People are the real wealth of a nation.
It is now almost universally accepted that a country’s success or an individual’s well-being cannot be evaluated by money alone. Income is of course crucial: without resources, any progress is difficult. Yet we must also gauge whether people can lead long and healthy lives, whether they have the opportunity to be educated and whether they are free to use their knowledge and talents to shape their own destinies.
A few key findings and notes
One of the most surprising results of human development research in recent years, confirmed in this Report, is the lack of a significant correlation between economic growth and improvements in health and education.
Attempts to transplant policy solutions across countries with different conditions often fail: policies must be grounded in the prevailing institutional setting to bring about change.
Countries may accelerate progress in the HDI but not excel in the broader dimensions: it is possible to have a high HDI and be unsustainable, undemocratic.
Countries exhibit enormous variation in maternal mortality ratios, even countries at similar incomes. Iran enjoys a higher per capita income than Costa Rica, but Iran’s maternal mortality ratio is 4.5 times Costa Rica’s.
Putting people at the centre of development means making progress equitable, enabling people to be active participants in change and ensuring that current achievements are not attained at the expense of future generations.
In the final analysis, human security is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, a job that was not cut, an ethnic tension that did not explode in violence, a dissident who was not
silenced. Human security is not a concern with weapons—it is a concern with human life and dignity.
Human rights are the rights possessed by all persons, by virtue of their common humanity, to live a life of freedom and dignity. They give all people moral claims on the behaviour of individuals and on the design of social arrangements—and are universal, inalienable and indivisible.
Human development has three components:
• Well-being: expanding people’s real freedoms—so that people can flourish.
• Empowerment and agency: enabling people and groups to act—to drive valuable outcomes.
• Justice: expanding equity, sustaining outcomes over time and respecting human rights and other goals of society.
Unlike in health and education, there has been substantial divergence in income across countries.
From 1970 to 2010 per capita income in developed countries increased 2.3 percent a year on average, compared with 1.5 percent for developing countries. In 1970 the average income of a country in the top quarter of the world income distribution was 23 times that of a country in the bottom quarter.
By 2010 it approached 29 times. Divergence among developing countries has become more marked as well. Some developing countries—including Botswana, China, Malaysia and Thailand— have grown faster since the 1970s than any rich country. At the same time, the income of several other countries—including Comoros, Iran and Senegal — has stagnated. Still other countries, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, have suffered economic collapses.
|HDI rank||Human Development
Index (HDI) valuea
at birth (years)
of schooling (years)
of schooling (years)
|Gross national income
(GNI) per capita (PPP 2008 $)
|GNI per capita rank
minus HDI rank
|32United Arab Emirates||0.815||77.7||9.2||11.5||58,006||–28||0.774|
Iran, Islamic Republic of
If economic growth was indispensable for progress in health and education, countries with falling GDP would not be progressing in health and education. But this is not the case: Iran, Togo and Venezuela experienced income declines, yet their life expectancy has risen an average of 14 years and their gross school enrollment an average of 31 percentage points since 1970.
Poor countries benefited from the rapid spread of innovations in medicine and interventions in
public health, when the cost had fallen dramatically.
Democratization may have the strongest effects on primary education; decentralization can
have stronger effects on higher levels of schooling.
Globalization has propelled domestic issues onto the international stage. One expression of this trend is the upsurge of global and transnational civil society: the number of international organizations increased more than fivefold from 1970 to 2010, to an estimated 25,000.
Protests often have an international dimension— as attested by boycotts of the apartheid regime in South Africa, mobilizations seeking to end the conflict in Darfur, and support, often in Western countries, for pro-democracy protesters in Iran and Myanmar.
There has been marked international progress in recognizing the rights of sexual minorities in recent years, notably the 2008 UN General Assembly Declaration in support of decriminalizing homosexuality, signed by 60 countries to date. Yet barriers continue in national law and practice. In 2009 homosexuality was illegal in 76 countries, with punishments ranging from several years to life imprisonment. In Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen (as well as in parts of Nigeria and Somalia), it was punishable by death.
Most people depend on their jobs for their livelihood and that of their families—for many,
losing their job is the single most important event (apart from death) that can erode their
The main threat to maintaining progress in human development comes from the increasingly
evident unsustainability of production and consumption patterns. Current production
models rely heavily on fossil fuels. We now know that this is unsustainable—because the
resources are finite and their impacts dangerous. The close link between economic growth
and greenhouse gas emissions needs to be severed for human development to become truly
UN introduced three new indices to capture multidimensional aspects of well-being for inequality, gender equity and poverty that reflect advances in methods and better data availability.
The agenda beyond 2010
The policies that advance economic growth and the nonincome aspects of human development
differ—but they also overlap. We must pay more attention to these overlaps
Consensus is growing that the same policies can have different effects in different contexts: what has worked in one place may not work in another.
For human development to be sustainable, the link between fossil fuels and economic growth
has to be severed.
Source: United Nations