Human development is the process of amplifying the individual liberty of people in relation to their abilities and the opportunities available to them, so they can choose the life they desire to have.
The process of expanding these liberties includes the social, economic, political and environmental dynamics necessary to guarantee a variety of opportunities to people, as well as the environment necessary for each to fully exercise their potential.
As such, human development should be centered on people and the increase of their welfare, understood not as the accumulation of wealth or an increase in income, but as the broadening of their scope of choices and the liberty to choose. Within this approach, income and wealth are not ends in themselves, but means for people to live the life they desire.
The economic growth of a society does not automatically translate into quality of life. Many times what can be seen is a strengthening of inequality. It is necessary that this growth be transformed into concrete conquests for people: healthier children, universal quality education, increase in political participation by the population, environmental preservation, balance of income and equal opportunities for all, greater freedom of expression and more. As such, by placing people at the center of the welfare analysis, the human development approach redefines the way we think and deal with development – local, national and international.
The concept of human development, as well as its measurement, the Human Development Index (HDI) were presented in 1990 in the first Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), idealized by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, with the help of economist Amartya Sen. The popularization of the human development approach came with the creation and adoption of the HDI as the measure of the degree of human development in a country, an alternative to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), used up to that time as the measure of development.
The HDI combines three of the most important requisites for the expansion of personal liberty: the opportunity to live a long, healthy life – health; the access to knowledge – education; and the ability to enjoy a respectable standard of living – income.
The HDI caused great repercussions worldwide due mainly to its simplicity, ease of understanding and by the holistic and comprehensive way it measured development.
Transforming the complexity of the three important dimensions into one number, the HDI became a means to understand and stimulate ample discussion and consideration of the meaning of human development to society.