Vol. 11    Issue 15-16   16 December 2016 - 15 January 2017
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Youth and the Prospects for Human Development in a Changing Reality

A Window on the Arab World

Professor A. R. MOMIN

On January 1, 2016 the United Nations released an important document 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The document represents a vision for transforming global development over the next fifteen years in a framework of peace, sustainability and prosperity. It focuses on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which are aimed at mobilising global efforts at ending all forms of poverty and inequality and pushing for all-round, sustainable development. These goals include:

  • Ending poverty
  • Elimination of hunger
  • Good health and sustainable well-being
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Clean water and sanitation
  • Affordable and clean energy
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Life on land
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions
  • Partnership for the goals

The document focuses on youth as critical agents for social transformation and sustainable development. The goals identified in the document are undoubtedly laudable, but leave out at least four equally important goals, namely, cultural diversity, social capital, human rights, especially minority rights, and inclusive economic, political and cultural institutions and policies. The United Nations’ Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001) regards cultural diversity as the “common heritage of humanity.” This invaluable heritage is under threat from the resurgence of ethnic, majoritarian and exclusionary nationalisms in many parts of the world. Robert Putnam has spoken of social capital to describe the sense of connectedness and the formation of social networks that bind people together. In the context of the disintegration of family, neighbourhood and community and the fraying of social bonds in large parts of the world under the pressures of rapid urbanisation, accelerated mobility, the unprecedented pace of technological and social change and globalisation, it is necessary to emphasize the central role of social bonds and networks for the well-being of individuals and groups. Violations of the rights of minorities and vulnerable and marginalised communities by military dictators, autocratic governments and powerful groups are a painful feature of the contemporary global scenario. Therefore, the protection of human rights must remain a fundamental goal of all development programmes.

In their book “Why Nations Fail” (2012), the Harvard political scientist James Robinson and the MIT economist Daron Acemogly argue that nations thrive and prosper when they develop inclusive economic and political institutions, and that they are doomed to failure when these institutions become exclusive and “extractive” and concentrate power and opportunity in the hands of a small minority. They suggest that the key to a nation’s progress lies in the building of political and economic institutions that seek to empower each and every citizen and to harness his or her potential. An authoritarian state with exclusive political institutions, like China, may make impressive economic gains in the short run, but such gains are unlikely to be sustainable.    Read more

GDP vs Human Development

Professor A. R. MOMIN

Since the time the Scottish social philosopher and political economist Adam Smith laid the foundations of modern economics with his monumental work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), the Western world has relentlessly pursued the goal of economic growth and has considered it the key to human progress and prosperity. Smith’s ideas continue to dominate economics and economic planning, politics and social policies. Smith’s views played a central role in the emergence of a distinctive perspective on man’s nature and behaviour, known as Homo economicus or Economic Man. The term Homo economicus was first used in the late 19th century in critical responses to John Stuart Mill’s treatise Principles of Political Economy (1848), and later elaborated by the Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto in the early part of the 20th century.  Read more



Dynamics and Costs of Extremism and Conflict in the Arab World

For almost a decade, from 2000 to 2003 and 2010 to 2015, the Arab region has been in the grip of violent conflicts, civil wars and terrorist attacks. The report takes account of the escalation in extremism, conflicts, civil wars and violence in the Arab region in recent years. It points out that the key factor in the radicalisation among youth is the overall sense of economic and political exclusion and lack of opportunity which pervades the region and which inevitably breeds alienation, frustration and despair. A second factor is rapid change, marked by accelerated urbanization, technological change and globalisation, which is creating major fissures and cleavages between governments and people and across generations.   Read more


In pictures: Yemen's displaced women and girls

Yemen's war between forces loyal to the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement has devastated tens of thousands of lives through death, injury and displacement.

Women and girls constitute half of the 2.18 million people who have been internally displaced. Here are stories of some of them now living in the Dharwan settlement, outside the capital, Sanaa.   Read more

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