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Integrated Farming in Human Develeopment - Proceedings of a Workshop

Introduction to the Concept of Human Development

John Martinussen
International Development Studies, Roskilde University, P.O. Box 260, Dk-4000 Roskilde, Denmark E-mail:

The paper starts by clarifying the terms: development concept, theory and strategy before it goes
on to review the origin and elaboration of the concept of human development. This is followed by a brief discussion of the different concepts of human development and some strategies proposed for promoting human development. In that context the role of donor agencies is discussed. It is concluded that the concepts provide a framework for analyses and development cooperation that are different from the 'paradigm' associated with conceptions of development as growth. It is noted that attempts to promote human development may be divided into two approaches of which one is top-down aiming at improving management of public resources while another is bottom-up aiming at empowering poor and resource-weak segments of society. It is finally mentioned that a more detailed discussion of human development and its promotion will have to be set in a specific context. Key words: human development, origin, dimensions, strategies, top-down, bottom-up, economic growth.

The concept of human development was originally introduced as an alternative to conceptions of development that focused on economic growth - with or without equity considerations. Therefore, it may be useful to begin by briefly referring to the definition of development as growth in one sense or another. Even prior to that, however, it may be expedient to clarify the dimensions and aspects involved in discussing development issues. Much of the debate, in my opinion, has been confused because a necessary distinction has not been applied between development concept (or development objective); development theory; and development strategy. Let me briefly try to outline these three dimensions and their interlinkages.

A development concept contains the answer to what development is. This answer can never be value-free. It will always reflect notions of what ought to be understood by development. These notions can be formulated as development objectives either in terms of particular conditions which must be achieved, or in terms of a certain direction of change. To illustrate, a development concept, like the one embodied in modernization theory, may claim that the large industrialized countries, e.g. USA, are developed, i.e. they have achieved certain - positively evaluated - conditions. According to this conception, changes in Third World countries towards increasing similarity with these industrialized countries are regarded as development. Other changes are not regarded as such. The dynamic change processes through which a country moves towards greater resemblance with the developed countries is called the development process, according to this notion. Other concepts of development focus more on the given conditions in Third World societies and define development in terms of bringing out, unfolding, what is potentially contained in these societies. Often, emphasis is given here to increasing the capacities for taking and implementing decisions in accordance with nationally or locally perceived priorities. Development theory seeks to answer questions such as the following: How can chosen and specified development objectives be promoted? What conditions will possibly obstruct, delay, or detract progress towards the objectives? What causal relationships and laws of motion apply to the societal change processes? What actors play dominant roles, and what interests do they have? How do the changes affect various social groups and various geographical regions? Questions like these are not value-neutral, but they set the stage for expounding, unlike a development concept, how social reality is actually structured - as opposed to how it ought to be structured. Theories thus contain significant normative elements, but can nonetheless be subjected to validating or invalidating tests through empirical analyses of the actual conditions and historical experiences. Development strategy as an abstract notion refers essentially to the actions and interventions that can be appropriately used to promote strictly defined development objectives. Once again the basis is heavily value-loaded in that there are 'chosen' development goals. But there is - at least in principle - the possibility of a matter-of-fact weighing of which strategies are the most effective and least costly to promote the established objectives. In practice, though, decision makers as well as researcher often have had too little insight into the relevant contexts and causal relationships to ensure indisputable strategy choices. These are, therefore, in many cases more reflections of prejudices, ideologies and personal preferences. The abstract interrelationship between concept, development process, theory and strategy may be depicted as shown in figure 1.

In the terms thus outlined what we shall attempt to do in the present article is to review the origin and elaboration of the concept of human development. This will be followed by a brief discussion of the various aspects of human development. Space does not allow us to go much into theories about conditions that promote or impede progress on the various dimensions, but we will touch on some of the strategies proposed for promoting human development and briefly refer to the role of donor agencies in this context. It may be added that I have dealt with these issues more extensively in recent textbooks (Martinussen, 1994; 1996b).

Origin and elaboration of the concept

As indicated above, the concept of human development emerged as an alternative to definitions of development which focused on growth. There has never been general agreement on how to define economic growth; nor on how best to measure growth in developing societies. Yet, wide approval has been gained today for a notion which defines economic development as a process whereby the real per capita income of a country increases over a long period of time while simultaneously poverty is reduced and the inequality in society is generally diminished - or at least not increased. Conceptions of this kind have also been adopted in World Bank analyses. Further, they have informed Bank strategies since the early 1970s. However, considerable fluctuations over time can be observed. Up till around 1980, the World Bank was mainly interested in combining growth in per capita income with special assistance to the poor. One of the strategies was described as redistribution with growth; another went under the name 'the basic needs strategy'. In the 1980s, the focus shifted towards aggregate growth in conjunction with restoration of macro-economic balances, structural adjustment, and increased foreign-exchange earnings. Since 1990, the Bank has again emphasized growth for the poor and resource-weak groups - along with aggregate growth - in its overall conception of development (cf. World Bank, 1980; 1990). The above definition of economic development embodies a wish to improve the living conditions, the welfare, for in principle all citizens of a society. However, the indicators for this remained in most of the literature and the international debate limited to income measurements of one kind or the other. As a corollary, it was asserted that growth in real incomes was the main target.

This was disputed by prominent economists such as Amartya Sen, Paul Streeten, Mahbub ul Haq, and others who believed that increased incomes should be regarded as a means to improve human welfare, not as an end in itself (Sen, 1988; Streeten, 1994). To these economists, human welfare was the overall objective - the essence of development. Increased incomes and national economic growth were crucial preconditions for improvements in standards of living, but not the only preconditions. This could be easily demonstrated, e.g. by comparing per capita incomes with indicators of education or health standards. Figures from the mid-1980s thus showed that the average life expectancy in many countries was considerably lower than one would expect from the income figures. Sri Lanka, with an average income of US$ 360, had an average life expectancy of 70 years, whereas Brazil, with over US$ 1700, had an average life expectancy of no more than 64 years (Sen, 1988, p. 12). With the first Human Development Report from 1990, prepared under the leadership of Mahbub ul Haq, UNDP adopted this basic criticism of income measurements and presented a more comprehensive concept of human development (UNDP, 1990). The report defined human development as a process of enlarging people's choices. In the following section we shall see how proponents of human development elaborated this conception into a multi-dimensional approach.

Dimensions of human development

According to Mahbub ul Haq, the defining difference between the economic growth and the human development schools is that the first focuses exclusively on the expansion of only one choice - income - while the second embraces the enlargement of all human choices - whether economic, social, cultural, or political (Haq, 1995, Ch. 2). It could be argued that an increase in income would enlarge all other choices as well. But this is exactly what Haq and others have questioned by asserting that the causal link between expanding income and expanding human choices depend on the quality and distribution of economic growth, not only on the quantity of such growth. They have argued that a link between income growth and human welfare has to be created consciously through public policies which aim at providing services and opportunities as equitably as possible to all citizens. This cannot be left to the market mechanisms, because these are essentially very unfriendly to the poor, to the weak, and to the vulnerable (Haq, 1995, Ch. 12). Rejecting the automatic link, however, should not be taken to imply any rejection of the importance of economic growth, according to Haq. He very carefully tries to balance the argument by pointing, on the one hand, to the need for growth in poor societies for reducing mass poverty, and on the other, to the fact that the distribution of growth and the manner in which available resources are being utilized often matter more to the poor than aggregate growth of national income and production.

The human development school at first drew attention primarily to the choices in three essential areas: the opportunity to lead a long and healthy life; the opportunity to acquire knowledge; and the opportunity to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living. To this was later added several other dimensions and aspects, and the name of the concept itself was changed from 'human development' to 'sustainable human development' in order to highlight the importance of sustaining all forms of capital and resources - physical, human, financial, and environmental - as a precondition for meeting the needs also of future generations. The UNDP reports, which have been published annually since 1990, present accounts of human development in both developing countries and industrialized countries. These accounts are based on an index with three central components: (a) The average real income per capita, adjusted downwards for the rich countries by using the purchasing power of a country's currency (i.e. the number of units of a particular currency required to purchase the same representative basket of goods and services that a US dollar would buy in the USA); (b) the average life expectancy; and (c) adult literacy combined with real access to education at various levels (UNDP, 1995, p 134ff.). The concept of human development has gradually been extended into basically all areas of societal development. To the original focus on the missing link between income and welfare has been added particular concern for the provision of social infrastructure and services that are made available on an equal basis to all citizens; special emphasis on gender equality; and equal opportunities for participation in political and economic decision-making. The latter requires both an enabling legal and institutional framework and empowerment of citizens and civil society organizations so that they become capable of reaching up to the authorities. Some of the adherents to the concept have furthermore put special emphasis on the environmental and natural resources aspects of sustainability. As a reflection of the emphasis on gender, recent UNDP reports have included indicators for measuring gender equality. The 1995 report, in particular, focused on this issue (UNDP, 1995). UNDP's work on human development contains some attempts at identifying causal relationships and obstacles to the enhancement of welfare and the enlargement of opportunities and choices on an equitable basis. Strategies for overcoming these obstacles have also been evolved. Based partly on UNDP's contributions in this area, the next section discusses briefly some of the main strategies for promoting human development. I have added to this a few observations on the possible roles that donor agencies may play in relation to these strategies.

Strategies for promoting human development

Based on the understanding that the core of human development comprises the enlargement of people's choices, welfare and equitable access to opportunities, it is deemed expedient to make a distinction between, on the one hand, management of public

resources for human development, and on the other hand, the creation of an enabling environment for people's participation and the exercising of choices. Management of public resources for human development involves mobilization, allocation, and utilization of resources so as to meet as equitably as possible the needs of all citizens. Taking into consideration the sustainability perspective this further implies meeting the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future ones. In more specific terms, management of public resources must ensure more effective and efficient provision of social infrastructure and delivery of basic social services like education and health. In order to achieve that most governments in the Third World need to be strengthened considerably. They need to have their capacities for reaching down and out to the citizens significantly enhanced. This emphasis on government capacity does not imply a return to notions of the state as the chief engine of growth, nor does it imply that the capacities of non-government institutions and organizations are seen as unimportant. Rather, the point is that the emerging division of labor between state and market and between state and civil society requires governments that are capable of performing a range of key functions effectively. That is a very basic precondition for achieving a higher degree of human development. Creation of an enabling environment relates to institutional arrangements and procedures that promote people's participation in decision making, human security, and a genuine dialogue between government and civil society. In this area the shortcomings are even more evident in most Third World societies than with respect to the capacities of the state. Very few societies have a proper legal and institutional framework for interaction between civil society organizations and government agencies. Essentially, the focus of a human development strategy therefore should be on establishing a framework that will enable the citizens and their organizations to reach up to the authorities and to do so on a more equal basis. Official multilateral and bilateral aid agencies, including UNDP, may assist in improving the management of public resources for human development. Even the World Bank and the regional development banks can play major roles in this area, and they sometimes have done so in the past. With respect to improving the environment for people's participation, however, official donor agencies are likely to play more limited roles. Organizations like the World Bank or UNDP are not in a position to directly empower the resource-poor segments of the population. What these official donor agencies can and should do is to propose and assist the government in creating the necessary institutional framework and procedures and, possibly, under certain conditions agencies like the UNDP can provide direct services to facilitate dialogue and conciliation, as has happened in some countries during transition from civil war to political stability, or from centrally planned economies to market economies. References above to government and institutional frameworks should be taken to mean both central and local level. As increasingly acknowledged by both scholars and

practitioners there is considerable scope for promoting human development more effectively and efficiently by transferring authority and responsibility to regional and local governments. These sub-national authorities may be in better positions than the central government to establish genuine partnerships with citizens and communities which, in turn, will help the authorities to become better at providing basic services and performing key functions, while at the same time generating an enabling environment for people's participation. I have elaborated extensively on this point in a recent study of local authorities in Nepal, which further comprises a number of recommendations on how Danida and other official donor agencies may assist in building capacities at the local level within a democratic framework (Martinussen, 1995). In more specific terms, at least four areas of intervention may be identified where donor agencies may assist Third World authorities in improving management of public resources in support of human development, namely by strengthening their capacities to: (1) work out strategies in accordance with national needs and priorities - and in accordance with the objectives embodied in the human development concept; (2) reform public administration with a further view to enhancing government capacity to implement policies and strategies aimed at poverty eradication and promoting welfare and equitable access to services; (3) mobilize resources for human development - from domestic and international sources; and (4) manage aid in accordance with national priorities and procedures. In relation to creating an enabling environment two aspects of capacity development appear of special importance and within the capabilities of multilateral agencies like UNDP as well as bilateral agencies like Danida: (1) Capacities to bring about devolution and other forms of decentralization aimed at improving resource mobilization and utilization and with a further view to involving the citizens more in decision making; and (2) capacities to involve NGOs and other civil society organizations in human development efforts. A particular area of intervention in certain countries, partly associated with the last point, would be consensus building and the strengthening of institutional capacities for dialogue between government and civil society organizations. Most of the above remarks on the possible roles of donor agencies in support of human development strategies have focused on the reaching-down approaches. Moreover, they have been based on the assumption that we have to do with political authorities who genuinely pursue the goal of human development for all. As is evident from experience, this is rarely the case. Therefore, the emphasis that UNDP and some other official aid agencies put on human development may be seen primarily as an appeal to governments in both recipient countries and donor countries to engage in new forms of development co-operation that are more conducive to promoting this kind of development and with particular emphasis on equity. Other international organizations and a particular group of development researchers who favor people-managed development, base their strategies on a different assumption. They rather take for granted that no government in the Third World will use the necessary

resources on mass development and mass welfare, unless the poor population majority is sufficiently powerful to force upon the authorities such a policy. Their strategies, therefore, above all aim at empowering the poor and deprived social groups so that they become able to effectively reach up to the authorities (Gran, 1983; Chambers, 1983). Only a few official aid agencies, like the ILO and UNICEF, are seen to pursue policies which to some extent correspond to this emphasis. The assistance provided by the ILO Workers' Education Branch to strengthening trade unions in the Third World is a particularly interesting case here (cf. Martinussen, 1996a). But otherwise I would argue that genuine empowerment strategies are difficult to implement for official donor agencies because of the opposition they are likely to provoke from the authorities in most developing countries. This is an area best left to non-government organizations, particularly those that organize citizens and communities of the Third World countries themselves.

Concluding remarks
In this brief introduction to the concept of human development I have confined myself to outlining the abstract notion and some overall strategies which may be pursued in support of human development. From this it is clear that the concept provides a framework for analyses and development co-operation which is basically different from the 'paradigm' associated with conceptions of development as growth. It is further noted that efforts aimed at promoting human development may essentially be divided into two different approaches: One top-down with a focus on improving management of public resources; another bottom-up with a focus on empowering poor and resource-weak segments of society. In a more detailed discussion of human development and how to promote it general and abstract observations like the above will have to be related to a specific context, to particular interests of different social groups and to the special economic, political, and cultural obstacles that prevent millions of people from living decent lives.

Chambers, Robert, 1983, Rural Development. Putting the Last First, New York, John Wiley.
Gran, Guy, 1983, Development by People. Citizen Construction of a Just World, New York, Praeger. Haq, Mahbub ul, 1995, Reflections on Human Development, New York, Oxford University Press. Martinussen, John Degnbol, 1994, Samfund, stat og marked. En kritisk gennemgang af teorier om udvikling i den 3. verden, Kbenhavn, Mellemfolkeligt Samvirke. Martinussen, John, 1995, Democracy, Competition and Choice. Emerging Local Self-Government in Nepal, New Delhi, SAGE. Martinussen, John Degnbol, 1996a "Empowerment of Labor. A Study of ILO-assisted Activities in Support of Third World Trade Unions", in: Lars Rudebeck and Olle Trnquist (Eds.), Democratization in the Third World. Concrete Cases in Comparative and Theoretical Perspective, Uppsala, Uppsala University, 1996.

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