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Our Human Development Framework


Working paper 2020

1. Founding values

The CoE-HUMAN is the only DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence established in the human and social studies. It takes human development to be the bio-psychosocial processes, on an individual and social level, towards fulfilment, not only of basic needs but of values including freedom, security, achievement and belonging (Alkire, 2002). From this point of view, human development refers simultaneously to the development of individuals across their lifespan from conception to death, inter-generational development through families, and socioeconomic development of individuals and groups through interactions with, among others, state provisions and supports.

The study of human development puts people at the centre stage of our national concerns and emphasises the importance of opportunities to lead full lives of one’s own choosing (Streeten, 1994). Child and family health and wellbeing, across time and in context, are at the heart of human development, enabled by state provisions for health, education and protection to ensure economic and social security.

The CoE-HUMAN has co-opted Amartya Sen’s theory of development, which highlights the expansion of capabilities. This is the idea that:

“The purpose of development is to improve human lives by expanding the range of things that a person can be and do, such as to be healthy and well-nourished, to be knowledgeable, and to participate in community life. Seen from this viewpoint, development is about removing the obstacle to what a person can do in life, obstacles such as illiteracy, ill-health, lack of access to resources, or lack of civil and political freedoms” (Fukuda-Parr, 2003).

Human development is dynamic. For this reason, the CoE-HUMAN strives to understand the historical material and social conditions that currently thwart human development in South Africa, as well as the conditions required to achieve the fulfilment to which we all aspire.

The CoE-HUMAN supports research that studies the past, present and future. This requires a multi- and inter-disciplinary approach, across social, psychological, biological and public health disciplines.

The vision of the CoE-HUMAN has been to identify, support and produce excellent research, expand research capacity through training and networking, and make findings available in service of human development in South Africa and beyond. We see ourselves as an asset of the human and social studies communities in South Africa and we endeavour to serve South Africa, the ideal of the CoE mechanism, and science and scholarship both locally and internationally. 2

Download the working paper here