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Statistics, Development and Human Rights

Functionings – these refer to the ‘doings and  beings’ that constitute the nature of the individual’s existence in society

Human development would then entail the maximisation of the entitlements and the development of the capabilities that would in turn allow the freedom to achieve various functioning combinations.

The shift in attention away from purely economistic conceptualisations of development has also been driven by the search for explanations of the high failure rates of many development assistance programmes. Among researchers, policy analysts, and some of the major donor agencies there is now much concern about the social and institutional aspects of development [Woolcock 1998], and the possible importance of building up social capital and socially “enabling” environments [Human Development Report 1999]. There is now much focus on the possible role of low social and institutional capabilities and capacities in the developing societies [World Bank Development Report 1997]. Whereas early economic analysts would use per capita income as a measure of the development of a country, today, analysts increasingly seek to incorporate other measures of social and economic change, and to insist that not only should economic development generate social development, but economic development may not occur unless there is also social development.

The most recent definition of human development by UNDP [1999] therefore has the following elements:

Basic health and education

Opportunities for being productive and having secure   livelihoods

Adequate nutrition

Access to information

Political, social and economic freedoms – especially the freedom to choose jobs and livelihoods

Safe physical environment

Freedom from violence and physical threats

Adequate shelter

A sense of community

Within this framework, human development measures in general, and poverty reduction or eradication measures in particular should have the objective of improving the economic and social well-being of individuals in a society. In other words, just as increased education and healthier population may be expected to result in a rise in productivity, and therefore in economic growth, poverty reduction should also be expected to reduce the wastage of valuable human  resources, increase the potential market for goods and services, and help to promote the climate of social stability deemed necessary for sustained economic growth.

Poverty reduction or eradication is central to the concept of human development.  Poverty is regarded as deprivation of the material requirements for minimally acceptable fulfillment of basic human needs (food, health, education, shelter, etc). It also represents the absence of some basic capabilities to function adequately in a society. It can also be regarded as a condition of disempowerment and extreme vulnerability brought about by “social, political and economies inequalities that deny access to the means of social power to some segments of society” [Douglass, 1998, p 3]. Understanding human development therefore requires an understanding of the socio-economic structure and operations of a country.

Montreux, 4. – 8. 9. 2000

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