptions and point towards more general principles and guidelines. Third, major new challenges must be addressed—most prominently, climate change.
Many challenges lie ahead. Some are related to policy: development policies must be based on the local context and sound overarching principles; numerous problems go beyond the capacity of individual states and require democratically accountable global institutions. There are also implications for research: deeper analysis of the surprisingly weak relationship between economic growth and improvements in health and education and careful consideration of how the multidimensionality of development objectives affects development thinking are just two examples.
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