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how has human development traditionally been measured

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how has human development traditionally been measured

using GDP

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various ways to measure development

GDP, happy planet index, KOF index, the freedom index

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Gross Domestic Product- the total market value of all final goods and services produced annually in an economy

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Why GDP is a good measure of development

Economic growth drives other types of development

Advances in health and life expectancy can only be delivered by economic growth

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Why GDP is not a good measure of development

The modern concept of development focuses more improving well-being and abilities: health, life expectancy and human rights and the environment

for example, quality of life and contentment, life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, literacy and healthcare

GDP increases don't specifically include 'human development', though some argue it leads to it

Economic growth exploits natural resources, which negatively impacts environmental quality (which is part of development)

GDP gives a crude average which skews the income

distribution. The majority of incomes could fall well below the mean, and a very wealthy minority raise the average.

The informal economy is not included in GDP or most economic measures - yet in Uganda this is estimated to produce 60% of GDP

Countries which similar GDP may vary in life expectancy. E.g. Tajikistan 72.2 years, Lesotho 61.1

The relationship between income and life satisfaction is complex

Life satisfaction increases rapidly with wealth when incomes are low to begin with

When a medium level of income is reached, satisfaction increases only very slowly with additional income

Some people are much more satisfied than their income would suggest whereas others are much less satisfied% with high life satisfaction:

78% - Mexicans (emerging) 66% - El Salvador (developing) 43% - Japanese (developed) 37% - Greeks (developed)

Nigerians, Russians and the Japanese have similar levels of life satisfaction despite having vastly different income levels. (around 41-3% of people have high life satisfaction)

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happy planet index

A measure of human development, introduced by the New Economics Foundation in 2006

Combines environmental data on sustainability with social data on satisfaction and health - and doesn't income data on income.

components: average subjective life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita.

Uses global data

HPI = EW x LE / EF

EW- environmental wellbeing

LE- life expectancy

EF- environmental footprint

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why the happy planet index is a good development measure

composite measure- includes various aspects of development

it is a measure what provides a modern view of development with the use of an environmental component

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why the happy planet index is not a good development measure

bias/subjective- average subjective life satisfaction is a component: this measure varies within individuals so it isn't the most reliable

doesn't have record for every country- measures just over 170 countries

2/3 of measures based on highly aggregated and subjective data

Is it reasonable to assume people perceive their well-being and the steps of the ladder in the same way?

Only life expectancy is reliable.

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countries with high HPI index

high HPI

Highest: Costa Rica 64.0, Vietnam 60.4 (best in Central America)

Also, Mexico, Colombia, Thailand

Middle-income, emerging countries which balance quality of life and the environment.

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countries medium high HPI index

Medium HPI

Upper Middle: UK 47.9, Japan 47.5

Lower Middle: Singapore 39.8, Ethiopia 39.2, Namibia 38.9 <- low ranking due to the high ecological footprints

(Also, Spain , India, Indonesia, Brazil)

Very mixed group, but most lack extensive poverty and have good social conditions.

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countries with low HPI index


Lowest: Botswana 22.6, Chad 25.2

(Also, USA, Russia, Ivory Coast, South Africa)

Very wealthy but wasteful societies OR very poor developing countries. Unequal concern for social development and sustainability.

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KOF index of globalisation

measures the economic, social and political dimensions of globalisation.

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the freedom index

presents a broad measure of human freedom, understood as the absence of coercive constrain

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a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development

3 components:

GNI, life expectancy, average years of schooling- composite measure

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types of society

welfare state

sharia law

Bolivia under Evo Morales

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welfare state

There is no universal model for how a society should be run in order to maximise human contentment and levels of wealth. In most developed countries governments use taxes to fund a welfare state system. This promotes human wellbeing by redistributing resources to people in need such as children, the elderly, disabled, ill or unemployed.

It provides:

Free education, usually from age 4 or 5 to 16 or 18.Health services, which are free in some cases.Benefits such as a basic income, housing and social services to those in need.

However, in developed countries there is large variation in terms of which benefits are provided, and how free and generous state welfare systems are.

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sharia law

Creates a code of conduct incompatible with our perceptions of human rights.

List of countries using it includes some of the richest (Brunei, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UEA) and some of the poorest nations (Afghanistan, Mauritania, Sudan, Yemen)

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what is sharia law?

The legal system in most Muslim countries which dictates many aspects of life.

It is applied differently across the Muslim world: strictly in some countries and more flexibly in others.

Covers behaviour and beliefs (public and private)

It includes zakat, which means the payment of taxes to help less fortunate people. However, if perpetuates gender inequality, by denying fundamental human rights to women.

But, strict Sharia Law contains many human rights violations:

theft is punishable by the amputation of the right hand

converting from Islam is punishable by death

a man can beat his wife for disobeying him

a woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative

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Bolivia under Evo Morales

An indigenous Aymara, first elected in 2006, who won an unprecedented third term in office in 2014

Taxes have been raised on the profits of oil TNCs to over 80% and the extra government income used to reduce poverty through health, education and other programmes including increasing the minimum wage by 50%.

Has lifted 500,000 Bolivians from poverty - extreme poverty has fallen by 43%

However Bolivia is still one of the poorest countries in Latin America, dependent on its resources for economic growth, where 1/4 still live on less than $2 a day (World Bank)

20% of the population lacks clean water and 40% do not have sanitation

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best development goals- Hans Rosling

​Hans Rosling (1948-2017) was a Swedish physician, academic, statistician, and public speaker.

He felt that future goals should be to improve environmental quality, health and life expectancy of the poorest and human rights -> and that economic growth was the most important way of achieving this. However, he argued that human rights (especially property rights) are essential to economic growth, and that these cannot exist without a good, stable government. He stressed the crucial role health plays in human development, arguing that improving health. life expectancy and environmental quality often unlocks people's economic potential.

Economic growth is needed to built infrastructure, raise incomes to pay for medicine and education and develop journalism for human development to increase. ​Both the Indian subsidy system and the radical tax redistribution of Evo

Morales are seen by some as discouraging economic growth.

This is because subsidies undercut some prices, and very high taxes discourage investment by TNCs. -> there is a general consensus that economic growth is important if human development is to increase in the long term.

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Education and Economic Development

Education is crucial to economic development as it increases the value of 'human capital' - a.k.a. producing a literate, numerate, enterprising and skilled workforce.

Education mainly comes from schooling (primary, secondary, university) but continues during employment (training)

Education gives a better job and higher wages -> material benefits -> quality of life

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The relationship between years in education and income

A low number of years in education results in a poorly educated, unskilled workforce with low earning capacity, so incomes remain low.

High incomes mean governments have the taxes to invest in education (investing in future human capital, which in turn increases future income.


Norway: 2013 Expected years in education - 17.6Income per person $70,600 (2016)

Niger: 5.4 years, $360

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how does experience of education vary

Access to education

Standards of achievement

Global and regional variation - PISA testing, OECD

Gender inequality

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gender variations in education

it is known that around the world, men have wider and easier access to education- especially in developing/emerging countries

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health- the importance of health to women and the whole population

women- As primary health carer women pass down healthy behaviour to children

whole population- Informs people of how to stay healthy

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education- the importance of education to women and the whole population

women- Better education = less children=lower birth rate=lesser burden on society. Aspirations passed on to children- due to access to sexual health classes/education

whole population- Increases skills and economic viability - allows a place to compete economically

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human rights- the importance of human rights to women and the whole population

women- Supports equality

whole population- Enables people to question their rights and develop a sense of what their rights are

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development- the importance of development to women and the whole population

women- Improves social elements of development - HDI/BLI/Happiness

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Stats from USAID- Educating Girls Provides Big Returns

More girls in school = greater GDP: If 10 percent more adolescent girls attend school, a country's GDP increases by an average of 3 percent.

More school for girls = greater earnings: An extra year of secondary school for girls can increase their future earnings by 10-20%.

Education = more lives saved: A child whose mother can read is 50 percent more likely to live past age five.

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education- the united nations educational. scientific and cultural organisation (UNESCO)

the UNESCO believe that gender equality can come from education

they see education as the main 'driver' of development and a fundamental right of all people

the UNESCO has suggested targets of 4-6% of GDP should be spent on education

many SDGs are linked to education and equality- e.g. by 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes

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why might access to education be limited

during times of internal conflict and poverty

there can also be restrictions for women in education in culturally conservative muslim countries - for example, on mixed gender schooling and the roles of male and female teachers, and the belief that girls should be learning how to run a home and prepare for married life

but there is a wide difference between islamic countries, and rather than religious influences, conservative traditions and poverty may be the most important factors

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what poor health can have the following consequences for development

Childhood diseases can lead to stunting and poor cognitive development, affecting education later in life.

Diseases such as malaria and HIV/Aids reduce the capacity to work, and therefore earning capacity.

Family members may have to spend long periods looking after ill relatives (rather than working), because health services are poor

Medical costs use up income that could be spend on food, education and housing.

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variations in health and life expectancy in the developing world- factors

differential access to:

Access to basic needs


Water supply

the lack of these particularly impact levels of infant and maternal mortality

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variations in health and life expectancy in the developing world- factors- Access to basic needs

often there is a lack of infrastructure or lack of individuals to provide these basic necessities. or there's no incentive from the government for these provisions

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variations in health and life expectancy in the developing world- factors- Food

food tends to be more expensive or sometimes due to the lack of sanitation, often disease is carried

also, often due to smaller incomes, often people cannot afford to have a wide, varied diet often meaning that key vitamins and minerals are missing from the diet, making them more susceptible to disease

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variations in health and life expectancy in the developing world- factors- water supply

lack of facilities to provide clean water so diseases such as cholera end up being spread, lowering life expectancy

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variations in health and life expectancy in the developing world- factors- Sanitation

lack of clean water facilities and education to highlight the importance of sanitation

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why is there lower life expectancy/variations in the developing world- example: Democratic Republic of Congo

For example, the DRC is one of the world's richest countries in terms of natural resources, however:

most of the population lives in a state of moderate to severe food insecurity, and 40% of children under 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition

the water supply for 47.6% of the population is 'unimproved' <- comes from a river, spring, or open pond <- water borne diseases are rife

most women have their first child before the age of 20 - infant and maternal mortality rates are the world's highest

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Infant mortality

the number of deaths of children under one year of age, compared with the total number of live births in one year in an area. Usually expressed out of 1000, but sometimes given as a percentage.

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maternal mortality

the number of deaths of females per 100,000 live births in a year while pregnant or within 42 days of pregnancy finishing.

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how Rwanda has experienced rapid improvement in its healthcare system and its infant and maternal mortality rates

Rwanda's government is committed to providing universal health care as part of its Vision 2020 Strategy. Since 2000, the core of this commitment has been its community-based health insurance scheme known as Mutuelle de Santé. The system lowers catastrophic out-of-pocket payments and ensures access for vulnerable populations, focusing on maternal and child health services- improving the accessibility of healthcare

The success story in maternal health is also a story about increased family planning coverage. Modern contraceptive prevalence increased in Rwanda from 4 percent to 45 percent in 10 years. Research shows that family planning can prevent as many as one in three maternal deaths by allowing women to delay motherhood, space births, avoid unintended pregnancies, and stop childbearing when they have reached their desired family size.

Rwanda's total fertility rate decreased from 6.2 children per woman in 1992 to 4.0 in 2013.8 Community health workers have much to do with these successes. They can provide condoms, pills, injectables, and cycle beads. The fast-improving uptake of maternal health services has been linked to a strong positive response to community health workers; the push to subscribe to the community-based insurance scheme; and an effective public education campaign that reached three-quarters of women, supported by a system of fines imposed on those who fail to attend antenatal care and deliver in health care centres.

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Variations in health and life expectancy in the developed world

The differences in life expectancy within the developed world are not as large as in the developing world, but are still significant. The average Japanese person can expect to live 13 years longer than the average Russian (about 84 and 71) . Some reasons for the variations:

Lifestyle, diet, deprivation, medical care

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Variations in health and life expectancy in the developed world- lifestyle

inactive lifestyles, combined with high fat/sugar diets, have contributed to 31% of adults in the UAE and 36% in the USA being obese, which leads to high levels of diabetes and heart disease, which lowers life expectancy.

Alcoholism is a serious problem in Russia, especially among men.

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Variations in health and life expectancy in the developed world- diet

Japanese and South Korean diets contain more fish, vegetables and rice than Western diets, which are high in meat protein, fat and sugar. Better diet may lead to lower levels of cancer, heart disease and skeletal/joint problems such as osteoporosis and arthritis.

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Variations in health and life expectancy in the developed world- deprivation

about 40% of people in Bulgaria are at risk from poverty, despite its EU membership

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Variations in health and life expectancy in the developed world- medical care

some countries, such as the UK, provide free healthcare for all (the NHS), which increases life expectancy. In the USA most people need expensive health insurance policies to cover health costs, which many cannot afford. Costs are greater when funded through private insurance and the private sector (economies of scale)

The USA has the highest health spending per capita in the world, yet it has an infant mortality rate of 5.97 per 1000, only the 38th lowest.

In Russia and Bulgaria, medical care is much less modern than in other developed countries and therefore less effective.

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variations in health and life expectancy within countries- Britain

There are large variations in health and life expectancy within countries, even those with universal, free healthcare systems such as the UK. In the UK, male life expectancy at birth is around 71 in Manchester, but 86.1 in Harrow, in London. People living in Manchester have almost the same life expectancy as those in North Korea or Nepal!

In some small areas of Glasgow, male life expectancy is around 65. Blackpool (75), Middlesbrough (76), and Liverpool (76) also have male life expectancy rates lower than the national average of 79.5 for men. There are many reasons for this:

In deprived, post-industrial cities (traditional manufacturing industry closed), male unemployment is high, incomes low and levels of smoking and alcohol consumption are higher than the national average.

In north-east England, there is a much higher death rate, with a higher proportion of these deaths attributed to smoking and alcohol consumption, certain cancers, and respiratory and heart diseases.

Diet among low-income groups is often poor, with cheap, high-fat fast food consumed rather than fresh fruit and vegetables (spending on this lower in north east England).

The combination of low income and poor lifestyles leads to high levels of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, liver and kidney failure - and hence lower life expectancy. Gender also plays a part - in the UK the life expectancy for women is 3.7 years higher.

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​Inequality in health and life expectancy can also result from ethnic differences- ethnic variations- Aboriginal peoples in Australia

Australians with European ancestry live nearly 20 years longer than Aboriginal people

ATSI (Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander) men and women both live 10 years less than the average Australian.

This is due to:​

relatively high mortality rates in middle age individuals

high rates of chronic disease and injury

high levels of deprivation

a higher prevalence of modifiable and behavioural risk factors, such as smoking, drug taking and alcohol abuse

lower levels of education and employment

the social disadvantages they face

The root cause of these differences is poverty. Many Australian Aborigines live in isolated rural communities and have low-paid jobs. Levels of alcohol consumption, smoking and drug abuse are high. Food can be expensive in isolated communities, and access to healthcare is basic.

In 2009, the Australian government launched the Close the Gap initiative, which, by 2018, aimed to halve the gap in child mortality, and increase the proportion of ATSI students completing high school

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Social Progress

the idea that societies can improve over time in economic, human and environmental terms. Governments play a key role in this, as their decisions can prioritise:

Economic development, through infrastructure spending, e.g. roads, railways, power grids and tax breaks to attract foreign visitors

Human development through spending on education, healthcare and benefits for disadvantaged groups, and promoting freedom and equality. E.g. France spends 11.5% of GDP on health, or 2.8% in Bangladesh.

Environmental wellbeing, by reducing pollution (and its negative health effects), ensuring clean water and sanitation, and protecting ecosystems and species.

Most governments do all of these thing, but not equally

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The Social Progress Index (SPI)

attempts to quantify how well governments provide for their people. It is based on three factors:

​basic human needs -> nutrition, medical care, shelter, water, sanitation and safety

foundations of wellbeing -> education, access to internet and mobile phones, life expectancy, pollution levels

opportunity -> personal rights, political freedom, gender equality, tolerance of immigrants and access to advanced education.

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what is noticeable though SPI data

​the democratic countries of Sweden and Costa Rica spend large sums, in relation to income per capita, on health and education, and this leads to high SPI scores because of the impact of a welfare state.

authoritarian/totalitarian (people cannot choose leaders, so can't influence or criticise policy) Russia and Ethopia are run by elites, who provide far less to their people and hence SPI scores are low.

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SPI data- Russia

79 (basic human needs)

72 (foundations of wellbeing)

50 (opportunity)

Moderate to low SPI scores. Health spending ($524) around half of Costa Rica's and education 4.1% of GDP. An authoritarian regime

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SPI data- Costa Rica

88 (basic human needs)

85 (foundations of wellbeing)

71 (opportunity)

No armed forces. Government spends large sums on both health ($929 per year) and education (6.3%). SPI scores much higher than Russia, despite similar income. A functioning democracy.

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SPI data- Sweden

95 (basic human needs)

90 (foundations of wellbeing)

83 (opportunity)

Income per person: $53,200Health spending: $5.600 per person/year​Education spending: 7%A government with a strong commitment to welfare state spending, with high levels of both health and education provision provided by the government. An advanced democracy.

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SPI data- Ethopia

52 (basic human needs)

54 (foundations of wellbeing)

29 (opportunity)

Income per person: $870, Health spending: $24 per person/year, Education spending: 4.5%

Very low income country, with low levels of spending on education and health. Very low SPI opportunity scores. An authoritarian regime.

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Intergovernmental organisations

regional or global organisations of which countries are members; they manage aspects of the economy, global development and specific issues such as health or environmental issues.

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the 3 dominant IGOs

World Bank

IMF (international monetary fund)

WTO (world trade organisation)

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World Bank

Part of the United Nations.

Lends money to emerging and developing countries to promote development

It funds projects such as roads, hydro-electric power, telecoms and water supply schemes

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IMF (International Monetary Fund)

that experience economic difficulties (usually focusses on heavily indebted countries)

In return for re-arranging loans at adjusted rates of interest, and at more affordable repayments, it has imposed Structural Adjustment Programmes on the indebted countries. These SAPs consist of conditions forcing the state to reduce its role in the economy (e.g. by privatising energy or water companies) and in social welfare (spending on health and education)

This resulted in health and education provision being reduced, with TNCs benefitting

Its aim is to reduce the risk of market crashes and recessions

Role of strengthening weakening currencies, and foster stronger economic development policies

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WTO (World Trade Organisation)

​Promotes free trade through negotiations between countries

in order to promote economic development and reduce debts

however, these have frequently resulted in environmental degradation (rainforest clearance, threats to biodiversity) e.g. Indonesia, where rainforest has been cleared for palm oil production

Since the 1950s a series of negotiating rounds have removed barriers to trade, although further progress has been limited since the 1990s

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how have these IGOs emphasised the importance of economic development

through promoting Neo-liberalism views

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Neoliberalism is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as "eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers

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Neo-liberal views are those in favour of:

Reduced state intervention,

Free-market capitalism

Freedom for private businesses to trade and earn profits.

Promoting free trade between countries with no or very few barriers (e.g. import/export taxes or quotas on the volume of exports)

deregulating the free market- meaning money can flow easily and quickly between banks, businesses and countries.

Privatising state assets (e.g. water provision, transport)- this means they can be run to maximise profit

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why are Neo-liberal views promoted

The belief is that this will aid development as the private wealth will trickle down, and that the poorest will eventually benefit from the strengthened economy.

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what have IGOs been doing in recent years

creating programmes that are being aimed at improving environmental quality, health, education and human rights

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the world bank- How it is helping education

A founding member of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), established in 2002

This was created to have achieve the second and third MDGs (Achieve universal primary education and promote gender equality and empower women)

The GPE invests in early childhood education for all children, and aims to develop a sound educational system for children through developing early reading and numeracy skills

It helps countries set up early reading assessment systems

Focuses on the poorest and most disadvantaged children, (girls, ethnic minorities, those with disabilities or in conflict zones)

More recent work has focused on secondary and higher education.

Invested over $35 million in educational programmes between 2002 and 2015

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the world bank- How it is helping the environment

Launches the Climate Change Action Plan in 2016

Aims to help developing countries, like India, to add 30 gigawatts of renewable energy (enough to power 150 million homes) to the world's energy capacity

Aims to provide flooding early warning systems for 100 million people, and develop investment in agriculture for 40 countries (all by 2020)

Part of a strategy to end poverty

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IMF- reducing poverty

​'Poverty reduction programme'

Countries are now required to develop their own medium-term development plans to receive aid, loans and debt relief. (instead of having to do SAPs)

It is currently working with the Haitian government to make the economy more resilient, especially after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. It aims to make Haiti an emerging economy by 2030.

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WTO- Helping the environment

most WTO trade policies now try to:

Restrict the international movement of products or species that are potentially harmful or endangered

Challenge trade agreements where there may be implications for climate change

​However, there is a conflict of interest, since the most powerful countries in the WTO may be disadvantaged by limiting trade.

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The united nations development programme (UNDP)

A program of the United Nations that works to improve living conditions through economic development.

helps countries make policies and national development plans and provides expertise for working towards the SDGs

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Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Promotes agricultural development and food

security and nutrition

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Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)

The UN's creation of eight goals for economic development and social progress in 2000. Members agreed to reach the goals by 2015.

adopted by world leaders in September 2000 at the millennium UN summit

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the 8 MDGs

1)Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

2)Achieve universal primary education and ensure that all complete it

3)Promote gender equality and empower women

4)Reduce child mortality for those under 5 by 2/3rds

5)Improve maternal health

6)Combat HIV and Aids, malaria and other diseases

7)Ensure environmental sustainability

Develop a global partnership for development

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how successful were the MDGs

the health target prevented 20 million deaths between 2000 and 2015

6.2 million deaths from malaria prevented, 37 million deaths from TB prevented

The rate of children dying before the age of 5 has fallen from 90 to 43 per 1000 (52% decrease)

maternal mortality fell from 330 to 210 deaths per 100,000 live births

parliamentary representation of women increased in nearly 90% of countries

improved access to sanitation for 2.1 billion

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drawbacks of the MDGs

Only one of the goals (no. 7, halving the number of people without safe access to drinking water) has been achieved.

Also, some countries, especially China, account for a large slice of this 'success' and can mask more limited progress in parts of South Asia and Africa. East Asia and Latin America have made better progress than other developing regions. 500 million of those the fall in extreme poverty came from China

Gender inequality has not improved as much as hoped, and conflict in many countries (Somalia, Yemen, DRC) has set progress back.

The poorest, and those disadvantaged because of gender, age, disability or ethnicity were not benefitted

All but one MDG focused on poverty reduction rather than wealth creation (Hans Rosling criticised this)

By 2015, 800 million people still lived in extreme poverty and hunger, and 800 million lived in slum housing in cities.

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​Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The SDGs replaced the MDGs for the period 2015-2030. They are 17 global goals that apply to all countries, not just developing countries (as with the MDGs). They too set targets for basic needs, but in addition have to focus on sustainable development, including:

clean energy -> renewable, low carbon

decent work -> for a decent wage, avoiding exploitation

sustainable cities -> for more than 50% of the world's population living in urban areas

protecting oceans and ecosystems.

But, they are not legally binding.

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the UDHR

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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what is the UDHR

In 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in order to make the human rights specified in the 1945 United Nations Charter more clearly defined. It was largely a response to the Holocaust inflicted by the Nazis during the Second World War, to ensure that such actions were never repeated. It led to the deaths of up to 17 million people.

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examples of articles within the UDHR

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights

Article 3: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 5: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 10: Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

It is an important document for foreign policy because it informs the actions of countries towards other sovereign states

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how has the UDHR been used since its adoption

to place political pressure on countries seen to be denying people basic human rights, and to press for change

as a justification for economic sanctions against countries

as a justification for military intervention in foreign countries seen to be committing genocide or widespread human rights abuses.

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voting on the UDHR (1948)

In 1948, only the 58 UN-members voted on the UDHR. (48 in favour, 8 abstentations, 2 non-votes). Countries that have joined the UN since then have agreed to it as they joined. However, some subsequent human rights agreements have not been adopted by all UN member states.

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countries that did not vote in favour of the UDHR (1948)

the Soviet Union - because it considered that the Declaration did not sufficiently condemn Fascism and Nazism

South Africa - to protect its system of apartheid, where people were segregated by skin colour and race, because that contravened the Declaration

Saudi Arabia - because of the article that 'everyone has the right to change their religion or belief' Also as women's rights are controversial issue. Only allowed to vote in 2015. May be segregated (e.g. using a separate counter at McDonald's)

There have been two further covenants, (to serve as a legal framework to enforce the UDHR) and other additions.

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the ECHR

The European Convention on Human Rights

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what is the ECHR

was written by the Council of Europe and adopted by its 47 member states.

The Council of Europe is an international organisation set up in 1949 with the specific aims of upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

It is not the same as the EU - but has a close relationship with it

established the European Court of Human Rights to uphold the ECHR and bring people or organisations abusing human rights to trial and justice

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why was the ECHR set up

The ECHR was specifically set up to prevent conflict in Europe and the sort of atrocities committed during the World Wars. It is different to the UDHR, but they have similar aims and refer to similar rights.

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the ECHR- in the UK

In the UK, the Human Rights Act 1998 took the rights enshrined in the ECHR and made them part of UK law. This makes it easier for citizens to have their human rights upheld in the UK, rather than having to take the UK government to court at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

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​the ECHR- Remains controversial

The UDHR and ECHR are controversial to some people because of their impact on sovereignty. (idea that a country's government determines the laws and policies in that country, and no higher authority has supreme power)

By signing international human rights treaties, sovereign states could be seen to be handing authority on human rights issues to a higher legal body (UN or Council of Europe)

In the case of the ECHR, the European Council of Human Rights in Strasbourg has a higher legal power to make judgements than national courts.

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criticism of the human rights concepts

Some have criticised the concept of 'human rights' as being Western, put into place after WW2 by European and North American politicians and thinkers.

They argue that this Western concept of human rights does not apply easily to Islamic or Asian cultures, which have different histories and traditions.

Are certain human rights universal?​

Different cultures may take a different view of gender equality, or treat some crimes more/less seriously than other cultures.

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the Geneva convention

The Geneva Convention helped define war crimes, (e.g. torture, rape, genocide, child soldiers, bombing civilians, chemical weapons).

Those accused of war crimes can be tried at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, set up in 2002.

Recognition of the ICC by sovereign states is widespread (123 signatories) but not universal (the USA, China, Russia, India etc.).

the convention is endorsed by 196 countries

is much narrower than the UDHR as it only refers to war crimes

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difficulties with the international criminal court (ICC)- alongside the Geneva convention

​international cooperation to bring war criminals to trial can be hard to achieve as not all states agree with it

war criminals have to be captured and then brought to the Hague: those accused often attempt to avoid this at all costs

gathering evidence of war crimes during a war is very difficult.

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the Geneva convention- key issues

A key issue with the Convention, human rights law and the ICC is that many sovereign states still engage in actions that are banned by the treaties and agreements that have signed:

Amnesty International, estimates that 140 sovereign states use torture, for instance

around 25 countries still use chemical weapons

many countries around the world still either use the death penalty or still have means of execution within their laws- In 2021, most known executions took place in China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria - in that order.

by some definitions, the USA has attempted regime change in over 30 countries since 1945, and many of these can be questioned under international law- may be through military intervention or political and economic pressure

most sovereign states consider Russia's invasion and annexation of parts of Georgia (2008) and Ukraine (2014) illegal under international law.

Since 2002, the ICC has investigated war crimes linked to 11 wars, and accused 42 individuals, of which 34 have had arrest warrants issued against them. As of 2018, only 5 criminals had been convicted at the ICC

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some states frequently invoke human rights in international forums

All the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, France, the UK, and Canada, among others, are at the forefront of human rights. These countries have signed up to all aspects of UN human rights agreements, and enshrined protection and equality relating to ethnicity, gender, sexuality, disability and children, and issues such as modern slavery and people trafficking into their own laws.

Those countries are all ranked 'free' using the Freedom House, 'Freedom in the World Index'

These are usually the first countries to 'call out' human rights abuses.

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Austria, Ireland and Switzerland are historically neutral countries, and are therefore often the locations chosen for international agreements on human rights, and their diplomats are often involved in negotiating agreements and settling disputes.

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Some countries may prioritise economic growth over human rights

including China, Malaysia, Mexico, much of the Middle East and large parts of Africa

It could be argued that:

human rights bring financial costs, such as providing education and healthcare, and this money could be better spend on economic infrastructure

workers rights get in the way of profits, and they add costs to businesses

rights such as freedom of the press bring no economic benefit

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Some countries may prioritise economic growth over human rights- how these countries defend their position

Countries such as China defend their position by arguing that once economic development is achieved, human rights can then follow. They would argue that in the UK gender equality, universal suffrage, universal healthcare and education all emerged after the industrial revolution.

On the other hand:

people may be more productive and innovative when they have the protected freedoms that human rights bring

many of the world's wealthiest countries have are also those with the best human rights records

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Freedom in the World Index

Published by Freedom House

Ranks countries as 'free', 'partly free' and 'not free'

Free: North America, Europe, much of South America, Australia, southern Africa, Mongolia and india

Partly Free: some Eastern European countries, South-east Asia, south-eastern Africa, western Africa, Central America, some of south Asia and South America

Not Free: most of Africa, most of Asia

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Democracy as a key aspect of human rights

Democracy is a key aspect of human rights. A democratic political system allows people to vote out of office a government that is doing a bad job. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), democracy is surprisingly rare. 163 countries into four groups:

full democracy -> civil liberties and political freedoms fully respected and protected (19 countries: Norway, Canada, UK)

flawed democracy -> elections are fair and civil liberties are protected, but there are problems, e.g. the media may not be free (57 countries: South Korea, South Africa, USA, India)

hybrid regimes -> elections are not free and fair, the legal system is not independent of the government and corruption is widespread (38 countries: Turkey, Bangladesh)

authoritarian regimes -> dictatorship, or systems where elections are meaningless; civil liberty abuses are common and the legal system is not independent. Media censored (52 countries: Russia, China, Saudi Arabia)

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movement by emerging countries towards democracy

There has been some movement by emerging countries towards democracy, for instance South Korea transitioned to democracy in 1987, Chile in 1989 and Brazil in 1985. Other emerging countries, such as China and Turkey, have not moved this way.

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China (authoritarian) vs India (flawed democracy)- India

Religious freedom: Despite religious freedom, religious violence and intolerance is common between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh groups.

Freedom of speech: Generally upheld: anti-government and single-issue protests are common, but so is police violence.

Political freedom: There are about 2,000 political parties in India, and its hotly contested elections are the largest democratic ones in the world.

Freedom of the press: There are numerous, privately owned media organisations that have reduced the influence of the government.

However, there are human rights problems in India related to a lack of LGBT rights, a lack of rights amongst Muslim women, and the caste system. This is a hereditary form of social hierarchy, which limits lower caste groups in terms of types of jobs they can have, and therefore their income. It has weakened, but lower caste groups are still subject to abuse, particularly the Dalit (untouchables).

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China (authoritarian) vs India (flawed democracy)- China

​Religious freedom: Christianity is barely tolerated, and Communist party members must be atheist. Buddhism and Islam are suppressed - hundred of thousands of native Uighur Muslims are locked up in camps.

Freedom of speech: 'Subversion of state power' is used to crack down on dissenting voices; the internet is censored.

Political freedom: The Chinese Communist Party is, in practice, the only political party that exists.

Freedom of the press: Not free. Media are monitored by the Communist Party and subject to government direction.

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high levels of corruption are a threat to human rights as the rule of law can be subverted

An independent judiciary is a key principle of a democratic government, referred to as separation of powers between those who make laws (government) and those who apply them (judiciary),

The judiciary is undermined by corruption (for private benefit) because this can subvert the rule of law.

Judges can be bribed to dismiss legitimate human rights abuse cases, perhaps by wealthy business owners or TNCs

The appointment of judges can be influenced by politicians, rather than them being appointed independently

Corrupt politicians can steal government money, or foreign aid, so that it cannot be used as intended to improve human rights.

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