Explore Contributions to the Discussion

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

Human-centred development must focus on protecting and restoring nature’s systems

Joshua Farley reflects on how definitions of essential needs – and how they are met – are culturally specific, and how market mechanisms may be inadequate to meet certain needs central to human development.


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, according to Johannes M. Waldmüller.


Human development demands engagement at the individual, community and state levels

In this interview, Sari Hanafi explores how to conceptualize and promote human development in the face of authoritarianism, populism and political conflicts.


Rethinking human development requires inclusive co-research with communities

People living in poverty need to be associated in rethinking human development. They help make visible dimensions of poverty that are too often invisible in the human development discourse, argues Xavier Godinot, Research Director, International Movement ATD Fourth World.

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


Human development: from rhetoric to policy

In this commentary based on an interview, Adebayo Olukoshi asserts the need to reclaim the notion of human development in thinking and policy-making.

Photo: CODESRIA.


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, cooperation and harmony with nature. A good balance between indigenous knowledge and modern science and technology can take us a long way towards this new vision of sustainable human development, says Yanfen Wang.


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

In the face of today’s challenges, including digitalization and climate change, ensuring human development will require us to move beyond the hard-won focus on individual autonomy, agency and capacity to a new frontier that is defined by the individual in relationship to the collective, says Shoshana Zuboff.


We become what we think: the key role of mindsets in human development

Jürgen Nagler provides seven 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 through shared ownership and decentralization

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 decentralization.

Photos: Medium, re:publica


Sustainable human development from the ground up

Mandy Yap argues that conceptualizing and measuring Indigenous well-being in a way that is both relevant and usable requires an alternative approach. Her work with the Yawuru community offers several learnings pertinent to building a concept of sustainable human development that is inclusive and relevant for our times. It is critically important that the pathways to sustainable human development are paved by involving those who know their lives best.


Empowerment is at the heart of human development

Leena Srivastava argues that empowerment and equal opportunity are crucially important in advancing human development and reflects on how this can be achieved.


The biggest threat to human development is excessive consumption in high-income economies

In this interview, Jason Hickel highlights the need for human development to focus on excessive resource use in economies of the Global North. He points out that countries currently scoring high on the Human Development Index are not able to do so within planetary boundaries, which goes against the aim of long-term common well-being.


Human development should focus on people and the planet

David Molden suggests that a rethinking of human development needs a suitable vision of the future that puts just as much weight on non-material aspects such as happiness, cultural richness, diversity or nature as it does on economic growth.


This is the moment to think about the big picture

This is not a good moment to come up with small improvements to the definition of human development, says Isabel Ortiz – governments are facing an unprecedented level of debt and fiscal deficits because of the COVID-19 emergency, and now is the time to solidly make the case for human development, as agreed by governments at the UN for decades.


Human development is dependent on planetary well-being

Aditi Mukherji argues that the dependence of human development on planetary well-being needs to be embedded formally within the Human Development Index, and that investment in social welfare, reduction in inequality, and decentralization are needed both in the Global North and the Global South. She also touches upon water as a crucial issue for climate change adaptation.


We need a stronger notion of common human needs

Ian Gough argues for the kind of development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to do so, and a rearticulation of a theory of human needs that allows us to meet individual and social needs within planetary boundaries.


Human development should be guided by norms and values

A normative vision of human development, concerned with present and future generations, and focused on enabling democratic governance and agency, is our best hope for a sustainable future, says David A. Crocker.


Human development needs to include social aspects

In this interview, Desmond McNeill reflects on his work on the power of ideas in the UN system and asserts that a focus on social and relational aspects must be added to the concept of human development.


Human development must account for moral sentiments

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 argues that cities that are able to provide their citizens with non-material services, such as access to culture or public safety, as well as basic services such as clean water, sanitation, access to energy and meaningful jobs, are fundamental enablers of human development.


Interconnected social and natural systems must be reflected in human development

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


Human development happens in the context of our lived realities

In this interview, Connie Nshemereirwe discusses how human development needs to be self-determined, arguing that it is the result of fitting in with our contexts and cultural settings, as well as striving towards achieving our self-identified value.


There can be no single conception of human development

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


Human development is about freedom

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr argues that we need to go back to the big, visionary ideas at the heart of human development 30 years ago, the idea that human development is about freedom – about having the ability to live the life one has reason to value


Human development should become relational

Facundo García Valverde argues that social and environmental factors make people’s capability sets unequal. Institutions, policies, laws and social norms in particular have a tremendous influence in the shaping of people’s capabilities. Human development therefore needs to incorporate a specific account of egalitarian relations as there is a strong link between inequality and lack of valuable freedoms.


Human development is about the absence of discrimination and marginalization

Only through listening to poor and vulnerable people can we understand what human development means. We need to collect people’s stories about how they live their lives and make this central to our rearticulation of human development, says Adrian Jjuuko.

Photo: Erwin Olaf


Human development can help bring SDGs from the billboards into people’s lives

Big questions have been raised about the neoliberal agenda by COVID-19, Stuart Carr observes, and points out that the challenge lies in transforming macro indicators to capture what really makes a difference in people’s everyday lives.


Rearticulating human development requires participatory processes

Jhonatan Clausen Lizárraga suggests that environmental sustainability be considered a dimension of human development and that there is a need to engage the broader public to link concepts related to the human development approach to their daily lives.


Human development requires multidisciplinary engagement

Ilona M. Otto speaks about the importance of contributions from various disciplines, complex modelling tools and multidimensional approaches to address complex realities.


Four suggestions for the rearticulation of human development

Des Gasper looks at the evolution of the human development discourse before and since the initiation of the Human Development Reports in 1990. He makes suggestions for rethinking the concept, such as seeing it as part of a set of interlinked concepts that include human security, and emphasising the need for local- and national-level human development reporting.


Human development is about interdependence and connectedness

Karen O’Brien asserts that human development needs to address connections across societies, with non-human species and with the environment.


Human development as an individual, social and transformative process

Craig Calhoun discusses, among other things, the importance of including solidarity (among humans and with non-humans) and transformation as central concepts to enrich our ideas about human development.


Human development is about becoming more resilient

We must put resilience at the centre of human development and balance the interests of the economy, the environment and social issues, says María Mendiluce.

Photo: Maria Mendiluce


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

Anne-Greet Keizer reflects on how the concept of self-reliance and the related ‘capacity to think’ and ‘capacity to act’ could be useful in our conversation on rearticulating human development

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


Well-being versus GDP: the challenge and opportunity of human development in the 21st century

In this commentary, David C. Korten asks – Is humanity’s defining economic goal to grow GDP or to secure the well-being of people and the living Earth?

Photo: David Korten


The human: an alternative ground for ‘development’

Anthony Bogues argues that we need to move beyond focusing on development with all its historical baggage and focus instead on the ‘human’, which would mean rethinking human life itself and the sustainability of human life on this planet.

Photo: Brown University


Human Development is About People Being Able to Meet Their Aspirations

Human development is ultimately about meeting aspirations that are contextually rooted, says Arthur Grimes, for whom the concept of well-being is a useful tool to inform policy-making.

Photo: Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington


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