Human development assessment through the human-scale development approach: integrating different perspectives in the contribution to a sustainable human development theory.

Author: Ivonne Cecilia Cruz Barreiro. Novembre 2006

Director: Andri W. Stahel
Departament: Càtedra UNESCO de Sostenibilitat
Data de la defensa: 24 de novembre de 2006


Since the first Human Development Report (HDRs) was published in 1990, the Human Development (HD) paradigm has become a relevant conceptual framework as well as an intrinsic instrument to measure human progress. Yet, critics on the Reports for oversimplifying development have been pointed out as they do not take into account the myriad complex social, cultural, political and historical aspects of a country or a particular society. 

The United Nations Human Development Programme (UNDP) has however tried to tackle this critique throughout the elaboration of the National Human Development Reports. These reports respond to more local approaches to analyse most pressing issues within national contexts emphasizing on subjects urging particular attention. The insights and statistical data provided within, are indeed becoming important information tools for policy-making and decision taking at a local and regional levels. They represent a sort of route-map to start- up new action plans and policies which could be useful in facing urgent problems concerning inequality, poverty, repression, injustice, among others.
Despite the effort made by the Reports to tackle development constraints in more wider terms, the whole HD problematique has not really been undertaken holistically through a multidimensional view. For this reason the Human-Scale Development approach is introduced as an evaluative tool, in order to assess the HD policies entailed within the National Human Development Reports (NHDRs). The main objective is thus, to identify deprivations and potentialities of the very specific proposals (i.e. policies) in order to re-address human development strategies towards real multidimensional political actions. Considering this framework as a most accurate one to tackle social, environmental, economic, institutional, cultural and spiritual human interactions.

Therefore, to reach this goal, this research exposes the development notion through a historical route and tracking down the origins of the human development notion. However, further revision on its philosophical and theoretical bases were needed to complete this search, and various debates emerged from these findings. The characterization of the two theories depicted in this work, namely; Human Development (HD) and the Human-Scale Development approach is necessary to identify differences and coincidences, and thereafter proceed to propose a new space of theoretical interaction to widen the HD paradigm. This, with the only aim of ameliorating its operationalization but overall, to achieve a type of development acknowledging real positive changes in people's quality of life.

In any case, the main objective is to contribute with conceptual and methodological insights and with the proposal of new ideas in order to move forward in the building of possible Sustainable Human Development strategies within the political sphere. But always understanding the "sustainable" feature as systemic, holistic, and integral principle. 
Lastly, an evaluation exercise is hence conducted using the last Brazilian National Human Development Report as a case study. The policies within are scrutinized in order to explore new possibilities in the elaboration of HD policies, incorporating a more humanist perception proper from the integral sustainability attributes. The outcomes of this policy assessment intend to identify how other possible participatory schemes can take place in policy-making processes aiming for development models which respond to cultural and social values coherent with the communities and societies entailed.

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