“The real wealth of a nation is its people. And the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy, and creative lives. This simple but powerful truth is too often forgotten in the pursuit of material and financial wealth” – Dr.Mahbubul Haq

Reference to and emphases on “human good”, “flourishing lives” and human beings as the “real end” of all activities have been made and are found in the writings of various philosophers from Aristotle to Emmanuel Kant and among the leading political economists from Adam Smith, Ricardo, Malthus, Marx and John Stuart Mill. Abraham Maslow articulated the very essence of contemporary human development thinking when he put forth the theory of human “hierarchy of needs”in 1954.

The concept of human development was further enhanced by Pakistan’s leading economist and development theorist Dr.MahbubUlHaq’s in close collaboration with Noble Laureate Dr.Amratya Sen. HDF Pakistan follows the human development framework they jointly designed and developed.

The notion of improving lives refers to capabilities and capacities that together qualitatively realize development that is people centric. The human development paradigm thus provides a fine basis for a theory of justice and entitlement for both nonhumans(animals) and human beings.

It can be looked at as an approach to comparative quality-of-life assessment and to theorizing about basic social justice. It holds that the key question to ask, when comparing societies and assessing them for their basic development or justice is, “What is each person able to do and to be?” In other words, the Human Development approach takes each person as an end, asking not just about the total or average well-being but about the opportunities available to each individual. It is focused on choice or freedom, holding that the crucial good society should promote for their people is a set of opportunities, or substantial freedoms, which people then may or may not exercise in action: the choice is theirs.

A World Bank study in 192 countries echoed the importance of human development when it concluded that physical capital contributed by 16 percent, natural capital by 20 percent and human capital by an outstanding 64 percent in national wealth (World Bank 1995). Also a cross-country econometrics exercise (UNDP 1996: 113-4) showed strong links between human development indicators (life expectancy, child mortality rate, equitable distribution of income, share of GDP invested in health and education and social expenditure) and economic growth indicators (higher levels and growth rates of per capita income).

The Human Development Foundation (HDF) Pakistan “helps people help themselves” reflecting organizational philosophy driven by the love of people. This is reflected in its very name clearly states its business is human development.


Human Development Index Trends, 1990-2015

Average annual HDI growth (%)
1990-2000 2000-2010 2010-2015 1990-2015
World 0.71 0.82 0.61 0.74
OECD 0.62 0.44 0.33 0.49
South Asia 1.38 1.51 1.25 1.40
Pakistan 1.09 1.55 0.95 1.24

The Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite statistic (composite index) of life expectancy, education, and per capita income indicators, which are used to rank countries into four tiers of human development. A country scores higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and the GDP per capita is higher. The 2010 Human Development Report introduced an Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). While the simple HDI remains useful, it stated that “the IHDI is the actual level of human development (accounting for inequality)”, and “the HDI can be viewed as an index of ‘potential’ human development (or the maximum IHDI that could be achieved if there were no inequality)”.

The HDI was developed by Dr.Mahbubul Haq for the UNDP. The index is based on the human development approach framed in terms of whether people are able to “be” and “do” desirable things in life. Examples include—Beings: well fed, sheltered, healthy; Doings: work, education, voting, participating in community life. So HDF Pakistan commits itself to respect for people’s power of self-definition. The approach is resolutely pluralist about value: it holds that the capability achievements that are central for people are different in quality, not just in quantity; that they cannot without distortion be reduced to a single numerical scale; and that a fundamental part of understanding and producing them is understanding the specific nature of each.

HDF Pakistan’s human development approach is thus concerned with entrenched social injustice and inequality, especially capability failures that are the result of discrimination or marginalization. It ascribes an urgent task to government and public policy—namely, to improve the quality of life for all people. This is a normative approach and, therefore, does have a clear concern with issues of justice such as a focus on resisting discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, creed or religion. HDF Pakistan believes that some capabilities do have a centrality as is the case with health and education.

Human Development Index Trends, 1990-2015

Human Development Index (HDI) Value
Year 1990 2000 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015
World 0.597 0.641 0.696 0.701 0.706 0.710 0.715 0.717
OECD 0.785 0.835 0.872 0.876 0.879 0.882 0.885 0.887
South Asia 0.438 0.502 0.583 0.592 0.601 0.607 0.614 0.621
Pakistan 0.404 0.450 0.525 0.529 0.538 0.542 0.548 0.550

HDF Pakistan focuses on each person as an end, with the ability for choice and freedom among a multiplicity of values. The approach is “evaluative and ethical from the start,” asking “which capacities are the really valuable ones, which are the ones that a minimally just society must endeavour to nurture and support?” Hence our conception of Human Development is moral, yet it is not moralistic. HDF thus challenges orthodoxies about “development” and seeks to inform and influence public policy reform in Pakistan. The key questions we ask are: “What are people actually able to do and to be? What real choices did the society offer them?” Multiple irreducible factors are necessary for human development, and each of these has to be measured individually by taking each individual as a locus of value. HDF measures are not materialistic: social and legal policies and conventions play an important role in shaping what opportunities really exist. In other words, culture counts. A summary comparison of Pakistan with the rest of the world shows the country lagging behind when it comes to human development. According to UNDP data Europe has the highest from its Human Development Index (HDI) with significant overwhelming preponderance over the world average and greater than that of all other continents in the universe. Most of the European Countries are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Pakistan’s HDI ranking is way below the world average. Pakistan is lagging behind even in comparison with its own region of South Asia. In 2016, 0nly Africa that has an HDI mean of 0.536 which is significantly lower than that for each of the other continents in the world (Asia 0.714, Europe 0.845, North America 0.733, South America 0.738, and Oceania 0.693) was behind Pakistan. This is despite the fact of positive changes over the last fifteen years as the country managed to improve its HDI substantially overtime growing at a faster rate than the world and OECD average. However, it is obviously not enough for the growth was only higher than south Asia region in 2000-2010 while it was slower in other time segments as depicted in the table below.

Continental Comparison of Human Development Index (HDI) (PDF Download Available). Available from:

[accessed Jun 07 2018]

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