Fourth Oxford/UNDP Human Development Training Course organised by the Human Development Report Office, UNDP and the Human Development and Capability Association Oxford, 10-23 September 2006
This course was designed to be an intensive learning experience both for people within UNDP and outside it, who have a long-standing interest and experience in development issues. It gave them an opportunity to become more familiar with the concept and practice of human development. Their aim was to become competent catalysts of a shift towards the adoption of the human development perspective in policy making and priority setting in their own field of action.
We received well over 350 applications for the 50 available spots. Since we had such a large pool of applicants, we were unable to accept scores of extremely well-qualified professionals, and the decision-making process was extremely difficult. The wish to ensure geographic balance, gender balance, and representation from a wide variety of types of institutions in the course were important considerations in the selection process. The course is held every other year.
Given the kind of participants this course caters for (people with a long experience in development, coming from different countries) the course was designed so that these three objectives can be pursued in interesting and challenging ways.
"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
Teaching activities entailed a mixture of lecture and group based activities, so that the intellectual rigour of the former can be coupled with the pragmatic focus and active involvement of the latter. Great emphasis was put on applying the general paradigm to particular case studies.
Awareness of the potential in applying the human development perspective to current issues and the practical steps involved in HD strategy (building partnerships for HD, financing of HD, protecting HD achievements in crisis situations, advocating HD in the face of criticism, etc.) were gained throughout the course and especially through the group assignments.
Practical skills for analysis and dissemination of HD focused on the preparation of HDRs - which are generally the main tools at a country level for the advocacy of HD as well as linking with the global debate fostered by HDRs. These skills were developed through applied seminars and major group assignments (i.e. policy case studies and the production of a national HDR for selected countries with a focus on specific issues).
"The Human Development Report has always been a favourite of mine...the HDRs say in plain language what people in polite "aid " society or circles might consider rude, provocative or strident. The language is very clear in pointing out the responsibilities of all actors in the international community."
Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
The course's activities were divided into (i) formal teaching activities taking place mostly in the morning and (ii) applied classes and activities taking place in the afternoon. Computing and quiet study facilities were also available in the evenings for individual study.
The first week of the course was devoted to a general introduction to human development, including the history of the approach, an overview of the Human Development Reports, the human development indices and the treatment of poverty and gender in the human development approach . The second week covered specific topics presenting a Human Development approach to issues such as economic growth and trade, conflict, inequalities and civil society.
The aim of the proposed structure was to make sure that while familiarising themselves with a wide set of issues in an interesting and varied framework, participants take their work seriously and take advantage of this important opportunity for personal development and learning.
Practical Skills Development
An essential part of this course provided the participants with basic skills, which should assist them in performing HD based analysis. Informal seminars not longer than one hour, direct in style and very practical in flavour were concentrated in the first week of the course, so that these skills can be used in the group assignments.
Assignments included preparing thematic reviews of national HDRs based on linkages between Human Development and thematic areas including HIV/AIDS, Poverty, Gender, Technology, Conflict, Environment and Governance. Participants were also asked to prepare a mock national human development report for a particular country following a specific theme. They aslo analysed, in groups, policy case studies.
In sum, the course provided a mix of (i) rigorous foundation of human development concepts, (ii) familiarity with the implications of the approach to different topics, (iii) practical skill development in areas such as computer and statistical calculation and presentation (iv) global sharing of experiences with a view to moving forward as a global network on human development and an (v) examination of what has been learned by the participants, in the form of applied exercises.
The cost of the course for the 2006 event was $6,000, which covers all tuition and course costs, accommodation and meals at Magdalene College for the duration of the course. This does not cover travel costs to Oxford from the home base of the participants.