Amartya Sen's Capability Approach and Its Application in the Hdrs Essays

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Hitherto, development has been measured solely by economic indexes, such as accumulation of capital, utilization of international investment, GDP per capita, and many more. Such figures allow easy evaluation and comparison across borders, but fail to account for other less easily quantifiable factors that might also influence development. Recent studies on development look beyond purely financial measures like free choice, medical care availability, education, equality or political freedom.

Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate in Economics, made a significant contribution with the concept of “capability” development, according to which government’s performance should be evaluated against the capabilities of their citizens (Sen,
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In 1990 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) provided a global perspective on development by issuing the first Human Development Report (HDR). Based on Sen’s capability approach and with the direct involvement of Mahbub ul Haq, the HDR redefined human development as general human well-being, beyond financial resources and centered on human capital. People became the principal means to support economic growth, as well as the major ends of development (Des Gasper, 2007).

The HDR aims at enlarging people’s choices by expanding their capabilities of what they can do or be (HDR, 2000). Consequently, the concept has to be broad enough to include several dimensions, from which empowerment, equity, sustainability or security stand out (Des Gasper, 2007, p. 443). Hence, to quantify the notion of human development, UNDP created a series of measures that go beyond GDP per capita but do not omit it.

The Human Development Index is one of the most important measures presented by the HDR. Due to limited data, the HDI includes only elementary functionings (Anand & Sen, 2000). The three dimensions of the HDI are longevity - reflected by life expectancy at birth, education - measured by literacy and school enrolment rates and command over resources