Building on the work of the United Nations Intellectual History Project, this article argues that the ideology of human development has now become the driving normative force behind the global policies supported by the UN in the area of development. The first part focuses on the UN’s official discourse of the past two decades, and shows how it has been influenced by the concept of human development. The second section examines a set of global policies that illustrate how the UN has sought to put the principles of human development into practice. The article concludes that while human development ideology has represented for twenty years the most credible critique of mainstream development policies, its impact – like that of the UN in world affairs – remains nonetheless limited.
The UN must cooperate much more closely with like-minded social forces to effectually promote human development.
Human development currently represents the most credible alternative to mainstream development thinking and the most effective approach to fostering global justice.
The coherence of global policies affecting human development needs to be strengthened.
The UN should be far more pro-active in identifying and fighting against the national and international factors that impede human development.
The UN must provide greater leadership in showing that the future of global order will depend on the future of human development.