Explore Contributions to the Discussion

This regularly updated page provides an overview of responses to the global call by the ISC community.

All contributions listed here are under creative commons, and can be republished with reference to the ISC, UNDP and the Author.

Towards a global, pluralistic view of human developments

Conceptualizing and understanding human development requires intercultural dialogue and engagement with other traditions and ways of seeing the world, says Johannes M. Waldmüller.

How could we rethink our conceptual understanding of human development?

Sari Hanafi frames human development as “the aim of living a good life with and for others in just institutions”.

Human development must not ignore the suffering of people in poverty

Poor people have expert knowledge of the complexities of living in poverty, yet their perspectives are often excluded from development discourse. Future Human Development Reports must acknowledge the hidden dimensions of poverty, argues Xavier Godinot.

Photo: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr.

Human development: from rhetoric to policy

The world has never been more unequal, and it is time to reclaim the notion of human development in thinking and policy-making, and to recalibrate strategy for delivering on it, says Adebayo Olukoshi.


Sustainable human development means living in harmony with nature

One of the most important aspects of rearticulating human development is to emphasize the need for fairness to nature and other living beings. We cannot be developed unless our lives become reconnected and in balance, in cooperation and harmony with nature, according to Yanfen Wang.

The challenge of the next decade is to make the digital century compatible with democracy

The climate change emergency and the digital century are challenges to all of us and at the very same time they are challenges to each of us. They demand attention to our shared humanity, says Shoshana Zuboff.

Photo: Kirsten Holst / IIPP UCL.

“We Become What We Think”: The Key Role of Mindsets in Human Development

Jürgen Nagler provides eight talking points on rethinking human development from a “mindset” point of view

Rethinking human development means rethinking what we mean by “value”

Mariana Mazzucato explores how a missions-orientated approach must be used to solve “wicked” problems, including reinvigorating the debate about value and value-creation.

Photo: Simon Fraser University

Human driven development

Carolina Odman and Kevin Govender explore how science and technology can fundamentally change the context in which human development is defined, through the lens of shared ownership and decentralisation.

Photos: Medium, re:publica

Sustainable human development from the ground up

Mandy Yap argues that conceptualizing and measuring Indigenous wellbeing that is both relevant and usable, requires an alternative approach

Empowerment is at the heart of human development

Leena Srivastava discusses the issues around empowerment and opportunity, dignity and respect.

The biggest threat to human development is the high-income economies that consume vastly in excess of planetary boundaries

Jason Hickel discusses the direct harm high income economies cause to the rest of the world

It’s time to let go of the dominant vision of human development that focuses on material wealth

David Molden suggests that a rethinking of human development needs more weight on non-material aspects such as happiness, cultural richness, diversity or nature

This is the moment to think about the big picture, to protect and advance human development

Isabel Ortiz reflects on how governments are facing an unprecedented high level of debt and fiscal deficits because of the COVID-19 emergency and how austerity cuts undermining human development

Human Development is about flourishing within planetary boundaries

Aditi Mukherji argues that human destiny cannot be separated from Earth’s destiny, and, flourishing is impossible without access to clean water.

We need to return to the definition of sustainable development put forward by the Brundtland Report

Ian Gough argues for the kind of development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the abilities of future generations.

Democratic governance and agency is our best hope for a sustainable future

David A. Crocker’s reflections on the visionary role of a normative view of human development, informed by ethical thinking, concerned with humanity and future generations.

Social cohesion is fundamental for human development

Desmond McNeill reflects on how we can’t solve environmental challenges, protect future generations, or achieve individual human wellbeing without social cohesion.

There is no human development without love

Flavio Comim explores why we have to pay more attention to Martha Nussbaum’s work in thinking about human development.

Cities can be fundamental enablers of human development

Julio Lumbreras’ reflections on human development and a systems approach to cities

It’s time for Humanity Development

Amy Luers says it’s time to shift our thinking towards “humanity development” – an approach that removes the emphasis on the individual and that instead focuses on the systems in which humanity functions every day.

Human Development is about raising our consciousness, to awaken to the fact that the so-called developed state can create as many problems as it purports to solve

Dr Connie Nshemereirwe discusses how human development needs to be self-determined, and why it cannot be externally imposed

There is no one unique conception of human development

Marc Fleurbaey proposes to define human development with diversity of values in mind.

Human Development is about freedom

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr‘s reflections on human development

Relational Aspects of Human Development

Facundo García Valverde‘s reflections on human development

Human-centric development is about the absence of discrimination and marginalization

Adrian Jjuuko’s reflections on human development

Photo: Erwin Olaf

Human development is a collective striving for improvement

Ilona Otto’s reflections on human development

Four suggestions for the rearticulating of human development.

Des Gasper’s reflections on human development

Human development is about connectedness

Karen O’Brien‘s reflections on human development

Human development as an individual, social and transformative process

Craig Calhoun’s reflections on human development

Human development is about becoming more resilient

An extract from an interview on rearticulating human development, with Maria Mendiluce, CEO, We Mean Business Coalition.

Photo: Maria Mendiluce

The ability to pursue and realize life goals is at the core of human development

Anne Greet Keizer’s reflection on human development

Photo: The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR)

Wellbeing versus GDP: The Challenge and Opportunity of Human Development in the 21st Century

David C. Korten asks – Is humanity’s defining economic goal to grow GDP or to secure the wellbeing of people and the living Earth?

Photo: David Korten

The Human: An Alternative Ground for ‘Development’.

Anthony Bogues’ reflection on human development

Photo: Brown University

‘Human Development is About People Being Able to Meet Their Aspirations’

Arthur Grimes’ reflection on human development

Photo: Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Responses from the scientific community

“We are in an era of unprecedented technological advancements. Science providers need to reflect on ethical dilemmas, with an eye to improving gender/age/context specific communication and coordination with communities and Indigenous people.”

Shona van Zijll de Jong
Queens University, Geothics – IPAG Canada Chapter, CGEN

Photo: Researchgate

“We would need to step away from “human centric” priorities, and begin to acknowledge, for instance, what do the active market economics of trees look like? How and what do they need in order to thrive? How do we need to alter our thinking/systems in order to accommodate those needs?”

Cassandra Blondin Burt
Medicine Talk, USA

Photo: Cassandra Blondin-Burt

“The COVID crisis reminds us of the importance of the state, the collective and solidarity. We need to advance towards a conception of human development that has at its centre the possibility to build a new order, based don justice, the recognition of diversity, the re-articulation of science and public policy, the deepening of democracy, peacebuilding and the recognition of the key role of social movements and inequality.”

Karina Batthyány
Executive Secretary of CLACSO

Photo: The Wilson Center

“[The human development approach] should utilize all unpolarized communication means so that institutions of goodwill participate in the process. The framework is the global achievement of happiness, equality of opportunities, and harmony of mankind. The blind spot is to change the mentality of success meaning accumulation of assets.”

Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and the Brazilian Academy of Science

“The conceptual understanding of Human-Centered development must shift towards Nature-Centered development while respecting the Rights-of-Nature and Rights-of-Soil so that nature is protected, restored and allowed to flourish. Because human are part of the nature, restoration and enhancement of nature will automatically lead to human wellbeing and prosperity. Human must learn to work in synergism with nature.”

Rattan Lal
International Union of Soil Science/Ohio State University

Photo: gustavus.edu

“Keep our human bond with and within the web of life is the biggest challenge of our time. Therefore, we must leave behind the present human centered development for an overall human development centered within Nature.”

Othon Henry Leonardos
University of Brasilia, Brazil

Photo: Beatriz Ferraz / Secom UnB

“The potential of the human development approach is that, since its primary conceptualizations in the 80s […] it tried to bring philosophical aspects of development into the political debate. […] This philosophical coalescence is not easy to achieve, nonetheless, but has all his rewards in the course changing of misconceptions about human ends and human needs. A risk exists, however, in the ‘technocratization’ of the human development approach and its policy content. An optimum point of view must make communicable to technical and political elites, as well as ordinary people, a message that has profound roots in reason and in the reflection about human nature.”

Felipe Correa
Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean)

Photo: University of Virginia

“The human centred development is about more choice. It is, in fact, about providing people with opportunities, not insisting that they make use of them. […] The process of development (HD) should at least create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.”

Santosh Kumar Mishra
Women’s University, India

Photo: The Club of Rome

“Human development is founded on the understanding that we are part of a larger eco-system that requires balance; a balance that is exhibited in our cultural and geographical differences, our values, and our preferences on how to live.”

Angela R. Pashayan
Howard University / Washington, DC, USA

Photo: yodinternational.org

“The first great effort to undertake will be to enhance the level of literacy in all the world. Parents must be expected to have the physical, economic, and mental abilities to put their children into the world. Procreation cannot more be a private matter, it becomes a public fact.”

Adriana Galvani

Photo: Adriana Galvani

“In the near future, the digital divide is a particularly decisive challenge, not to mention pandemics as COVID19. The disruption fostered by digital technologies is shaping the world to come, like never before in the history of humanity.”

Anaclé Bissielo
University of Omar Bongo Libreville / UNESCO MOST

“Humanity has become a geological force, which interacts with natural processes, not always in a positive life-supporting way. […] Since human beings are a species in development, the concept of human development should definitely be rethought and reworked towards an increase in self-development by means of complex multidisciplinary methods, leading towards a more positive interplay between humans and natural processes.”

Cristina De Campos
Brazilian Academy of Science/ LMU Munich

Photo: LMU

“[Human Development] means a development that focuses on humans in harmony with their environment. A development that prioritizes health and education, over the aspects of the production of goods and services and that the services and goods are organized with equality and reach to all human beings.” (translated from Spanish)

Alba Carosio
CEM UCV / Celarg

Photo: nodal.am

“We need to move beyond the assumption that human agency is the only force shaping development, and to embrace the increasingly apparent fact that natural systems such as the climate and other components of the global ecosystem are imbued with a form of capacity, serving as impersonal agents shaping our world. Embracing both social and ecological sources of agency in the world entails a far-reaching shift beyond conventional human-centric assumptions of agency, and towards an approach to human development theory that embraces complexity and systems theory.”

Kishan Khoday
Regional Hub for the Arab States, United Nations Development Programme, Egypt/Jordan

“The human development approach may help the public in the developed world grasp the immense challenges posed by gross inequalities and possibly also help that public to further understand the dependence of all humans on a healthy natural world and, thus, the need to protect land, sea and climate, all without exacerbating disadvantage.”

Kerryn Higgs
University of Tasmania, Tasmania

Photo: The Club of Rome

“The regeneration of natural and built environments, on the one hand, and the social and cultural regeneration, on the other, is a two-way street, both intertwining and depending on each other. Changes must be simultaneous in time and space, in view of reciprocal support (motivations and enabling contexts are complementary aspects). An Ecological civilization includes natural and built environments, health, education, equity, ethics, safety, justice and beauty.”

Andrea Francisco Pilon
University of Sao Paulo / International Academy of Science, Brazil

Photo: The Club of Rome

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