If we are to move away from the economic centered view of development towards a wider more ethical centered goal of human freedom, we will need to set up a modified information base that is sensitive to freedom values rather than just to economistic values.

Some of the pioneering work of shifting the emphasis away from economic growth towards sustainable human development was done by the economist Mahbub ul Haq. He was convinced that development must deal with society at large and not limit itself solely to an economistic perspective. As such development becomes people centered and both socially and environmentally sensitive. During his years at the UNDP (1989-95) he began work on the question of developing indicators to measure human development.

The first Human Development Report was published in 1990 and it contained evaluated data for the first time, on a global scale, that questioned the measurement of human progress through the narrow perspective of economic growth data. The data in these reports, which became an annual feature of UNDP, began to demonstrate the need to shift away from concerns about inequalities and move towards concerns of inhumanity. In many ways, Haq's pioneering work, which culminated at the UNDP in the annual Human Development Reports, began a process of questioning the traditional economic notions of 'trickle down' economics.

Economic growth was only the means to the real end, which was human development. Empowerment was more relevant as a policy goal than the quantum of the handout. The Human Development Report 2000 has focused on 'Human Rights and Human Development' and has considerably expanded the inherent linkages between human freedom and human development.

This focus has clearly emerged out of the work of Amartya Sen who has written the first chapter of the Report. Haq highlighted the need for a better, more informative database and suggested the use of the "Capability Poverty Measure" (CPM) that was eventually included in the UNDP 1996 Human Development Report. This index supplemented the data derived from income poverty measurements and complemented the Human Development Index (HDI). The CPM data considered the percentage of people who lacked minimal essential human capabilities.

Three basic capabilities were measured with an overall emphasis on women:
  • Nutrition and health measured the proportion of children under the age of five who were under weight.

  • Safe reproduction measured the proportion of births that were unattended by health person.

  • Education level measured the degree of female literacy.

In this evaluation, human capabilities and potentials were directly linked to deprivations experienced by women who were considered as the centre of the family. Haq maintained that poverty could not be eradicated simply by increasing income. For a person or a family, the improvement of their condition would have to lead to an expansion of basic human capabilities leading in turn to the productive use of these capabilities.

Such a contention can easily be understood if one considers the unchanged condition of a family whose income earner wastes his increased income on non- productive uses such as gambling or drinking. One of the reasons for applying non-income-based measures was to try and distinguish between the long-term national level achievement goals and the shorter term localised ones. Such shorter-term goals could distinguish between constraints or more appropriately obstructions to freedoms that have local origins.

Amartya Sen has explored these development-freedom linkages in his seminal work "Development as Freedom" . In their citation announcement for the 1998 Award of the Nobel Prize in Economic Science, The Royal Swedish Academy mentioned that Sen, "By combining tools from economics and philosophy, had restored an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems". His work is both philosophical as well as a treatise on economics. By combing the principle concerns of economics with the ethical questions of philosophy, he has opened up a new domain, which is far more comprehensive than the erstwhile and hitherto more popular independent domains confined to the discipline of economics.

As such the work is a theoretical analysis of the human condition in contemporary times. The implications of the concepts proposed by him can have far reaching consequences on a number of fields. The two key words in the title of the book are separately each subject of vast information, research and theories. The subject of development is by itself a vast enterprise as is the subject of freedom. By combining these two enterprises into a correlated whole, he has achieved a sort of fission effect that will inevitably reveal new ways to move forward in the greater understanding of the dilemmas of development. Such an approach would regard the overarching obstructions to freedom to be composed of an aggregate of obstructions at different levels. However, such desegregating of unfreedoms does not imply any hierarchies in the components of unfreedoms. All freedoms are interdependent and equally relevant.

The choice of aiming at removing particular unfreedoms and not others simply enables policy makers to make realistic choices between longer-term deep-rooted obstructions and others that may have local or family level impacts on the citizen. A different level of policy may be required for enabling the removal of obstructions that need fundamental political and social transformations.

Ideally, the goal of a policy maker should aim at creating 'enabling' environments in which people's capabilities can be enhanced and their range of choices expanded. Factors preventing such enabling environments to blossom are to be found within all levels of society and contribute to the persistence of different unfreedoms.

Effective policy making needs to be dynamic and adaptable; thus, before formulating matrix for the evaluation of freedoms, one needs to confer with the subjects of evaluation to determine their perceptions of un-freedoms. The matrix for evaluation would emerge out of public discussions so that the weights given to the indicators are understood and agreed to by the community being surveyed: Public support is a precondition for identifying criteria for evaluation.

In the following table, existing participatory and sustainable indicators are organised within Sen's five instrumental freedoms, distinguishing between those indicators that are 'technocratic', typically quantitative and exogenous, and 'participatory' indicators that are qualitative and endogenous.


UNDP HDR Download Site
UNDP Human
Development Report

Of Freedoms
Top Down, Deductive
Quantitative Evaluators
Bottom Up, Inductive
Qualitative Evaluators


Persons imprisoned

Voting rights

Access to written, electronic, broadcast media

Access to libraries

Women in government, police, etc.

Access to telecommunication

Constraints to voting

Access to voting booths

Constraints on legal access

Constraints on access to law and order services

Nature of land title

Constraints on access to information

Constraints to act as representatives

Constraints on use of telecommunications

Whether Constitution or national law promotes the right to adequate housing

Whether Constitution includes protections against eviction

Other housing related rights (including gender sensitive)

Institutional arrangements between central and local governments and balance of power between them


Male female employment


Earned income share in family

Loans from banks

Youth unemployment rate

Children in employment

Women’s GDP per capita

Percentage of family income retained by women

Loans from money lenders

Interest rate on loans compared to market rate

Individual disabilities

Constraints to mobility

Access to credit

Constraints on women to seek employment

Access to training facilities

Access to transport

Access to markets

Recovery of dues.


Life expectancy

Birth and death rates

Contraception rates

Infant mortality

Maternal mortality

Infant immunisation

Access to health services

Access to safe water and sanitation

Birth attended by health personal

Population per doctor

Underweight babies

Malnourished children

Calorie intake

Adult literacy

Mean years of schooling

Primary enrolment

Access to alternative medicine practitioners

Access to fuel

Stability of dwelling

Domestic injuries

Exposure to pollution

Constraints on water access

Constraints to school attendance

School drop out rate

Unattended children

Working children under 10

Children per class

Children per teacher

Distance from primary school

Areas considered as dangerous or inaccessible to the police



Settlement of transacted work

Time spent on bondage obligations

Facilities to report crime

Presence of women in police station

Unreported thefts

Unreported molestation

Non formal payments for services, shelter and work

Regular independent auditing of municipal accounts

Published contracts and tenders

Sanctions against faults of civil servants

Laws on disclosure of potential conflicts of interest

Civil society involved in alteration in zoning

Civil society involved in major public projects


Catastrophic deaths

Destroyed houses

Destroyed schools and health centres

Epidemic cases

Density of population before and after calamity

Existence of shelters

Access to communication networks

Access to emergency food programmes

Duration of migration

Distance of migration

Nature of resettlement

Emergency and delay

Constraints to access shelter

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