This year’s Report celebrates the contributions of the human development approach, which is as relevant as ever to making sense of our changing world and finding ways to improve people’s well-being. Indeed, human development is an evolving idea—not a fixed, static set of precepts—and as the world changes, analytical tools and concepts evolve. So this Report is also about how the human development approach can adjust to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
The past 20 years have seen substantial progress in many aspects of human development. Most people today are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved. And there has been progress not only in improving health and education and raising income, but also in expanding people’s power to select leaders, influence public decisions and share knowledge.
Yet not all sides of the story are positive. These years have also seen increasing inequality— both within and across countries— as well as production and consumption patterns that have increasingly been revealed as unsustainable. Progress has varied, and people in some regions—such as Southern Africa and the former Soviet Union—have experienced periods of regress, especially in health. New vulnerabilities require innovative public policies to confront risk and inequalities while harnessing dynamic market forces for the benefit of all.
Addressing these issues requires new tools. This Report introduces three measures to the Report family of indices—the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, the Gender Inequality Index and the Multidimensional Poverty Index. These state-of-the-art measures incorporate recent advances in theory and measurement and support the centrality of inequality and poverty in the human development framework. The intention is to stimulate reasoned public debate beyond the traditional focus on aggregates.