Strengthening the Human Development Movement
United Nations Headquarters, New York
29-31 July 1999
Many of human development’s most prominent academics, policy makers and development practitioners gathered at UN Headquarters on 29-31 July to speak at the First Global Forum on Human Development. And, eager to learn from them, came an enthusiastic audience of over 600 policymakers, students, researchers, and activists who filled the sessions to capacity and made them lively with their interest to learn and contribute.
The Forum was organized by UNDP’s Human Development Report Office (HDRO), and made possible by financial support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the Canadian International Development Agency. The event was dedicated to the memory of Mahbub ul Haq, creator of the Human Development Report. It was held to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Human Development Report, and focused on four major themes: Human Development Report 1999: Globalization with a Human Face, Measurement of human development, national human development reports and future directions for research.
The Forum was the first of its kind—offering an opportunity for those working on concepts, measurements and policies for human development to discuss the field’s most recent innovations, and to meet others working on similar issues. Opening remarks by Secretary General Kofi Annan, a welcome from UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown and a keynote address by Nobel Economics Laureate Amartya Sen ( A Decade of Human Development [85 KB]) set the tone for the excellent discussions that followed.
The inspiration for the Forum came from the growing prominence of human development within the greater field of development. According to Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, HDRO Director, “The Forum was initiated as part of an overall strategy to reinforce human development as a movement – a school of thought that is alive with intellectual explorations in academia, and with a political movement and policy debate at the local and country levels.”
Members from about 25 teams working on National Human Development Reports from around the globe came to New York to share their impressive experience applying human development concepts within countries. Evidence of progress at the national level abounded. For example, Roberto Martins of the Institute of Applied Economic Studies in Brazil gave a presentation on the intensive campaign to collect, disaggregate and analyse Human Development Index (HDI) data for the over 5,000 municipalities in Brazil. Carlos Flores Alcocer from the Human Development Center in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, made a presentation on public and private sector efforts to operationalise human development at the state level.
UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa held a panel discussion on “Globalization and Competitiveness in the World Economy: Implications for and Policy Responses from Africa." There was widespread agreement that Africa’s current marginalisation from the globalisation process has a cost for Africans and the economy, and that they must adopt policies that enable them to be active participants in the global economy.
And participants benefited tremendously as well. Munavvara Khamidova, the NHDR Coordinator for Tajikistan wrote upon her return, “After participation in the Forum, I feel more confident in my work…It helped me to expand my network with other agencies, organisations, individuals…it helped me to see the place of my country in the global system and it reinforced my commitment to advocate human development concept and strategies.”
Plans are already underway for the second forum next year, and many of the papers and speeches presented at this event are available in their entirety below.
In looking forward to the next decade of the human development movement, Amartya Sen counseled, “The human development approach assumed the leadership of a pluralist world of multiple concerns, and its intellectual departure has a coordinating function that is quite central to the entire enterprise. Unfreedoms in the world come in many different forms. Many disparate failings and shortfalls need attention. And, furthermore, the world itself is changing even as we look at it and report on it. It is this diverse and dynamic reality on which the enterprise of human development has to concentrate. It is a stream, not a stagnant pool.