Leading Commentators on Human Development
Nelson Mandela, Mary Robinson, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz… Over the last 25 years, Heads of States and Government, Nobel Laureates and other eminent personalities from various parts of the world have contributed to the Human Development Reports. Here you have some of their insights and ideas.
"Development divorced from its human or cultural context is growth without a soul. Economic development in its full flowering is part of a people’s culture."
—World Commission on Culture and Development 1995
As a theoretical physicist I understand very well the concept of vulnerability: there is little in the cosmos that is not susceptible to harm. Even the very universe itself may someday come to an end.
In today’s world defending the dignity of work is a constant uphill struggle. Prevailing economic thinking sees work as a cost of production, which in a global economy has to be as low as possible in order to be competitive. It sees workers as consumers who because of their relative low wages need to be given easy access to credit to stimulate consumption and wind up with incredible debts.
The UN has long emphasized human security, in all of its dimensions.1 When I was chief economist of the World Bank, we surveyed thousands of poor people throughout the world to ascertain what was of most concern to them, and at the top of the list (along with the obvious concerns about a lack of income and insufficient voice in the matters that affected their lives) was insecurity—vulnerability.2
The accomplishments of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era have been stunning: To take just one example, the number of children who die each year has gone down by almost half, from more than 12.4 million to 6.6 million. That doesn’t quite hit the two-thirds target included in MDG 4, but it’s a great thing for humanity.
In New York City, we are working to better the lives of our residents in many ways. We continue to improve the quality of education in our schools. We have improved New Yorkers’ health by reducing smoking and obesity. And we have enhanced the city’s landscape by adding bike lanes and planting hundreds of thousands of trees.
Almost half a century ago, the philosopher Thomas Nagel published a famous paper called “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” The question I want to ask is: what is it like to be a human being? As it happens, Tom Nagel’s insightful paper in The Philosophical Review was also really about human beings, and only marginally about bats.
In a world that is so divided by inequalities in wealth and opportunity, it is easy to forget that we are part of one human community. As we see the early impacts of climate change registering across the world, each of us has to reflect on what it means to be part of that family.
Respect for human dignity implies commitment to creating conditions under which individuals can develop a sense of self-worth and security. True dignity comes with an assurance of one’s ability to rise to the challenges of the human situation.
Simply stated, universality of human rights means that human rights must be the same everywhere and for everyone. By virtue of being human, every individual is entitled to inalienable rights and freedoms. These rights ensure the dignity and worth of the human person and guarantee human well-being.