The Human Development approach arose
in part as a result of growing criticism to the leading development approach of
the 1980s, which presumed a close link between national economic growth and the
expansion of individual human choices. Many, such as Dr. Mahbub ul Haq, the
Pakistani economist who played a key role in formulating the human development
paradigm, came to recognize the need for an alternative development model due
to many factors, including:
Many of its key principles, however, can be found in the writings of scholars and philosophers from past eras and across many societies.
As of 1990, the human development concept was applied to a systematic study of global themes, as published in the yearly global Human Development Reports under the auspice of the UNDP. The work of Amartya Sen and others provided the conceptual foundation for an alternative and broader human development approach defined as a process of enlarging people’s choices and enhancing human capabilities (the range of things people can be and do) and freedoms, enabling them to: live a long and healthy life, have access to knowledge and a decent standard of living, and participate in the life of their community and decisions affecting their lives.
"Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it."
Prof. Amartya Sen
Human development has always been flexible and “open-ended” with respect to more specific definitions. There can be as many human development dimensions as there are ways of enlarging people’s choices. The key or priority parameters of human development can evolve over time and vary both across and within countries.
Some of the issues and themes currently considered most central to human development include: