Rethinking Human Development

It has been 30 years since the first Human Development Report was published in 1990, and since that time, our world has changed considerably. Current and impending crises in ecological, health, political, and economic systems have become evident. In this additional project to the ISC’s original Action Plan 2019-2021, we have partnered with the UNDP to rearticulate Human Development for the 21st century.

Anticipated Impact

A critical review and rearticulation of the human development paradigm to reflect the evolving landscape and expectations that provides a conceptual framework to guide analysis, measurement and decision-making to support the achievement of the SDGs.

UNDP and ISC Rethinking Human Development Project


Since its introduction, the Human Development Report (HDR) has been influential in broadening the scope of the concept of development by pointing decision makers to the multi-dimensional nature of development.

Fundamental shifts are now taking place in how we understand ourselves and our connections to local and global societies in the light of new technologies, socio-political realities and deep environmental changes.

Through a high level steering committee, the ISC partnered with the UNDP to start a global discussion on Rethinking Human Development, gathering voices from across the world to answer some of the following questions: 

  1. How could we rethink our conceptual understanding of human development?
  2. What are the major emerging challenges to human centred development in the world today?
  3. How can the human development approach inform public debates and decision makers about current and future challenges?
  4. What would be a meaningful and useful definition of human development – for our changing world – according to you?

To guide the discussion, the Committee has mapped six emerging dimensions of human development that respond to the global challenges humanity faces today:

  • Environmental Changes and Sustainability
  • Collective and Relational Dimensions
  • Human Well-being and Personal Development
  • The Digital Transformation
  • Local Specificities
  • Global Interdependencies

Key milestones

The project invited contributors to engage in interviews and essay-writing on rethinking human development and put out a global call for submissions to rethinking human development for the 21st century during the first half of 2020.

The steering committee, along with an extended working group, met on 3 July 2020 to discuss the burning issues raised from the global call, and to discuss the next steps in the development of the project’s final deliverables.

Next steps

The second phase, starting July 2020, will include the development of a webpage and a report on rethinking human development. It will be delivered in October 2020.

Rethinking Human Development