The definition of development has been controversially contested, complex, ambiguous and unstable. The most common theme among the definitions put forth is that development, as a whole, encompasses change of the human condition.
Since the 1990s, development has come to relate to policy objectives and performance indicators. Some examples include social and psychological development as well as more economic-related factors such as per capita income.
Poverty involves a wide range of concerns, all of which cannot be counted for when considering income alone. With regard to a person/family’s quality of life, countries with similar incomes may differ extensively.
Development cannot just be summed up by the prosperity of an economy, brought about by making the people of that economy more fortunate. Development carries a connotation of change that is long-lasting. Instead, development should be looked at as Nobel-prize winning economist Amartya Sen would define it: the capacity of economic, political and social systems to provide the circumstances for well-being on a sustainable, long-term basis.
According to Owen Barder, a global development specialist from the Center for Global Development, “I argue that development is an emergent property of the economic and social system, in much the same way that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain.”
Barder’s argument suggests that development is the result of human interaction within three systems: economic, political and social. If development can provide sustained improvements in all three systems, then systemically, it is a success. Otherwise, it is a failure.
As the accepted definition of development continues to change, it is important to remember that development encompasses the long-term transformation of societies in addition to those short-term desirable outcomes.
– Ashley Riley