About UNEP UNEP Offices News Centre Publications Events Awards Milestones UNEP Store
UNEP Website GEO Home Page

Human development

Health, education, security, identity and freedom are aspects of human development that are all clearly related to economic development, yet go well beyond it. Dramatic differences in access to these important human needs are a feature of the contemporary global scene. Impoverishment and inequity are critical problems for the poorer countries but conspicuous pockets exist even in the richest countries. As the world grows more interconnected, these forces affect everyone directly or indirectly, through immigration pressure, geopolitical instability, environmental degradation and constraints on global economic opportunity.

The United Nations, World Bank, International Labour Organization (ILO) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently set out specific international development goals for poverty reduction, universal primary education, gender equality, infant and child mortality, maternal mortality, reproductive health and the environment. Achieving these goals depends on: 'Stronger voices for the poor, economic stability and growth that favours the poor, basic social services for all, open markets for trade and technology, and enough development resources, used well' (IMF and others 2000).

Among obstacles to achieving these goals are: 'weak governance; bad policies; human rights abuses; conflicts; natural disasters, and other external shocks. The spread of HIV/AIDS. The failure to address inequities in income, education and access to health care, and the inequalities between men and women. But there is more. Limits on developing country access to global markets, the burden of debt, the decline in development aid and, sometimes, inconsistencies in donor policies also hinder faster progress' (IMF and others 2000).

Policy First and Sustainability First place emphasis on meeting basic needs and providing the resources to meet them, even where this may hinder shortterm economic growth. In Sustainability First, relatively more of the provision of basic needs comes from groups outside the public sector, both businesses and nongovernmental organizations.

In Markets First, these issues are not addressed to the same extent, as it is taken for granted that economic development naturally leads to social improvement. In addition, more of the facilities that have traditionally been provided as public services are privatized. These trends are even more pronounced in Security First, accompanied by greater inequality in terms of access. Where new funds, whether public or private, are invested in development, physical security increasingly takes precedence over social welfare.