HDRs represent participatory capacity development and advocacy processes involving thorough analytical research and debate of human development issues that are of concern at the country level. They are prepared by national teams of experts who apply a country-driven approach for the completion of the reports. Government involvement in the research process ensures that these reports will effectively contribute to both existing and new government plans and policies. HDR topics range from specific issues such as HIV/AIDS, governance, inequity, gender, and culture to general development-related issues that affect a country's social, political, and economic growth. HDRs also include statistics and other data that provide information on a country's human development progress and areas for improvement.
HDRs function as a key resource for policy-makers, scholars, NGOs, economists, governments, and journalists. They are a crucial tool for monitoring national performance in human development and for identifying important emerging trends. Moreover, they help engage national partners in policy dialogue by offering alternative policy options that inform UNDP's own programming in a country. Perhaps most importantly, HDR teams help develop national capacity and build consensus through a participatory process that opens up democratic space for debate.
Because they are grounded in national and regional perspectives, the reports are ideally placed to influence change. Through innovative approaches and the efforts of many partners, these reports are having a tremendous impact on the lives of people. They are helping shape poverty reduction strategy papers and influencing peace negotiations. Universities and military academies use them for their curricula. Non-governmental groups turn to them to monitor progress and hold governments accountable, while journalists use them as an invaluable reporting resource. They are used by UN Country Teams and other international agencies to help steer national programmes, policy advice, aid coordination and resource mobilization efforts.
In addition to more than 30 regional reports, more than 600 national and sub-national HDRs have been produced by 140 countries. They have introduced the human development concept into national policy dialogue-not only through human development indicators and policy recommendations, but also through the country-led and country-owned process of consultation, research and report writing.
The MDG Reports are progress reports that document empirical data towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. They are meant to mobilize attention and awareness on the MDGs to help trigger action. On the other hand, HDRs consist of in-depth policy analysis and advocacy and aim to present alternative national human development agendas. Their objective is to catalyze public debate and to mobilize action for human development policy making on a set of issues, whereas MDGRs serve as public information and advocacy tools for raising awareness, monitoring progress and mobilizing action to attain the goals. Another important difference is that MDGRs track progress towards achieving a time-bound broad set of goals, while HDRs often provide in-depth analysis on one well-defined human development sector or issue. Furthermore, the MDGRs are descriptive while the HDRs are more analytical and often prescriptive. More information on the differences and similarities between MDGRs and HDRs can be found in this document: NHDRs and MDGRs Mutually Supportive Exercises [103 KB]
The UNDP corporate policy functions as a guideline for the completion of quality HDRs that serve as useful resources for public policy planners and national development advisers. The National HDR corporate policy outlines six main principles HDR teams should follow when working on a report. These principles include national ownership, participatory and inclusive preparation process, independence of analysis, quality of analysis, flexibility and creativity in presentation and sustained follow-up. Overall, the purpose of the National HDR corporate policy is to establish links between HDR analysis and UNDP/UN system operational work and to provide a solid platform for strengthening the position and impact of HDRs as effective applied policy instruments for human development.
The HDR Toolkit, used by national and regional HDR teams, is intended as a reference for all who are involved in the preparation of HDRs. It is a practical handbook, with clear suggestions for action, minimum standards, specific examples and tools for guidance and support. There is no blueprint for the complex debate and consensus building that shape each report, nor for policy analysis that will result in people-centred options. Through practical guidelines and over 80 illustrations of HDR team practices around the world, the toolkit aims to offer general assistance for achieving excellence in HDR processes, content and advocacy.
In an effort to further ensure a complete, credible, and high quality report, HDR reviews are devised in order to assess if individual HDRs have successfully implemented the six principles outlined in the corporate policy and the HDR Toolkit. The overall purpose of these reviews is to maintain a participatory process and to ensure that national team experts are achieving the highest possible quality in writing their reports. They also increase the chances for future improved and better quality HDRs. The review process, which is transparent and participatory, consists of two parts: an independent review and peer reviews.
While UNDP Country Offices core funds often provide most of the funding for the preparation of HDRs, other sources have often contributed as well. These can include funds from other UNDP Trust Funds, other UN agencies, bilateral and multilateral donors and development banks, national governments, international NGOs, and the private sector. Examples include the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Bangladesh Institute for Development Studies, and the Department for International Development (DFID). We sometimes manage funds that can be obtained to produce a Report.
HDR-Net provides a dynamic forum for discussion on human development and measurement related issues linked to the production of HDRs, by over 1200 human development experts from within UNDP, governments, academia, statistical commissions, research and NGO communities. A synthesis of past discussions is available in the form of consolidated replies. This knowledge network links HDR teams with useful resources across the globe, contributing to higher quality HDRs.
The NHDR Unit and the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP) have jointly worked on the drafting of thematic guidance notes, which are papers that provide theoretical background as well as practical guidance for HDR teams on how to most effectively consider thematic issues within a human development framework. The themes include issues such as environment, gender, conflict prevention, HIV/AIDS, human security, and decentralization. Drawing on existing HDRs and extensive research and input from network discussions, the thematic guidance notes also include comprehensive bibliographies that serve as a useful supplementary resource for HDR teams.
A good editor can make or break an HDR — turning strong research and great ideas into coherent text that can inform, persuade and galvanize action.
The following editors were recommended by the HDR focal points:
The Human Development Awards represent one of the major incentives aiming to encourage the enhancement of development policies. By recognizing the outstanding work in HDRs, UNDP hopes to continue to improve and to uphold the quality of these reports. The biennial Human Development Awards recognize excellence in regional, national, and sub-national Human Development Reports and the people and governments who are in the front lines of human development work. Six awards recognizing excellence in various dimensions of HDRs, such as quality of analysis, policy impact and human development innovations, are presented at a ceremony every two years. The criteria for eligibility are based on the country's adherence to the six principles of the UNDP Corporate Policy on HDRs.
Yes. The Oxford / UNDP Human Development Training Course, held every two years, is a two-week course on human development that draws on the practical experience of leading analysts from international development agencies. The course is designed to be an intensive learning experience both for practitioners within and outside of UNDP who have a long-standing interest and experience in development issues. In addition to the Oxford course, many other global, regional and national training workshops are being conducted. More information on training initiatives are available within our training section of this website.