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Human development is the process characterized by the variation of the material conditions that most influence the possibilities of satisfying needs and desires and to explore and realize the physical and psychic, biological and cultural, individual and social potentials of each person. It is also the name of the science that seeks to understand how and why the people of all ages and circumstances change or remain the same over time. It involves studies of the human condition with its core being the capability approach. The inequality adjusted Human Development Index is used as a way of measuring actual progress in human development by the United Nations. It is an alternative approach to a single focus on economic growth, and focused more on social justice, as a way of understanding progress.

The United Nations Development Programme defines human development as "the process of enlarging people's choices," said choices allowing them to "lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, to enjoy a decent standard of living," as well as "political freedom, other guaranteed human rights and various ingredients of self-respect."[1]

Development concerns expanding the choices people have, to lead lives that they value, and improving the human condition so that people have the chance to lead full lives.[2] Thus, human development is about much more than economic growth, which is only a means of enlarging people's choices.[3] Fundamental to enlarging these choices is building human capabilities—the range of things that people can do or be in life. Capabilities are "the substantive freedoms [a person] enjoys to lead the kind of life [they have] reason to value".[4] Human development disperses the concentration of the distribution of goods and services underprivileged people need and center its ideas on human decisions.[5] By investing in people, we enable growth and empower people to pursue many different life paths, thus developing human capabilities.[6] The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, be knowledgeable (i.e., educated), have access to resources and social services needed for a decent standard of living, and be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible.[3]

An abstract illustration of human capability is a bicycle. A bicycle itself is a resource—a mode of transportation. If the person who owns a bicycle is unable to ride it (due to a lack of balance or knowledge), the bicycle is useless to her or him as transportation and loses its functioning. If a person owns a bicycle and has the ability to ride a bicycle, they have the capability of riding to a friend's house, a local store, or a great number of other places. This capability would (presumably) increase their value of life and expand their choices. A person, therefore, needs both resources and the ability to use them to pursue their capabilities. This is one example of how different resources or skills can contribute to human capability. This way of looking at development, often forgotten in the immediate concern with accumulating commodities and financial wealth, is not new. Philosophers, economists, and political leaders emphasized human well being as the purpose, or the end, of development. As Aristotle said in ancient Greece, "Wealth is evidently not the good we are seeking, for it is merely useful for the sake of something else."[3]

The Social Progress Index is published by Social Progress Imperative. It combines indicators related to social welfare, equality, personal freedom and sustainability.

The Earth Summits, Agenda21, the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals

In an attempt to promote human development, the United Nations supports decennial Earth Summits where the members to the UN bring together the best of humanity. In several rounds they discuss what are humanities biggest problems, quantify them and develop a plan of action on how to solve these problems. This plan of action is called Agenda 21 - an agenda to make sure humanity will still be around after the year 2100. Thousands of cities now have a local Agenda 21 and more and more companies and organisations also align their strategic plan with the strategic plan of Agenda21. With the approaching of the year 2000, developing world, especially of the least developed countries group. This marked improvement at the bottom was offset with a decrease in HDI of high income countries.

To reflect gaps in the Human Development Index, the United Nations came out with the Human Poverty Index (HPI) in 1997[citation needed]. The HPI measures the deficiencies in the three indexes of the human development index: long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. The HPI is meant to provide a broader view of human development and is adapted to developed countries to reveal social exclusion.[19]

Social Progress Index

The Social Progress Index is published by Social Progress Imperative. It combines indicators related to social welfare, equality, personal freedom and sustainability.

The Earth Summits, Agenda21, the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals

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