Beyond economic growth and global statistics – Measuring real development

What we measure and how we measure it is closely linked with the way we define and interpret development.

Event details

Date:16 May 2013
Venue:Myntkabinettet, Slottsbacken 6, Stockholm

A major strength of the current MDGs is their conciseness – with time-bound quantitative targets and measurable indicators. At the same time, the MDGs have been criticized for being too simplistic, neglecting social dimensions and inequalities in terms of gender, age, ethnicity and other variables.

Moreover, goals originally envisaged to be global have been interpreted as national goals, turning the MDGs into a one-size-fits-all model, with uniform numerical targets blind to country-specific conditions. For some countries this has set the bar too high, whereas others have lacked the incentives to act. And while many developing countries have made progress on several goals and indicators, this has often not benefited the poorest members of society.

Calls are now being made for a different metrics in the post-2015 framework. Many people maintain that the new goals should accommodate greater social diversity and a more complex approach to development and human welfare. This being said, many developing countries are hampered by a lack of the most basic data on key social and economic variables governing people’s lives.

As the High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda recently concluded: “We need a data revolution“.

This seminar explores how to best measure development, looking ahead to the post-2015 framework:

  • What lessons can be learnt from the current MDGs and how can we ensure the availability of better and more accountable data?
  • Can money and economic growth be replaced as the main indicators for development? What other welfare measures should be deployed?
  • How do we reconcile economic growth and environmental limits?
  • Is there a risk that we formulate goals that are measurable rather than goals we really want to achieve?
  • Does investment in measuring development always lead to better results?


Sakiko Fukuda-Parr was lead author and director of the UNDP Human Development Reports from 1995 to 2004. A development economist by training and currently Professor of International Affairs at the New School, Fukuda-Parr is a member of the Committee on Development Policy of the UN ECOSOC and of the High Level Task Force on the Right to Development of the UN Human Rights Council. Fukuda-Parr also serves on the Board of Centre for Economic and Social Rights. She is currently involved in a major research project on the MDGs, called “The Power of Numbers.”

Mariama Williams, PhD, is Senior research fellow with the South Centre, an intergovernmental organization of developing countries. She served on UNIFEM’s International Advisory Committee of Progress of the World’s Women and has been a member of the Director General’s Advisory Council at the World Trade Organization. A Director of the Institute of Law and Economics (ILE-Jamaica) and past managing partner with Integrated Policy Research Institute (IPRI), Dr. Williams is also a board member of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation. She presently works on climate change and the post-2015 agenda in particular.


OVERVIEW – The Power of Numbers A Critical Review of MDG Targets for Human Development and Human Rights by Sakiko Fukuda-Parr* and Alicia Ely Yamin†