Global Policy Forum

Globalization and Development: A Critical Appraisal of the UN Human Development Report

Development and Peace Foundation December 1997

The First SEF-UNDP Partnership Conference

This text reports on the 'Globalization and Development' Conference of the Development and Peace Foundaton. Three summary statements of opinion by Richard Jolly, Franz Nuscheler, and Wolfgang Sachs form the core of the report, all three authors engaging in a constructive debate over the UNDP concept of sustainable human development.

The date of the conference was not chosen at random: 8 October 1997 marked the fifth anniversary of the death of Willy Brandt, who created the Development and Peace Foundation in 1986. As SEF Executive Director, Dr Burkhard Konitzer, pointed out in his welcoming address, this agenda-setting meeting was intended as a tribute to Brandt, a leading light in the international debate on development. The conference was the first event organized jointly by the SEF and UNDP as part of their 'Human Development Partnership', set up by the two organizations at the end of 1996. "The partnership", so states the joint Memorandum of Understanding, "aims at strengthening the awareness of global sustainable human development and at furthering the understanding of the connection between sustainable development and peace around the world." The European office of the UNDP has similar partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in other European countries, amongst them Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Constructive Discussion rather than Celebration

As Dr Konitzer explained, the Foundation saw itself, not as a German annexe to the UNDP, but as a 'constructive-cum-critical partner'. The first joint conference should therefore not turn into a 'celebratory event', but should engage in a vigorous debate about the UNDP concept of development. At the same time Dr Konitzer openly criticized the fact that German contributions to the UNDP had been stagnating at the same level for years. And now, over the next year, they are to be reduced from DM120 million (1997) to DM90 million (1998)-in other words, by a full 25 per cent. Dr Konitzer called the proposed 1998 cut 'a scandal', which could in no way be justified by reference to present budgetary problems.

The concrete starting-point for the conference was the question of whether the UNDP concept of human development really did constitute an alternative to the neo-liberal approach. Are the goal and idea of 'development' not all too often simply pretexts for transposing the North's economic model onto the rest of the world-without the North itself having to undergo any reform in the direction of sustainability?

New Wine in Old Skins?

That it was quite possible, within the framework of a constructive partnership, to subject the UNDP approach to thoroughgoing scrutiny, in a spirit of critical sympathy, was demonstrated by Professor Franz Nuscheler, director of the Institute for Development and Peace (IDP). In a talk provocatively entitled "Old Wine in New Skins?", he analysed the eight UNDP Human Development Reports published so far. What he called into question above all was the UNDP's claim that its concept constituted a new paradigm of development: "The concept of human development", observed Professor Nuscheler, "claims to be an innovation in development theory, but is more like a composite made up of bits of stage scenery from the developmental discourse, reassembled into a new idea." He did, however, concede that "sometimes just new packaging can work up interest in old contents". One aspect that he particularly welcomed was the way in which the UNDP reports were once again giving basic social rights and the primacy of the struggle against poverty greater weight in international development politics.

Professor Nuscheler's criticism of the UNDP concept's lack of originality was rebutted by Dr Richard Jolly, chief-architect of the Human Development Report, in his talk entitled "The Concept of Sustainable Human Development in Changing Times: An Alternative to the Neo-liberal Development Paradigm". Dr Jolly highlighted what he called the 'important contrasts' between the UNDP approach and the neo-liberal paradigm. But the human development concept also represented a qualitative improvement compared with the 'basic needs' approach of the 1970s, he said. He laid particular stress on the UNDP concept's interdisciplinary approach, as compared with the on one-dimensional neo-liberal model, geared solely to economic development.

'Development' as a Mirage

This distinction was also taken up by Dr Wolfgang Sachs of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy in his talk "On Earth as It Is in the West: How Long Will We Persist with the 'Development' Mirage?" The UNDP's approach to development, said Dr Sachs, shifted the emphasis back onto the primacy of politics, thus breaking the long-dominant consensus as to the primacy of economics: development could not be regarded solely as an economic process. None the less, the UNDP concept had a number of fundamental flaws. Dr Sachs criticized the continuing preoccupation with growth, the neglect of ecological aspects, the presumption that there would be a universal convergence in development-related expectations, and the focus on the nation-state. In short: even the UNDP and the Human Development Report had so far failed to find an answer to the challenges of globalization.

In the following pages, SEF News prints three essays documenting the debate between Jolly, Nuscheler, and Sachs. These are followed by a report on the other debates at the conference. The essays were written in response to the overall question of whether the concept of sustainable human development had proved its worth in practice, and whether it could serve as a paradigm for German development policy.

The UNDP Concept under Scrutiny

Given the increased pace of globalization, to what paradigm should 'development' be geared? This was the question that exercised the first joint conference held by the Development and Peace Foundation (SEF) and the United Nations Development Programme on 8 October 1997 in Bonn. Under the title 'Globalization and Development: Concepts-Practice-Policy', the spotlight was turned for a day on the UNDP concept of sustainable human development. This concept has, over recent years, increasingly emerged as an alternative to neo-liberal paradigms of development. Though participants were 'critically sympathetic' to the concept, many also pointed out its theoretical weaknesses and the shortcomings in its practical implementation.

The start of a constructive- cum-critical partnership: Wolfgang Sachs, Franz Nuscheler, Burkhard KÅ¡nitzer and Richard Jolly

Human Development: An Alternative to Neo-Liberalism?
by Richard Jolly

The Concept of Human Development

1. Human development has never claimed to be original. The reports have traced the human-centred approach back to Aristotle, to Adam Smith, and to the main economists of the nineteenth century. But though Arthur Lewis (in the Theory of Economic Growth) emphasized that economic growth was important precisely because it broadened choices, this element tended to get lost in most of development writing in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, Professor A. K. Sen revived the focus on human choices and functionings with a succession of brilliant economic and philosophical writings. Sen has been a key adviser to the Human Development Report (HDR) from the beginning.

2. Though human development shares some concerns with the basic-needs approach of the 1970s, it has important differences. Basic needs emphasized the importance of meeting a core of human needs as an early priority in development strategy and for poverty reduction. But after basic needs were met, the basic-needs approach was silent about what next. In contrast, human development focuses on expansion of choices, opportunities, and capabilities as the general objective of all development (Sen would say functionings), not just for the poor. By leaving the choices, opportunities, and capabilities in more general terms, the concept of human development is also less rigid and culturally specific than the basic-needs approach.

3. It is important to stress the distinction between the concept of human development and its measurement. Human development and related measures such as GDI (Gender-related Development Index), GEM (Gender Empowerment Measure), and HPI (Human Poverty Index) are necessarily more frail, the result of having to use imperfect data, often out of date by three or four years, and of needing to use indicators available for the majority of countries, even the poorest. In contrast, the concepts of human development are more carefully defined.

The Indices of Human Development

4. Is the Human Development Report 'index crazy'? Four main indices hardly seems an act of profligate madness- especially when each index measures something different and distinct. Important groups of people have welcomed each of the specific measures. There would be an outcry if the HDR dropped either of the gender measures. The HDI (Human Development Index) is a basic measure, and the HPI, the Human Poverty Index, bears the same relation to HDI as measures of income poverty bear to GNP (Gross National Product). But there is a need to improve the quality of the data and the consistency of the methodology for assembling the indices. The Human Development Report 1998 is hoping to do this.

5. Because HDIs and their basic indicators are not sensitive to differences between industrial countries, the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) is also exploring how it can construct a measure incorporating a wider range of data relating to the human situation in better-off countries-for instance, by including measures of unemployment, violence, possibly insecurity. But certainly the HDRO recognizes the need to avoid a proliferation of indices.

Human Development and Neo-liberalism

6. There are both common points and important contrasts when one compares human development and neo-liberalism as development paradigms. The table "Common Ground, but Differences" shows the common ground, notably the fact that both are rooted in liberal individual philosophy, emphasizing freedom of choice, exercised within a democratic framework. But human development goes beyond the neo-liberal framework in many respects, in that it also emphasizes the need to strengthen human capabilities if choices are to be exercised purposefully and creatively. It also recognizes economic and social rights and the need for a stronger state to ensure that such rights are available to all.

7. As a paradigm also, human development contrasts with liberalism. Human development focuses on people, not markets, is multi-disciplinary, not just economic, emphasises ends, not means. But these virtues (as I would see them) are bought at a price. Human development tends to be more pragmatic and more casual in its analysis. Neo-liberalism (and its underlying neo-classical economic analysis) has a better-developed theoretical base. But neo-liberalism often tends toward dogmatism and often neglects issues not easily brought into its frame of analysis, such as intra- household distribution and non-market activities.

8. In policy matters, priorities often differ-as illustrated in the table "Priorities Compared". These priorities are taken from the Human Development Reports 1990-7, which elaborate much further the details of these priorities. For individual countries, one needs to refer to some of the eighty-five or so national Human Development Reports produced in recent years, many of which explore the policy implications of the human development strategy in the context of particular countries.

9. Changes are needed, both nationally and internationally, if human development is to receive more serious attention in analysis, policy formulation, and implementation. Some of this has been taking place as countries, universities, and NGO groups show more interest in the human-development approach. Much of this is self-generated interest-but in poorer countries international support has helped. In these countries, more support could be useful.

10. Internationally, two important challenges relate to growing inequality and environmental pressures. Both will require much more serious international action, backed up by stronger national support, especially from the industrial and better-off developing countries. The Human Development Report 1998 plans to explore some of these issues in relation to consumption trends and patterns and human development, with direct attention to the issues of long-term sustainability.

Dr Richard Jolly is Special Adviser to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has been Chief-Architect of the Human Development Report since 1996.

Old Wine in New Skins?
by Franz Nuscheler

Thesis 1

The UNDP's claim that, with its human development concept, it is offering a new paradigm of development, takes no account of ideas which others had had before this; it also reduces the World Bank's attitude to a caricature, charging the Bank with a fetishism for growth which the Bank itself does not adhere to. The blanket reproach-clearly aimed at the World Bank-that since the end of the Second World War, growth rates have been regarded as the only yardstick of development, does not do justice either to the Bank or to the development economists' fraternity. A good four decades ago, one of the pioneers of development economics, Arthur Lewis, stressed that "the advantage of economic growth is not that wealth increases but it increases the range of human choice". This affirmation already contained the quintessence of human development as conceived by the HDR project team. The UNDP's claim to have rediscovered the fundamental truth that it is human beings who must be the prime focus of all development takes no account of the whole ethical discussion about development, often transmogrified into an indiscriminate criticism of growth. The merit of the UNDP is, at most, to have conferred on that criticism the blessing of an august UN body.

Thesis 2

The concept of human development claims to be an innovation in development theory, but is more like a composite made up of bits of stage scenery from the developmental discourse, reassembled into a new idea.

The UNDP team sought to delimit itself from all traditional theories of development. It claimed that theories based on the idea of the accumulation of human capital viewed people merely as instruments and not also as beneficiaries of goods production. On the other hand, it accused welfare-based theories of treating people more as passive beneficiaries than as active agents of the development process. And finally, in regard to the 'basic needs' strategy, it accused this of attaching more value to the supply of goods and services than to the generation of skills and choices.

Where does the distinguishing feature of the human development concept lie? According to the 1990 report, the answer is that such development "focuses on choices-on what people should have, be and do to be able to ensure their own livelihood". This statement of goals is a quasi-literary masterpiece of definition. The only problem with it is its claim to run counter to all that has previously been thought in development theory. If we substitute 'social development' for 'human development' and recall what the pioneers of development theory- Dudley Seers, for example, or Paul Streeten, or Gunnar Myrdal-wrote on this, we discover much that is familiar. And the UN Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) provided the concomitant theory of social indicators.

Thesis 3

The UNDP uses the World Bank as a punchbag in its criticism of growth; yet there are more similarities than differences between them. The criticism evaporates into a spurious conflict between ends and means, which, furthermore, diverts attention from the paramount concern of sustainable development.

The 1996 Human Development Report observes that, before we cross the threshold into the twenty-first century, more not less development is needed. It ties the distinction between the UNDP and the World Bank to the respective purposes they assign to growth-to whether it is regarded as an end or a means of development. But one cannot distinguish between good and bad growth on the basis of this ends-means differentiation-reserving the good goals for oneself. What is more, the World Bank reacted more sensitively to the Rio agenda for sustainable development than did the UNDP. It is true that the latter's 1992 report announced that the Human Development Index (HDI) was to undergo an ecological overhaul, but so far this declaration of intent has not been honoured. And yet if the future is to be safeguarded, there must be a synthesis of social and ecological development. On this point, the UNDP lags behind advances made in development theory.

Thesis 4

The UNDP reports are inconsistent not only in their choice and justification of major indicators for the various indices, but also in their value judgements. The political pressure to which a UN organization is subject has damaged the credibility of the HDR enterprise. This sin is at its most evident in the 1996 report: it cites China as proof that economic growth and human development can operate in harmony-forgetting everything which previous reports had stated about the combined package of human development, freedom, and sustainability. Given the 1990 report's declaration of principle to the effect that "human freedom is vital for human development", this piece of political kow-towing is particularly irksome. What value do political standards have any longer in such a situation?

Thesis 5

The feature that has secured the greatest international regard for the Human Development Report is also condemned as its greatest weakness. That feature is the structure of the HDI. But what is more worthy of criticism is the way in which indices that are methodologically underdeveloped, statistically shaky, and partially dependent on entirely outdated information are inflated into something they are not. The architects of the report appear to have been gripped by index mania.

The structure of certain distribution indices (such as the GDI-Gender-related Development Index) is highly commendable; but the constant experimentation with new indices is irritating. It would be much more valuable to eliminate the many gaps than to offer ever more new indices with yet more gaps. The average reader is left bewildered-and eventually decides, after all, to turn once again to the World Bank's World Development Report.

Thesis 6

The 1997 Human Development Report proclaims and substantiates the developmentally crucial message that growth and distribution are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent. On the other hand, it constitutes an embarrassment in the field of development affairs. I regard its core thesis that there exists a 'practical possibility' to create a world without poverty not even as a 'concrete utopia' but merely as a dangerous illusion. Poverty cannot be overcome with money alone; even the 'new poverty' in the rich countries cannot be overcome with 80 billion US dollars a year.

In view of declining development budgets, a growing world population, and diminishing resources, this illusion is not exactly designed to take the wind out of the sails of those who have attacked the 'war on poverty' declared at the Copenhagen Social Summit. One can set morally desirable goals so high that they lie out of all realistic reach and lose all power to determine the direction of action. It is incomprehensible that the UNDP should not have fallen in behind the OECD goal of a halving of absolute poverty by the year 2015. To achieve this goal would in itself be a great feat. The UNDP could have earned respect for itself by acting as a 'watchdog' in this process of voluntary commitment, but it has gambled away that respect with its fanciful aspirations.


What can be said to be left in the way of achievements by the UNDP reports? They did not rediscover the developmental wheel, but they have readjusted some of its spokes. 'Human development' is not a new or coherent development paradigm-in other words, it is indeed old wine in new skins. Its great achievement is to have ensured that the basic social rights contained in the HDI, and the primacy of the struggle against poverty, have acquired renewed weight in international development politics. The programme of action agreed on at Copenhagen was also a UNDP achievement.

Despite the flawed 1997 report, I remain a critical sympathizer. The concept of human development constitutes a corrective to the neo-liberal idea of development, and harks back to the original sense of development-the development of one's own capabilities. 'Human development' restores human dignity to its position as the focal point of all human rights.

Professor Franz Nuscheler is director of the Institute for Development and Peace (IDP) at the Gerhard-Mercator University, Duisburg.

On Earth as it is in the West
by Wolfgang Sachs

Against the Tide

The yearly Human Development Report runs counter to standard thinking in three ways: first, it regards growth in GDP as nowhere near constituting a sufficient condition of human development, holding it to be at best a necessary one; next, it believes unwaveringly in a common good capable of being fostered through acts of common will; and lastly, it sees a polity not simply as a collection of individuals, but as a web of rights and duties whose quality may be gauged from the status it accords to the needy and powerless.

The Nation-State Perspective

None the less, in interpreting international relations, the Human Development Report remains trapped within a nation-state perspective. The picture it conveys is one of a world consisting of a multiplicity of separate units within each of which the government manages its affairs as it sees fit. One notes that the reports emanate from an international organization and are targeted at national governments for instructional purposes; yet they are unable to grasp transnational realities. Globalization-all the flows of goods, knowledge, images, and people that cut across nations-has yet to happen as far as the UNDP report is concerned. Hence, only the inequalities within and between states are statistically documented, whilst the global consumer class, the agent of the globalization that is creating an increasing gulf between rich and poor everywhere, remains outside the field of vision.

The Whitewashing of Growth

The underlying tenet of the UNDP report, which appears in ever new permutations, is that growth is merely a means which politics should put to use to help achieve the goal of human development. Such a view is appealing but misleading. It supposes that growth is like a hammer that can be used for various purposes and then laid aside. But whereas the hammer has no further effect on the identity of the user, societies have to have their very foundations overhauled in order to generate robust growth. Growth is not a tool but a system-a system that changes the character of its user and swallows up his goals.

Because the UNDP report assumes the innocence of economic growth, it does not have to ask itself whether or at what point growth (the means) begins systematically to undermine human development (the end). Whatever its nature, however, growth never occurs without turning ways of life and precious natural resources into material for its use. This process results in both order and disorder. Though some natural and social energy is converted into growth, there is also an increase in natural and social entropy. Every positive value-addition is therefore accompanied by a negative one. The Human Development Report has a tendency to avoid this dilemma. It focuses only on the distribution of the fruits of growth, not on the pathology of the growth process itself. If this were not the case, the authors would fortuitously find themselves on the side of the critics of growth.

The Neglect of Nature

As we near the end of the century, the crisis over equitableness meshes in with the crisis over nature, particularly at the global level. The UNDP report turns the spotlight full on the former, but, much to the reader's astonishment, leaves the latter in deepest shadow. One possible reason for this is that the report is bogged down in an outdated understanding of the environmental crisis, confusing cleanliness with sustainability. On this view-a view that dominated environmental policy for a quarter of a century, from the time of the passage of the US Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act-what mattered was getting air, water, and the soil cleaned up, and protecting them from emissions; efforts were geared to cutting the production cycle off at its end-point, and a clean environment was the guiding aim. In the sustainability approach, on the other hand, attention is shifted to the beginning of the production cycle; the goal is to reduce the megatons of energy and materials on the input side, and a resource-trim society is the guiding aim here.

It becomes clear from this how equitableness will be stymied if it involves pursuing a level of development that entails a high consumption of natural resources: the environmental space which the prosperous countries and classes take up far exceeds the level at which all countries could remain within the bounds of the ecologically sustainable. Beyond a certain threshold, high consumption of resources begins to impose constraints on equitableness. And yet th e Human Development Index (HDI), against which all countries are graded, has no index of overdevelopment. A proposal developed at the Wuppertal Institute by F. Hinterberger and E.K. Seifert suggests that working out an indicator for the total of a country's material inputs would go some way to remedying the HDI's neglect of nature-related aspects. Initial examples and calculations are already available, and they show that, if there were a sustainable human development index, the order of the countries would alter considerably: wealthier countries would come off less well, and poorer countries would move up the scale.

Entrammeled in Development Rhetoric

Despite all the modifications, there is clear continuity between the UNDP report and the idea of 'development'-that is to say, the projected order for world society which bound North and South together in a joint enterprise in the decades after the Second World War. Underlying this idea was a specific model of reality. According to this, all societies were moving along a single path; differences between societies were merely differences in their positions on that path; and all societies could move up into the front ranks by pursuing rational plans of action. It is this model which also forms the basis of the UNDP report. The hierarchical classification of the countries against an index in itself reveals an underlying notion of a common path to development. It is true that the income index is complemented by social indicators-indeed, the index is attributed with a diminishing marginal utility; but a Scandinavian-style welfare society glimmers through as a paradigm against which all the countries are measured. Again, stages of advanced, average, and low human development may be distinguished, as in the reports. Rises in economic status are always positively reflected in the index, but there is no trace of similarly rising costs: there is no such thing as 'enough' in development.

The UNDP report defines differences as developmental shortfalls. It describes countries and cultures by reference not to that which they aspire to be, but to that in which-measured against an exemplar-they are deficient. Just as global 'poverty' has become visible since the 1940s as an artefact of an international comparative statistical operation, so 'human development' is a statistical construct. It compresses an immeasurable multiplicity of situations and experiences into three or four categories. This kind of macroscopic view of the world does not do justice to any local situation; what it does, rather, is to serve an elite that considers itself globally omnicompetent to maintain a watch on its clientele.

A Call for an 'Attack on Wealth'

The UNDP report does not account to itself properly for the fact that the two basic assumptions of the development discourse are no longer valid. These were: a hope that development could be universally extended in geographical space; and the expectation that development could continue endlessly in time. These two assumptions are crumbling: the finite nature of development in space, and its finite nature in time have become more than manifest. The Human Development Report is still confined to too great an extent within the conceptual framework of the post-war years. For example, it continues to define equitableness as a problem of the poor; it sees lack of equality as a shortcoming of the powerless and not as a fault of the powerful. And yet in a world that has to reckon with biophysical limits, the meaning of equitableness changes: the point is not to change the poor, but to change the rich. To put it in somewhat overstated terms: in future the aspiration to equitableness will imply a call not, in the first place, for an attack on poverty, but for an attack on wealth. For, now that the age of development is over, what the idea of equitableness must entail above all is a reform of overdevelopment and a calling-into-question of the model of civilization so dear to the global consumer class. The classical idea of equitableness was never bound up with the idea of growth; it was bound up with the quest for the just measure. This will continue to be so in the twenty-first century; but the UNDP is still a good way off from this goal.

Dr Wolfgang Sachs is deputy director of the 'New Models of Prosperity' study-group at the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, and Energy.

The UNDP Concept in Practice

"We shouldn't preach human development, we should practise it." This was the plea put to the conference by Dr Eimi Watanabe. Until recently, Dr Watanabe was UNDP representative in Bangladesh, and was responsible for applying the UNDP's ambitious concept to routine project work at the local level. She now works as UNDP assistant administrator and director of the Bureau for Development Policy in New York.

In the past, the UNDP was often criticized for the fact that many of its projects were diametrically opposed to the sustainable human development approach. Thus, in 1995, the International Rivers Network claimed that infrastructure projects which the programme was supporting on the Mekong River, in Paraguay, and on the Russo-Chinese border would have devastating ecological effects. The lack of transparency of UNDP project policy was also frequently the butt of criticism from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). According to Dr Watanabe, the UNDP has acted on these criticisms. New guide-lines on public access to information have recently been agreed. And at the national level also, she said, a learning process had begun within the UNDP over the last few years. Dr Manfred Kulessa of the Gemeinsame Konferenz Kirche und Entwicklung (GKKE: Joint Conference Church and Development) stressed the fact that the nature of UNDP project work had changed. He was able to back this statement by citing numerous personal experiences: amongst other things, he was formerly a UNDP representative in China. Dr Kulessa described how, in former times, the UNDP mostly went into countries with ready-made schemes and took very little account of the traditions and knowledge of the local inhabitants. Nowadays, however, he said, the opposite course was followed. 'Participation', he claimed, was the keyword in UNDP project work.

The example of Bangladesh was a revelatory one. According to Dr Watanabe, the process of converting the UNDP concept into a concrete country programme began with 'listening sessions'. The idea was that, at these sessions, the various social groups-such as women, NGOs, and private industry-should say what it was they expected of the UNDP. The results of these sessions led to a revision of the original country programme. In the end, as Dr Watanabe described it, the programme embraced projects as varied as support in the drafting of a national plan for environmental action, the mobilization of savings at the local level, and information work amongst electors in the run-up to the 1996 general election. But gearing activity to the goals of human development was, said Dr Watanabe, a process that had to begin within the UNDP's own structures. As an example of this, she cited the preferential appointment of women in the UNDP office in Bangladesh.

The fact that translating the UNDP concept into development practice was no easy matter was made clear in the discussion that followed Dr Kulessa's and Dr Watanabe's contributions. After all, for an international organization such as the UNDP, there are clear political limits on the extent to which the population can be involved or activities can be geared to the latter's needs. That extent is determined by governments and the state apparatus, which the UNDP cannot ignore. On explosive issues such as land reform or the protection of indigenous peoples, the possibilities which a UN organization has of exerting influence at the local level are limited. According to Dr Watanabe, it is quite possible for a government to assent to the concept of sustainable human development at the international level whilst blocking its practical implementation in its own country on grounds of national sovereignty.

But the chances of sustainable human development being realized are also crucially affected by globalization. The situation on the world financial markets and the liberalization of the world economy and of international investment conditions have a decisive bearing on a country's development. The conference therefore stressed the need not to ignore the negative consequences of globalization when discussing the practical implementation of the UNDP concept. Michael Bohnet of the Bundesministerium fŸr wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ: Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development) pointed out that development co-operation-and thus also the UNDP concept-could ultimately only be successful if a way were found "to exert greater influence on the system of global governance, as a crucial correlate to processes of globalization".

A Model for German Development Policy

Professor Michael Bohnet began by stressing the similarities between the UNDP approach and the basic features of German development policy. He pointed to the prime goal of combating poverty and highlighted the gender-based approach, which goes beyond the traditional promotion of women and seeks a change in the understanding of the roles of the sexes. Professor Bohnet also referred to participation and self-help as "fundamental factors in shaping a type of co-operation that was geared to the poor". However, he considered the 1997 UNDP report's hope that the worst forms of poverty would be overcome by the first two decades of the next century as 'too optimistic'. Earlier in the conference, Professor Franz Nuscheler had criticized this UNDP prognosis as a 'dangerous illusion'. Professor Bohnet, on the other hand, welcomed the UNDP's call for a strong and active state as means of combating poverty. He did, however, criticize the lack of emphasis on market orientation, competition, privatization, and decentralization, and the fact that, at many points in the UNDP concept, the goal of a welfare state that would provide for all still 'shimmered through' at many a point. Irrespective of these objections, however, Professor Bohnet insisted that the much-criticized plans to cut German contributions to the UNDP had nothing to do with the UNDP's development concept, but stemmed from budgetary constraints.

Structural Change in the North

Dr Reinhard Hermle, head of Misereor's development policy section, asked the UNDP to consider whether, geared as it was to growth, it was not pursuing too static a concept of development, based on the notion of 'catching-up'. He warned that insufficient consideration had been given to the environmental consequences of this development and went on to ask: "Should we actually ecologically want what we are doing developmentally?" At the same time, however, Hermle expressed optimism at the way in which the current debate about a 'sustainable Germany' (zukunfstfÅ higes Deutschland) was turning the spotlight on the "greatest contribution which the industrial countries can make to the development of the South", namely structural change in the direction of environmentally and socially sustainable development. According to Dr Hermle, one sustainable move would be to link the maximization of short-term interests to long-term interests relating to survival, security, and justice. "What ultimately has to be done," he said , "is to identify the ecologically and socially imperative limits to the present system of apparently limit-less growth." Up to now, the UNDP approach had also failed to do this; but the present debate could have positive repercussions on it. One major weak point in the concept of sustainable human development had thus been identified. Wolfgang Sachs lamented the fact that the UNDP report reduced the all-embracing concept of sustainability to the traditional goal of 'keeping nature clean'. Sustainability, he said, was a question not of clean production, but of lean production. Any comprehensive concept of development must therefore take account of resource consumption and its ecological effects. In this connection, Dr Sachs pointed to the concept of the 'ecological footprint' (Wackernagel), which provides a quantitative assessment of the resources and area which the population of an industrial country takes up in the South. He proposed that this type of data should also be included in the Human Development Report.

The Need for an 'Ethics of Enough'

Dr Hermle stressed that extending the UNDP concept should not mean merely increasing economic efficiency. As well as the aim of efficiency, he said, there was also a need for sufficiency-in other words, for an 'ethics of enough'. It was not growth but sufficiency that must become the dominant ideal in the concept of sustainable human development. But Professor Bohnet rejected the call for a 'sufficiency revolution': in his opinion, such a revolution would require a different economic order which, as far as he was concerned, was neither feasible nor desirable. Richard Jolly tackled the criticism of the inadequate regard for environmental aspects from a positive standpoint. He gave notice that in future the ecological components of the sustainability approach would be integrated more fully into the analysis. This would already be reflected in the 1998 UNDP report. Whether this might lead to the development of a sustainable human development index, as called for by many, and what concrete form the 'ecologization' of the UNDP concept might take, are questions that may well make for continued stimulation in the SEF-UNDP partnership.

Text from SEF News, a publication that will appear in German and English 3-4 times per year. © Stiftung Entwicklung und Frieden, December 1997

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More General Analysis on Poverty and Development

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FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C § 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.