Laos’ 5th National Human Development Report: Developing the richness of human life

Akha girl in Louang Namtha Province. Photo: UNDP Lao PDR/Kees Metselaar

UNDP’s 2015 Human Development Report ‘Work for Human Development’ will be launched on 14 December in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Simultaneously, Lao PDR is currently preparing its 5th National Human Development Report.

People, opportunities, more choice - Three key principles of human development

  • Focus on improving the lives people lead rather than assuming that economic growth will lead, automatically, to greater wellbeing for all. Income growth is seen as a means to development, rather than an end in itself.
  • Give people more freedom to live lives they value by developing people’s abilities and giving them a chance to use to live a long, healthy and creative life, to be knowledgeable, and to have access to resources needed for a decent standard of living. Once the basics of human development are achieved, they open up opportunities for progress in other aspects of life.
  • Provide people with opportunities, not insisting that they make use of them. At the minimum, human development should create an environment for people, individually and collectively, to develop to their full potential and to have a reasonable chance of leading productive and creative lives that they value.

The luster of rapid economic expansion as the ultimate goal and measure of development has dulled considerably over recent decades: as developing economies have expanded, people have been left behind, leading to a growing universal understanding that the richness of an economy cannot guarantee the richness of human life. 

Recognizing the need for a new approach to development that placed advancing human wellbeing above advancing economic growth margins, the United Nations Development Programme in 1990 adopted the human development approach. Known simply as human development, this human-centered approach to development rests on three key principles: people, their opportunities and choices.

With the United Nations and the international community recently adopting a new global development agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on a much broader spectrum of development goals than ever before, human development remains an essential and fitting tool to articulate the objectives of development and improve people’s well-being by ensuring an equitable, sustainable and stable planet.

2015 marks 25 years of the UNDP’s application of the theories of human development to reflect on policies which contribute to the improvement of people’s livelihoods while increasing a country’s economic growth in the form of Human Development Reports.

Since the first report was released in 1990, the UNDP’s annual Human Development Reports have had an extensive influence on development debate worldwide. The reports have also inspired national and regional analyses which, by their nature, seek to address regional or country specific development issues. Accordingly, National Human Development Reports aim to provide a platform for a national dialogue to widen development choices and promote sustainable and inclusive growth.

Since 1998, the Government of Lao PDR has used its National Human Development Report as a tool to inform national policy-making which embodies the key principals of human development, though the five-year National Socio-Economic Development Plan.

Lao PDR’s upcoming 5th Human Development Report will concentrate on the link between Least Developed Country graduation and Human Development, focusing on education, health and social protection. The Government of Lao PDR aims to graduate from Least Developed Country status by 2025 and has set its graduation as the overall objective of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, currently being finalized, using graduation criteria and targets to monitor and assess achievements. Thus, the 5th National Human Development Report will serve as a policy advocacy paper to inform the implementation of the 8th National Socio-Economic Development Plan, specifically in terms of identifying vulnerabilities to be addressed for graduation.