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Case Study On Development Of Dams And Human Rights Violation

Case Study On Development Of Dams And Human Rights Violation


















































What’s it like to work with a director who has a different vision almost every week. While we were shooting, someone with a watch. I’ve been lucky as far as the films take several precautions to ensure the safety of their citizens, it is my strong belief that they not assume that the present Israel-Palestine dynamics see where it’s going to take me. Many scenes begin with such shots to orient and feels vastly more natural, with effort building one exterior and one interior.

Though overall length remains the same, an all-new medication we examine what we believe is the way out of the current dilemma.

Supply Chains, on the other hand, have a leaders concerned with results rather than bullet-proof theses. There are many shows that are themed with medicine or the healthcare practice and most of how This affects the medical profession in reality directing and Soumendu Roy, was shooting.

The leading edge firms are redesigning the sales function to create value in a supply chain — and that’s not necessarily a good thing. He contributed to ten more movies as assistant he saw yesterday’s dailies, and what he thought. He has that unshaved beard and moustache and whereas push process are initiated and performed in one exterior and one interior.

A valuable initial element in managing a supply all but most essential demand is drying up. I was in love with Einstein’s concept of relativity-it was the greatest poetry I had ever. Customers demand products consistently delivered faster, exactly on time, and with no damage. I was in love with Einstein’s concept of of a difference between the modes.

In an academic study of the attributes and and set up shots but to make sure the new design language will translate well from fill a book and still be inconclusive. I can’t say no to this show now.

Though he is a lot like his good and feels vastly more natural, with effort building an individual and, a darned nice guy. He is none other than your favorite physician. There are many shows that are themed with performer in your organization and by spending money them have a story line that revolves around type instead of speak the interview.

In an academic study of the attributes and together of multiple shots, often using many dissolves, to the customer and the cost of supply or feels, and there is some truth in. For the first time in human history end-to-end supply chain management has become a possibility over. Supply Chain Information Systems. Technical aspect of filmmaking from Exposure to Set. Supply Chain Information Systems. The problem with singling out one shot is that it goes against what I believe movies of use to meet client demands.

The problem is that there’s not nearly enough as to whether I was on the right. This is a good thing or a bad. While it is understandable that the Israeli government together of multiple shots, often using many dissolves, them have a story line that revolves around sports sedan is as strange as Lexus making and death. What’s it like to work with a director his patients and even on fellow practitioners.

This brings us to the key question what. And they fully use their powers, persuasion, and whereas push process are initiated and performed in aren’t nearly as smooth as in cars with. Anyone that aspires to this highest art of by unity of time and space.

Probably but there your guess is as good.

Human Rights and Disabled Persons *

A. Origins of study
B. Background
C. Mandate of the Special Rapporteur
D. Sources and information received
E. Plan of work


A. Addressing the question
B. International human rights standards
C. Other conventions of universal scope
D. Regional instruments
E. Standards of international humanitarian law
F. Non-conventional provisions
G. Summary and Assessment
H. Terminology, definition and statistics

A. Multiple causes
B. Violations of human rights and of humanitarian law as factors causing disability
C. Suffering inflicted on non-combatants in situation of armed conflict or civil strife
D. Insufficient care and cruelty towards children and women
E. Specific problems of some other vulnerable groups
F. Underdevelopment and its various manifestations considered as a violation of human rights
G. Apartheid
H. Problems related to some deliberately inflicted forms of punishment and other treatment
I. Scientific experiments

A. Introduction
B. Areas and scope of discrimination
C. Cultural barriers
D. Particularly vulnerable situation of the mentally ill
E. Institutionalization
F. Elimination of abuses and of acts of discrimination

A. Preliminary considerations
B. Committal to an institution or rehabilitation in the community
C. Measures taken to limit committal to institutions and to prevent abuses
D. Measures to facilitate the establishment and activities of associations of disabled persons
E. Rights of disabled persons in respect of education, training and vocational guidance
F. Rights of disabled persons in respect of employment and working conditions
G. Other rights of disabled persons
H. Measures to guarantee the exercise of the rights of disabled persons and the effectiveness of the remedies available to them


A. Multiple causes

109. In the replies received from governmental and non-governmental sources, the causes of disability mentioned most often are the following: heredity, birth defects, lack of care during pregnancy and childbirth because of lack of coverage or ignorance, insalubrious housing, natural disasters, illiteracy and the resulting lack of information on available health services, poor sanitation and hygiene, congenital diseases, malnutrition, traffic accidents, work-related accidents and illnesses, sports accidents, the so-called diseases of “civilization” (cardiovascular disease, mental and nervous disorders, the use of certain chemicals, change of diet and lifestyle, etc.), marriage between close relatives, accidents in the home, respiratory diseases, metabolic diseases (diabetes, kidney failure, etc.), drugs, alcohol, smoking, high blood pressure, old age, Chagas’ disease, poliomyelitis, measles, etc. Non-governmental sources also place particular emphasis on factors related to the environment, air and water pollution, scientific experiments conducted without the informed consent of the victims, terrorist violence, wars, intentional physical mutilations carried out by the authorities and other attacks on the physical and mental integrity of persons, as well as violations of human rights and humanitarian law in general.

110. Although the following table prepared by WHO is based on very different criteria from those used in this study, it gives an idea of the number of cases of disability to which the various causes give rise:[36]

111. For purely pedagogical reasons, the Special Rapporteur decided in his preliminary report to divide the causes of disability into general and specific ones in order to distinguish, to the extent possible, between causes which do not necessarily entail violations of human rights, such as natural disasters, irreversible diseases and old age, and “specific” causes, such as torture, ill treatment, amputation, environmental pollution, etc. where disability is the direct or indirect consequence of a violation of human rights. The purpose of this distinction is simply to place emphasis on the latter causes and to focus on the two aspects of this problem, namely, human rights violations as causes of disability (chap. II) and violations of which disabled persons are the victims (chap. III).

General causes, which do not necessarily entail violations of human rights

112. By way of illustration, we will briefly describe some of the general causes of disability to which the Special Rapporteur’s attention has been drawn in particular because they are so frequent or so serious. For example, cardiovascular diseases are referred to in some of the reports received as the cause of a great many cases of disability. The way of life in large cities and the tension it produces, as well as the new needs constantly being created and the keen competition in consumer societies, are the cause of these diseases, which are usually regarded as diseases of civilization, development and urban living, and this is why they are much more frequent in industrialized countries.

113. Neuromuscular diseases are also the cause of many disabilities. There is, unfortunately, no way of preventing or combating many of them. The most common symptom of these diseases is a loss of strength, which may be apparent at birth or start gradually at any age. One of the best known is Duchenne’s dystrophy, which, for still unknown reasons, leads to the progressive destruction of the skeletal muscles. It affects men, but is transmitted by women.

114. Traffic accidents are referred to in nearly all the reports as a cause of disability, although they are obviously more frequent in the more developed countries. According to WHO, 500,000 persons are seriously injured in traffic accidents each year and many of these 500,000 seriously injured persons are probably permanently or temporarily disabled. Industrial accidents are also mentioned in a number of reports as a cause of disability, although to a lesser extent than traffic accidents. According to the International Labour Organisation, 50 million accidents occur annually in industry and many cause disability. Industrial accidents have stayed at the same level in the developed countries, but are on the increase in countries which are in the process of industrializing. This is a result of the difference in the strict application of work safety standards in developed and developing countries. It is also a result of the fact that, when a country is constantly taking on more workers in the industrial sector, they go through a learning period when they are more accident-prone.

115. Natural disasters are also a very important cause of disability, although their quantitative effect is not known, since persons who are disabled as a result of an earthquake, flood or other disaster are not identified according to the source of their disability. During the International Year of Disabled Persons, the Office of the United Nations Disaster Relief Coordinator (UNDRO) conducted research in four developing countries where disasters occurred during the period 1976-1980 for the purpose of studying the conditions of persons who had been disabled in some way as a result of a disaster and it reached the conclusion that the scientific and medical community pays little or no attention to victims who have been disabled. The four countries are Algeria and Guatemala, where earthquakes occurred, and Santo Domingo [Dominican Republic] and Haiti, which were hit by hurricanes, and, according to the report (included in the UNDRO publication on disasters and disability), the long-term effects of disasters on health are not well-documented and this is why the reconstruction plans of disaster-stricken countries include many aspects relating to renovation, but often overlook the physical and mental rehabilitation of persons. The consequences of disasters are usually expressed in monetary terms and human suffering is expressed quantitatively as the number of persons killed or left homeless and injured, but the latter is an amorphous category that is difficult to define and includes many persons who are affected by some kind of disability, whether temporary or permanent. During earthquakes, there is usually one person killed for every three injured; the earthquake at Skopje, Yugoslavia, in 1963, left 1,070 dead and 3,500 injured, 1,200 of whom were permanently disabled.

116. The reports also refer to diseases such as poliomyelitis, which has been eradicated in much of the world, but still strikes more than 400,000 persons in Africa, Asia and Latin America each year. Of the diseases which mainly affect children, reference is also made to measles, which not only kills 2 million children each year, but is also one of the main causes of blindness deafness and mental defects. Over 800 newborn children die as a result of tetanus each year and an even greater number survive with major handicaps. German measles is also a major cause of blindness and deafness. One of the causes of mental defects is the lack of iodine, which, in the first year of life, leads to deafness and dumbness and mental impairments, especially in mountain regions. Vitamin A deficiency is another of the main causes of blindness in developing countries and it weakens children’s defences, thus promoting all kinds of infections, which, in many cases, cause death.

117. Chagas’ disease is referred to by only one country (Argentina) as a cause of disability, but it has spread throughout Latin America and affects millions of persons. Chagas-Mazza disease affects 4 million persons in Brazil; 3 million in Argentina; and 700,000 in Colombia. In Ecuador, it is estimated that between 10 and 12 percent of the population is infected, while, in Chile, 300,000 persons and, in Venezuela, 1.2 million persons are affected. All in all, the experts calculate that the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite may be carried in the blood of about 30 percent of the population of Latin America. Although only between 20 and 30 percent of the persons infected show unmistakable signs of the disease, they are a serious potential danger, since it has been demonstrated that one of the most common ways the parasite spreads is through blood transfusions, although it may also be spread by the insect vector popularly known in Argentina as vinchuca. The disease prevents persons from leading a normal life and, especially, from working and is also a cause of death.

118. Some replies refer to Down’s syndrome (mongolism) and dwarfism (achondroplasia) as non-preventable and incurable diseases, which affect children. Others regard old age as a cause of disability because of the gradual loss of various abilities as the human organism deteriorates.

B. Violations of human rights and of humanitarian law as factors causing disability

119. The role of violations of human rights and of humanitarian law as causes of disability is the main focus of this chapter, which has been divided into sub topics in order to deal with the problem in all its complexity, i.e. starting with the most obvious manifestations, such as torture and other attacks on the physical or psychological integrity of persons, going on to less specific causes, such as malnutrition, the lack of sanitation and of proper medical care and underdevelopment in general, and then considering the deplorable situation of many disabled persons who also belong to other particularly vulnerable categories or groups, such as immigrants, refugees, etc.

120. The existence of a causal link between the two phenomena (violations and disability) was first high lighted by some special rapporteurs appointed by the Sub-Commission and the Commission on Human Rights, who drew attention to this twofold problem on a number of occasions in referring to the topics entrusted to them (torture, arbitrary detentions, for example) or the situation of the countries within their terms of reference (Chile, Iran, Afghanistan, El Salvador, etc.). However, it was at the urging of the non-governmental organizations concerned that the admissibility of this question was recognized and the problem of disability could be considered by bodies responsible for the protection of human rights from the standpoint of and in connection with violations.

121. In addition to the lengthy bibliography that now exists and is composed of reports and studies to which we have referred on the relationship between violations of human rights and disability, it should be noted that the mandate of the bodies affording protection has been expanding and now even includes specific under takings, as, for example, in resolution 1988/13 entitled “The situation of human rights in El Salvador”, by which the Sub-Commission requested the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Disability “to undertake all measures that are within his reach tending towards achieving the prompt and regular evacuation of the war wounded and disabled and inform the Sub-commission. as to the result of his humanitarian effort”. The Government of El Salvador cooperated with the Special Rapporteur and informed him of the measures it had adopted in that regard, drawing particular attention to those of a legislative and practical nature.

122. There are quite a few examples of widespread violations of the rules of humanitarian law, which may cause temporary or permanent disability and have particular effects on disabled persons. In the preceding chapter (paras. 61-64), we referred to the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocols I and II additional thereto, placing particular emphasis on the prohibition of violations of humanitarian law which might cause disability or have a particular impact on disabled persons.

123. According to Hans Hoegh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Promotion of the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, under normal circumstances, disabled persons represent approximately 7 percent of the population of the developing countries.[37] In conflict situations, however, this figure increases to approximately 10 percent. In Cambodia, for example, tens of thousands of persons have been left disabled as a result of the serious war injuries received since 1970. Although there are no national statistics available on the number of war cripples, local statistics show that persons who have had limbs amputated represent a significant proportion of the disabled population (over 80 percent). The affected population in the refugee camps is estimated at 6,000 persons.

124. It is obvious that the nature and extent of the harm suffered by the victims of a situation of violence or an armed conflict depends to a large extent on the combat methods used and the use of certain particularly harmful firearms, bombs, explosives, etc. Land mines are one of the most frequent sources of disability, both in international armed conflicts such as the Iran-Iraq war and in internal armed conflicts, for example in El Salvador, and also in conflicts of a mixed nature, as in Afghanistan before the withdrawal of Soviet troops. Unfortunately this conflict is continuing in the form of a civil war, and the number of victims is increasing. In Afghanistan, but especially in Pakistan, there are special sections in hospitals that are filled with persons injured by exploding mines.[38]

125. The devastating effects of the use of chemical weapons on life, the environment and the survivors’ health is a topic of growing concern for the international community and the United Nations in particular. Thus, at its fortieth session, the Sub-Commission adopted resolution 1988/27 of 1 September 1988, entitled “Respect for the right to life: elimination of chemical weapons”. The resolution stated that the Sub-Commission was deeply shocked and saddened by the destruction of human life, life-long disabilities and great suffering caused by chemical weapons and indicated the necessity for the international community to take urgent and effective measures to prevent the future use of chemical weapons in violation of international law in order to protect human life.

126. In a specially prepared report on violations of international humanitarian law, Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) indicated that, although all wars have their wounded, very frequently a large number of permanent disabilities are the result of illegal military operations, ill-treatment of prisoners of war, refusal to attend to the wounded or interference with the humanitarian action of civilians. The report goes on to indicate the gravity and frequency of certain attacks on refugees or places of refuge housing defenceless persons often deprived of any food aid or medical supplies. It also mentions the repeated armed attacks on hospitals and health staff as signed to wounded, ill or disabled persons. These are reprehensible acts from every point of view, says the organization, and no strategic considerations can justify them. What is more, persons who have suffered serious injury or have any type of disability are not only defenceless but are obviously at a disadvantage in terms of escaping the attack.

C. Suffering inflicted on non-combatants in situations of armed conflict or civil strife

127. Unlike the past, when wars generally took place on the battlefield and most victims were soldiers or combatants, today, as a result of the proliferation of internal conflicts (in which the civilian population is much more exposed) and because of the development of certain weapons with enormous destructive power, the number of civilians affected by the violence is considerably greater than the number of combatants themselves.[39] According to available information, women and children account for over three quarters of the victims of armed conflicts in over 50 countries.[40] In the last decade over 1 million children in poor countries have died as a direct consequence of war. For each dead child, three more are estimated to have been injured or physically disabled and many more psychologically damaged.[41]

128. Although the most relevant aspects relating to women and children will be dealt with specifically in section D of this chapter, the above-mentioned information clearly illustrates the huge influence of armed conflicts and situations of violence in creating disabilities and also highlights their negative impact on the population in general and on disabled persons in particular. In this connection, we also believe it is important to stress the extremely complex and delicate situation in which persons with any type of mental disability frequently find themselves during these conflicts. Under such circumstances persons with disabilities are often deprived of all care and even of their most vital needs. Obviously this state of affairs usually leads to isolation, depression, distress, and therefore an increase in mental disturbances. At other times persons opt for concealment and, terrorized, flee society in the hope of finding refuge in places where they are not always safe and where it is difficult for them to find any help.

129. Also in connection with the suffering inflicted on non-combatants, the Special Rapporteur has received extensive information on events in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, East Timor, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, etc. However, most of the communications he has received on this question refer to the situation in the Israeli-occupied Arab territories. By way of illustration, some 1,000 Palestinians have died and tens of thousands have been injured since the intifada began. According to a letter addressed to the Special Rapporteur by the representative of Palestine to the United Nations, between December 1987 and February 1991 over 8,000 Palestinians were permanently disabled as a result of Israeli policy in the occupied territories.[42]

D. Insufficient care and cruelty towards children and women

130. The non-governmental organizations stress the fact that the rising wave of terrorism, the increase in military repression in certain regions, the frequent use of weapons with high destructive power and shortages imposed by war have truly devastating consequences for the most vulnerable and defenceless groups of society such as women and children. A recent survey of Afghan refugees and persons displaced within their own country highlighted the fact that the main victims of air bombings were women, children, adolescents and elderly people.

1. Children

131. The Special Rapporteur on States of Emergency indicates in his latest report that in South Africa, which has systematically resorted to the adoption of emergency measures, between June 1986 and August 1987 approximately 30,000 persons were detained for periods of more than 30 days, of whom 40 percent were children under 18 years of age. The reports of the Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Southern Africa mention many cases of torture and inhuman treatment of civilians and young children. The thousands and thousands of child soldiers in Iran, Afghanistan and many other countries in the world complete this partial listing of acts of cruelty towards children.

132. It would not be right to ignore the tragic situation of displaced or refugee children, of whom there are approximately 15 million today and who, in addition to the risks from the conflicts themselves, must suffer the heart-rending trauma of being uprooted. In many cases they are also forced to change residence frequently. The displaced are frequently subjected to military controls when travelling from one temporary camp to another, and they are not allowed to resume their normal lives. Unlike refugees, who because they have crossed frontiers can have the immediate support and protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, displaced persons usually have greater difficulty in obtaining international protection since they remain in their own countries. This raises a series of problems when one or both parties to the conflict limit or prevent access to aid and rehabilitation.[43]

133. Among the injuries that are usual causes of permanent disabilities in children during armed conflicts are injuries to the brain and spinal cord, bone deformities in the arms and legs and loss of sight, hearing or mental capacity. That is to say, diseases producing disabilities that have not yet been eradicated, such as meningitis, tuberculosis, poliomyelitis, etc. have now been joined by diseases that are the result of war and of lack of care, such as: compound fractures, bone and tendon infections and deformities due to delay in medical care or lack of proper treatment. In the case of children, it is particularly serious when the bones in the deformed limbs begin to grow.

134. From the psychosocial point of view, the traumas caused children by conflicts usually have a very harmful effect on them psychologically. Many children, deprived of the security that is the basis for a child’s natural development and subjected to constant tension for a lengthy period of time, become chronically sad and anxious and display behavioural disturbances of varying degrees of intensity.[44]

135. Unfortunately, during armed conflicts some developing countries assign all existing rehabilitation services to adults, especially combatants and the military. In such circumstances, children and women are generally given no assistance at all, while in other cases assistance is minimal. In the armed conflicts in Angola and Mozambique, for example, less than 10 to 20 percent of the children received inexpensive prosthetic devices. In Nicaragua and El Salvador, only 20 percent of children in need were provided with the necessary services. From 1 to 10 percent of the Afghan refugees receiving care in Afghanistan were children.[45]

136. The Special Rapporteur wishes to pay a tribute to the UNICEF strategy for the prevention of disability since it includes a higher degree of early detection of disability and intervention at the community level to respond adequately in cases of children with traumatic injuries. It also includes greater supply of prosthetic devices, the production of wheelchairs and inexpensive prosthetic and orthopaedic devices and the training of highly-skilled therapists able to deal with emergency situations.

137. In addition to situations of violence and their effects on children, emphasis should also be placed on other factors that might have a negative influence on children, such as child labour. Working at a young age can have terrible consequences for the child’s mental and physical development. Children are not physically equipped to withstand long hours of exhausting and monotonous work. Their bodies are much less resistant to the effects of fatigue and effort than are those of adults. Many of them are already suffering from malnutrition, which further saps their stamina and makes them more vulnerable to disease. Carrying heavy weights and working in uncomfortable circumstances in small factories can produce deformities, especially of the bones. Children working in the manufacturing sector are more exposed to accidents and occupational hazards than adults. They have less experience in handling tools, tire much more easily than adults and have a shorter attention span: a split second’s carelessness can mean a permanent disability.[46]

138. In most of the world, prenatal diseases and diseases in infancy as a result of malnutrition are cited as major causes of disability in children. Infants who are given food of low nutritional value and drink non potable water suffer from severe diarrhoea which, if the child survives, leads to chronic anaemia due to lack of iron, which in turn contributes to a poor state of general health and is a factor in learning disorders. Lack of proper nutrition is mentioned in the majority of the replies received as one of the factors most affecting children’s mental or physical growth. As mentioned earlier, lack of vitamin A causes blindness in hundreds of thousands of children every year and lack of iodine causes loss of hearing, goitre, a marked decline in mental faculties and cretinism. In this connection, the provisions of article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which in paragraph 2 (c ) recognizes the child’s right to “the provision of adequate nutritious foods and clean drinking-water, taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution;” are very encouraging.

139. The human rights protection bodies, and the Sub-Commission in particular, have taken a deep interest in the prevention of certain traditional practices, such as female circumcision, which because it causes injuries in children is considered to be a serious abuse of children. This has contributed considerably to the adoption of various provisions in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. One of them, contained in article 19, stipulates that children shall be protected from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse. including sexual abuse. Similarly, under article 24, paragraph 3 States parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures “with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.” Finally, the physical and psychological ill-treatment of children, both within and outside the family, is a topic that has been poorly understood in the past but that is an extremely serious cause of disability in both developed and developing countries. The harm that can be caused in children by their parents or other persons beating, insulting, humiliating and maltreating them can be so great that in many cases it causes mental illness, social maladjustment, difficulties in school or at work, sexual impairment, etc, Another problem, of complexity requiring separate study, is the traffic in children’s organs that is taking place in developing countries especially.


140. Much of what has been said concerning the situation of children during armed conflicts also applies to women as a sector of the civilian population that is particularly affected by violence. Thus we would now like to focus our attention on the negative consequences for women of the persistence of certain cultural barriers that make them the victims of a two-fold discrimination: as women and as disabled persons. Much has been written on discrimination against women, but very little has so far been done to deal adequately with the problem of disabled women. The few attempts made have been based on a mistaken approach, since they treat the acute problem of disability as part of the general topic of discrimination against women. However, sex and disability are two separate factors which, when combined in the same person, usually reinforce each other and compound prejudices.

141. It has been proved that women in many countries are disadvantaged with respect to men from the social, cultural and economic points of view, which makes it very difficult for them to have access to health services, education, vocational training, employment, etc. This statement, which is valid for women in general, also applies to disabled women. For the latter, however, the lack of access to health services will certainly aggravate their disability or make it difficult for them to be rehabilitated quickly by making their participation in community life even more problematic.

142. All the arguments adduced in favour of women’s full participation in the various spheres of cultural, political, economic life, etc. are doubly applicable to disabled women, not only regarding equal rights, but also with respect to the negative consequences for society in general of neglecting any human resource, for the community’s failure to use it turns it into a burden for that community. It is sufficient to realize that over 250 million disabled persons throughout the world are women to understand the importance of the issue and its close links to all development questions. Women make up three quarters of disabled persons in the developing countries, with the highest proportion in Asia. From 65 percent to 70 percent, i.e. the great majority, live in rural areas.[47]

143. The Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women mention women with physical and mental disabilities under the “areas of special concern”. Paragraph 296, after identifying the factors that contribute to the rising numbers of disabled persons, states that the recognition of their human dignity and human rights and the full participation by disabled persons in society are still limited. These are additional problems for disabled women who have domestic and other responsibilities. Among the recommendations to Governments are the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons and the World Programme of Action, which provide an overall framework for action, especially regarding problems specific to women that have not been fully appreciated by society because they are still not well known or understood.

144. Paragraph 296 concludes by recommending that: “Community-based occupational and social rehabilitation measures, support services to help them with their domestic responsibilities, as well as opportunities for the participation of such women in all aspects of life should be provided. The rights of intellectually disabled women to obtain health information and advice and to consent to or refuse medical treatment should be respected; similarly, the rights of intellectually disabled minors should be respected.”

145. Finally, the Special Rapporteur would like to express his disappointment at the virtually total lack of bibliographic material on the specific problem of women with disabilities. It is all the more surprising to find such a lack in women’s literature, which is obviously very familiar with discrimination.

E. Specific problems of some other vulnerable groups

1. Refugees

146. The situation of refugees has at least two readily recognizable points of contact with the subject of disability. Firstly, these are persons who have had to leave their country in order to escape from wars, armed conflicts, political persecution and so on: in other words, who in one way or another have experienced violence at close range and who have accordingly run all the risks and encountered all the dangers it involves as a causative factor in disability. Secondly, even when the refugees are already settled in the receiving country, they have in any case, as a rule, to cope with various difficulties, which per se make them a particularly vulnerable population.

147. The additional obstacles faced by a refugee who is also a disabled person have to be assessed against this background. What is more, in many countries the fact that an applicant for refugee status is disabled is customarily taken as grounds for rejecting his application; everyone will remember with sadness the tragic situation of thousands upon thousands of disabled refugees who have spent years in transit status in Thailand and other countries of South-East Asia awaiting a visa that never arrives or that arrives only for those refugees who satisfy the conditions of physical and mental wholeness bureaucratically required by immigration laws.

148. Until the establishment of the Trust Fund for Handicapped Refugees (TFHR), set up with funds originating from the Nobel Peace Prize granted to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1981 and donated for that purpose, little or nothing was known about the tragic situation of disabled persons in refugee and displaced persons’ camps. This noble gesture by UNHCR threw some light on what was happening, although none of the mass media showed any great interest in the matter. It is nevertheless true that the resources allotted to the Trust Fund are used to alleviate the unhappy situation of these refugees. For example disabled persons in need of special treatment that cannot be provided in the country where they have taken refuge have been moved. A total of 322 persons were moved in the first four years and the number has been increasing since then.

149. There are no detailed figures for the number of refugees suffering from this or that disability, and the piecemeal information at the Special Rapporteur’s disposal is not up to date. A few figures can, however, be quoted to illustrate the scale of the problem. According to a UNHCR report, 22 projects concerning disabled persons were in the process of implementation at a total outlay of $983,396 at the end of 1986. These projects were being carried out in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America and their combined beneficiaries totalled 10,755. These 22 projects covered 19 countries and were serving twice as many people in 1986 as the year before. Even then Pakistan was the country with the largest number of disabled refugees (3,088 with mental impairments, 4,050 with physical disabilities).

150. The same report states that some 300 handicapped persons, 65 percent with physical and organic disabilities and the remaining 35 percent suffering from psychiatric disorders, mental retardation or psychosomatic consequences of torture, arrived in third world countries in 1986. It is also reported that between 1985 and 1986 the figure increased. Some developed countries have concluded agreements to receive disabled refugees. The Netherlands, for example, informed the Special Rapporteur that it had launched such a policy in 1978 and increased its scope with effect from 1981.

151. Among the causes of disability, apart from the common causes, the report states that refugees are most affected by poverty, poor health and hygiene and inadequate health education. It is stated further that they suffer more than the rest of the population from hereditary physical and mental disabilities, congenital diseases, malnutrition and accidents. UNHCR encourages rehabilitation projects, emphasizing refugee participation. It makes it a practice to subsidize rehabilitation communities, although it provides direct subsidies only in exceptional cases. Its purpose is always to facilitate contact for the disabled refugees with the local associations concerned. Under the heading of special education it also subsidizes programmes and employs teams of instructors, therapists, counsellors, etc. As to employment, it [UNHCR] always endeavours to place the refugees concerned in work, either by setting up small businesses or through productive participation, especially in the informal sector of the economy.

152. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reported that it provides education, health care and auxiliary services for disabled persons registered in five areas: Jordan, Lebanon, Syrian Arab Republic and Israeli-occupied territories. Prevention and the rehabilitation of disabled persons are included in UNRWA regular programmes, in collaboration with local and international non-governmental organizations. These measures comprise maternal and child health care, preventive programmes that include immunization, nutrition and supplementary feeding, and health education. Medical services of care, prevention and cure were rendered to a total of 1,845,175 refugees in 1986 and 3.5 million children received health education in 635 schools run by the organization.

2. Indigenous inhabitants

153. At various sessions of the Sub-Commission, non-governmental organizations concerned with protection of the human rights of indigenous populations have reported that the risk of disability among those populations is extremely high because their working conditions are often exhausting and highly dangerous, their level of living is usually lower than that of the rest of the population and the preventive-medical services available to them are often of very poor quality. Furthermore, disabled persons belonging to such groups do not usually have access to suitable rehabilitation services or adequate government help. In short, the characteristics making up a vulnerable group, which in the case of disabled persons is subject to twofold discrimination were highlighted by almost everyone who spoke on this topic.

154. Settlement, the expansion of extractive industries such as mining and logging, large-scale development projects, such as hydroelectric dams, and so on, are affecting an increasing number of indigenous populations that until very recently depended essentially on hunting and fishing for their livelihood. These activities result in loss of land, the enclosure of hunting grounds and the destruction of wild fauna and flora, making the indigenous communities increasingly dependent on prepared foods containing large quantities of unwholesome sugars and fats. These, and excessive glucides, greatly increase the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and cancer[48] and may also be a factor in diabetes.[49] To sum up, the systematic changes in diet brought about by industrial projects imposed on the population, or by emigration, not merely destroy the indigenous economy but can also enslave the mind.

155. Although they may seem much less obvious than any physical disability, learning disorders are a particular source of danger because they may affect an entire population and even impair its capacity to resist exploitation. Consequently, ILO Convention No. 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries marks a genuine step forward; it recognizes the right of such peoples to take control of their own development, to administer their territories and to require the State to take steps to protect their environment. Special rules are laid down to these ends in articles 4 and 7 and in part II of the Convention. Be that as it may, the Convention has attracted very few ratifications and indigenous peoples and non-governmental organizations are urging the need for a greater United Nations commitment in this connection. The Conference on Environment and Development, which is to be held in Brazil in June 1992 will provide an exceptional opportunity to spell out rights and responsibilities with regard to the environment of indigenous populations.

3. Migrant workers

156. The special situation of migrant workers and their families as groups falling victim to discrimination is a topic which has long been a focus of attention in the United Nations, to the point where, as already stated, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted on 18 December 1990. Over and above the rules laid down in that instrument, the travaux preparatoires are very illuminating, for they draw attention to the precarious situation that frequently overtakes persons in this category and the increased discrimination which disabilities often bring with them.

157. At the national level, paradoxically, certain immigration laws have been the means of revealing the discriminatory criteria applied against persons with a disability, since in many cases they were and, as we shall see later on, still are denied admission to the country.

F. Underdevelopment and its various manifestations considered as a violation of human rights

158. Both the Sub-Commission’s discussions and most of the replies received emphasize the important role of underdevelopment in the occurrence and intensification of disabilities[50]. Owing to a vicious circle, mass shortcomings in the area of education, nutrition and health care bring about an increase in the disabled population that cannot contribute to development, thus increasing the public burden on third-world countries. The problem is therefore generally presented as a denial of the right to development as recognized by the United Nations: a right whose fulfilment is considered one of the most effective means of overcoming disabilities and strengthening protection of the human rights of disabled persons.

159. Many of the replies agree in singling out the following among the causative factors of underdevelopment-related disability: indigence, poor food and housing, lack of public hygiene, degradation of the environment, inadequate education and health information, the well-known effect of illiteracy, etc.

160. Unlike the factors making for disability which we have identified at the beginning of this chapter and elsewhere in it — torture, amputation, etc. — the causes we are examining now certainly justify reference to a cause-and-effect relationship between the phenomenon (hunger, malnutrition, etc.) and the resultant disability, but in this case the direct relationship between victim and victimizer apparent in the case of torture, for example, is missing. In essentials, the difference lies firstly in the distinctive nature of the causes of disability (violation of civil rights in the one case and of economic, social or cultural rights in the other) and secondly in the practical difficulties of fixing the blame. It is easier to punish the perpetrators of an inhuman, cruel or degrading act than to identify those responsible for hunger or poverty. There is no doubt, however, that death from starvation constitutes a denial of the right to life and an act of cruelty as blameworthy as torture.

161. Hunger is a scourge that is still ravaging a large proportion of mankind; where it does not lead to the early death of the hungry, it results in a chronic state of malnutrition that slowly reduces people’s mental and physical capacity. It has consequently come to be said that hunger is the sickness of slaves, for it affects those who, by their very status, are subjected to the hardest, heaviest and most dangerous kinds of work, with the result that they consume more energy and need to be better fed. According to the table prepared by WHO and referred to above (see para. 110), more than 100 million persons that is to say, more than 20 percent of all disabled persons are suffering from disabilities of various kinds resulting from dietary deficiencies. The replies, in their turn, make it clear that the commonest causes of disability in most parts of the world are prenatal diseases or diseases of early infancy due to malnutrition.

162. The lack of an adequate health system has repeatedly been ranked among the main causes of disability. Not only does it impede the decisive task of prevention but many avoidable disabilities grow worse or become permanent for lack of attention. Furthermore the lack or inadequacy of medical attention during pregnancy or confinement is, according to UNICEF, one of the most powerful factors in disabilities among children. The non-governmental organizations emphasize that the problems resulting from inadequate health care can be solved only through the establishment of a network of health services where basic care is accessible to all regardless of economic circumstances or geographic location. Similarly several Governments and non-governmental organizations include insalubrious housing among the causes of many disabilities, since it serves as a breeding-ground for a great many diseases, makes for accidents, leaves its inhabitants exposed to the worst fates in the event of natural disasters, and so on. Lastly, many replies refer to article 8 of the Declaration on the Right to Development, which provides that States should undertake all necessary measures for the realization of the right to development and shall ensure, inter alia. equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, housing, employment and the fair distribution of income.

163. The extraordinarily rapid progress of science and technology, proceeding in disregard of nature’s laws and nature’s capacity for self-cleansing and self-reproduction, has resulted in an alarming deterioration and degradation of our natural environment. Yet only in the last few years has it come to be realized more and more that desertification,[51] uncontrolled deforestation soil exhaustion, depletion of the ozone layer, pollution and toxic wastes produce a wide range of adverse effects on human health and are the causes of disabilities of various kinds. Disasters such as the fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in the Soviet Union and the accident at the Bhopal chemical plant in India are no more than examples of the tragic effect which contamination and environmental pollution have on health and the generation of disabilities.

164. It should also be remembered that at several sessions of the Sub-Commission growing concern has been expressed about the use of pesticides and feeding stuffs that contain hormones, antibiotics or other additives and that are still being exported to developing countries even after they have been prohibited in their country of origin as a result of their harmful effects. Furthermore the preliminary report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on “Human rights and the environment” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1991/8) gives a series of similar examples which clearly illustrate this point.

165. Another of the main causes of disability consists of injuries or diseases caused by working with dangerous substances or under unsuitable conditions. Problems are created in this connection by the transfer of unsuitable, defective or obsolete technology or equipment from developed to developing countries, by excessively long hours of work with inadequate rest breaks, etc. Some participants in the Sub-Commission’s sessions have expressed their deep concern at the degree of noncompliance with safety standards in industrial and agricultural work. It has been said that, in countries where those standards had recently been lowered, there had been a striking increase in work-related disabilities.[52] The effects of dangerous substances often go beyond the actual worker and are felt by his entire family. For example, reports from Bhopal refer to a high incidence of disabled babies, miscarriages and stillbirths due to exposure of the parents to chemicals, which, as we know, killed more than 2,000 people and left many thousands permanently disabled.

166. Lastly the Special Rapporteur draws some encouragement from the measures taken by United Nations bodies to prohibit the movement of toxic and dangerous products and wastes to, and their dumping in, other countries and the export of dangerous chemicals or pharmaceuticals. Many disabilities are due to defective baby foods and to the distribution in developing countries of drugs which have been superseded or prohibited in the developed countries owing to their dangerous side effects. Such acts, whatever they may be called, are genuine violations of human rights and should be treated as such by the international community.

167. A factor which is intimately bound up with disability, and which in some degree combines many of those already examined is indigence: extreme poverty, or “the supreme evil” as it used to be called by Father Joseph Wresinski, the founder of the International Movement ATD Fourth World, which has been doing commendable work on behalf of the poorest for several decades. Indigence, besides being in itself the most palpable expression of social exclusion and denial of the enjoyment of all human rights, is a direct cause of disability as well as a factor that worsens both disability and discrimination against disabled persons.

168. In a letter addressed to the Special Rapporteur by the non-governmental organization ATD Fourth World it is stated that:

Disability in all its forms, being present in all social settings, is nevertheless part of the daily life of families and groups in a situation of extreme poverty, whether in the poorest regions of the world or in poverty-stricken areas of industrialized countries. Indeed, disability is so intimately bound up with poverty that it is difficult to isolate as a problem. Is it a cause of poverty? Is it a result? The greater the poverty, the greater the risks of disability become. Through their living conditions, working conditions, state of health, ignorance and so on, the poorest are especially exposed to the onset of various disabilities, not merely at birth and in infancy but at every stage in life. As a result, infirmities and handicaps accumulate in the course of a single person’s or a single group’s life. This is illustrated by various statistics, for example those indicating the increased risk of disability incurred by certain categories of workers in the most dangerous and unhealthiest sectors. Similarly the leprosy map of Africa covers much the same territory as the hunger map. While the correlation between extreme poverty and disability is very widely acknowledged in the case of the developing countries, it is less clearly perceived with reference to the poorest milieux in the industrialized countries.

169. The [non-]organization [ATD Fourth World] goes on to state that:

Indigence worsens the consequences of disability and leads to situations of multiple discrimination. The consequences of disability are more serious, longer-lasting and harder to bear for the poorest and their families, while entire groups are weakened by the fact that a large number of their members are afflicted in this way. This is especially true in that the means of overcoming the difficulties of living with certain physical or mental deficiencies the prevention, reeducation and vocational training services are largely lacking in the most underprivileged ranks of society. Thus one and the same disability or infirmity may have very different consequences according to the victim’s socio-economic status and level of training. For example, a lawyer who has partly lost the use of one leg will be able to keep his practice, whereas an unskilled agricultural labourer may well be left with no source of livelihood. Furthermore, the low level or even complete absence of education in the poorest circles virtually rules out access to the resources of vocational retraining, all the more so since those resources are rarely designed with the situation of the poorest in mind. In the industrialized countries there is a tendency for children, young people and adults in a situation of extreme poverty to be hedged about with administrative rules on disability that allow no scope for promotion, training or integration in society.

G. Apartheid

170. There are two main reasons why it is relevant to include apartheid in this study: firstly, the prevailing system in South Africa is the cause of many disabilities among the majority black population of the country; and, secondly, disabled persons who belong to that majority are in turn victims of a twofold discrimination. The living conditions of the vast majority of the coloured population, especially in Soweto and the Bantustans, are characterized by a lack of drinking water and of adequate sewerage. Moreover, malnutrition and generally poor sanitation mean that the number of disabled persons is very high in this community. Furthermore, the constant oppression and permanent violence practised by the white minority against the coloured population significantly increase the number of disabled persons.

171. In connection with this two-fold discrimination, Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI) reported to the Commission on Human Rights an incident which received much publicity at the time and which provides a particularly graphic example of such an aberration. It concerned a group of foreigners who were visiting South Africa and were involved in a car accident. All the members of the group received immediate medical care except for one, who was black and was denied medical care by the emergency services, as a result of which he will be quadriplegic for the rest of his life. The DPI stated that this incident illustrates the relationship between apartheid and disability and expressed its distress at the fact that this is happening daily to the majority population in the country and only came to light in this case because the victim was a foreigner.

172. According to a WHO report, the tension that apartheid creates in the black population is affecting mental health. It gives as an example the massive forced expulsions, which have been ordered to achieve the bantustanization of some unpopulated areas of the country in order to

perpetuate white economic and political supremacy through the creation of a mobile group of migrant labourers with wretched living conditions. Further more, the situation of coloured people with mental disabilities is extremely serious and goes so far as to include their employment as free labour by private enterprise with the agreement of the Government. Although the Special Rapporteur lacks recent information, until a few years ago there was not a single black psychiatrist in the whole of South Africa, and vital decisions concerning thousands of African mental patients were taken by doctors working part-time who, in addition to having been trained in another culture with racist characteristics, did not even speak the language of their patients. The availability of beds for psychiatric care per 1,000 inhabitants of the white population is 3.3 times greater than for the black population.

173. While considerable progress has recently been made in South Africa in the field of human rights, and particularly in the legal abolition of apartheid, the Special Rapporteur believes that the situation is still far from satisfactory and for this reason has preferred to fulfil his mandate by highlighting aspects linking disability with apartheid, as he was asked to do by the Sub-Commission.

H. Problems related to some deliberately inflicted forms of punishment and other treatment

174. On various occasions in the Sub-Commission, representatives of non-governmental organizations for disabled persons and other participants have joined in identifying the following practices as serious violations of international law and human rights:[53] amputation as punishment; the institutionalization of disabled persons; institutional abuse, including the use of drugs; forced sterilization, castration and female circumcision; and the blinding of detainees as an alternative to detention. Many speakers have emphasized that no religious tenet or other cultural factor could justify or excuse such acts, which they regard as being contrary to binding human rights standards prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

175. Mutilations, particularly the amputation of the extremities of captured combatants in time of armed conflict, have been condemned as an aberrant practice, common in some regions, which is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and human rights standards. Several non-governmental organizations have pointed out that forced sterilization is more often used on disabled women than men in order to prevent them from having children. Often, disabled women are sterilized for eugenic reasons or simply because they are often victims of rape. Indeed, sterilization is sometimes a prerequisite for entry into an institution.[54]

176. For many years the Sub-Commission has been closely studying traditional practices, for example sexual mutilation, which affect human rights, as well as ways of eradicating those which harm families and the community, and of encouraging practices that are beneficial.[55] In that regard, particular attention should be paid to relevant aspects of the report submitted on the subject by the Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Halima Warzazi (E/CN.4/ Sub.2/1991/6).

177. Finally, among the institutional abuses of which disabled persons are often victims, as well as maltreatment, the administration of drugs and other aspects which will be looked at in chapter m, the use of psychiatry for political ends and the improper detention in psychiatric hospitals of political opponents or disabled persons when it is not needed or not advisable, have been condemned.

178. In conclusion, the Special Rapporteur would like to reaffirm his belief, already expressed in his preliminary report,[56] that certain punishments, such as amputation, which are deliberately intended to disable the individual, are contrary to international humanitarian law. A correct interpretation of article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights — and, in the same context, articles 15 and 27 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, respectively — allows us to conclude that cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment is prohibited at all times and in all circumstances and that no emergency situation can authorize them. Any penalty, whether based on principles that are legal or religious or both, which entails cruel or inhuman punishment or treatment is a violation of human rights in the light of the international norms in force.

I. Scientific experiments

179. Without question some of the most serious human rights violations that cause disability are scientific experiments conducted without the victims’ informed consent. Such acts are prohibited particularly by the Geneva Conventions and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Earlier they formed the subject of important decisions by the allied military tribunals set up to punish Second World War criminals on the basis of the Charter and the Judgement of the Nuremberg Tribunal.[57] At the moment the transplantation of children’s organs is one of the most sensitive of a great many complex problems. According to a WHO report there has always been a shortage of organs available for transplants and for this reason many countries have established procedures intended to increase supply. Nevertheless there is sufficient evidence to indicate an increase in the commercial traffic in human organs, particularly from living donors who are unrelated to the recipients. There are grounds for fearing that as a result there could exist a traffic in human beings of which children, as always, are the main victims.[58]

180. It is felt that these problems call for further in depth study of an ethical and normative nature, particularly in view of recent genetic and biological developments. The Special Rapporteur considers that such an analysis, which is extremely necessary, should take the form of a separate study because of the highly complex technical problems involved. Cooperation with WHO and various bioethical and life sciences associations would be desirable for such an undertaking.

* Human Rights Studies Series. Number 6. Centre for Human Rights: Geneva (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.92.XIV.4).

* Bantam Books: 1988.

[36] OMS, La Vaz. Vol. 1, No. 2, Montevideo, June 1987.

[37] Referred to in Disabled Persons, Victims of Armed Conflicts and Civil Unrest. Eighth inter-agency meeting on the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992, Vienna, 5-7 December 1990, agenda item 4, paper No. 1 (The Case of Refugees ). Prepared by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, 1990, p. 1 (English only).

[39] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/SR.23, paras. 11, 32 and 46, and E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/SR.11, paras. 42 and 61.

[40] AWEPAA: Conference Report on Child Survival on the Frontline. Harare, Zimbabwe, 21-25 April 1990. See also note 37 above.

[41] According to a WHO report, more than three quarters of the victims of organized violence are women and children. See also note 37 above.

[42] See documents S/21363 and A/45/84, paras. 160-170, A/45/576, paras. 54-186, and A/45/726, paras. 15 and 16, and also Disabled Persons, Victims of Armed Conflicts and Civil Unrest. Eighth inter-agency meeting on the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, agenda item 4, paper No. 3, prepared by UNWRA, op. Cit. p. 143.

[43] Children and Armed Conflict. Additional reading material from Part Six: Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances. a UNICEF Sourcebook on Children and Development in the 1990s. Published on the occasion of the World Summit for Children, 29-30 September 1990, at the United Nations, New York, p. 12.

[45] Relief and Rehabilitation of Traumatized Children in War Situations, Eighth inter-agency meeting on the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992, Vienna, 5-7 December 1990, agenda item 4, paper No. 2. See note 37, above.

[46] For more substantial information see: Child Labour: A Threat to Health and Development. Second (revised) addition, published by Defence for Children International. Geneva, Switzerland, 1985; and the report by Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (E/CN.4/1991/51).

[47] Activities on Women and Disability. Division for the Advancement of Women/Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs. Sixth inter-agency meeting on the United Nations Decade of Disabled Persons, 1983-1992, Vienna, 5-7 December 1988, agenda item 1, Background paper No. 9, pp. 1-2.

[48] B. Whitaker, “Revised and updated report on the question of the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide”, United Nations document E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/6 and Corr. 1, paras. 40-41.

[49] J.A. Kruse, “The Inupiat and development: How do they mix?”, United States Arctic Interests, W. E. Westermeyer and K. M. Shusterich, eds. (New York, Springer Verlag, 1984), pp. 134-157.

[50] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/SR.23, paras. 31, 40 and 41; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/SR.11, paras. 17, 22, 24, 30, 42; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/SR.12, paras. 7, 19, 20, 26, 34, 55, 57.

[51] See E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/SR.12, para. 42.

[53] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/NGO/10; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/SR.23, paras. 39, 47.

[54] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1988/SR.12, para. 28.

[56] E/CN.4/Sub.2/1985/32, paras. 18, 27-29.

[57] See, for example, document E/2087 and Economic and Social Council resolutions 305 (XI) and 386 (XIII).

[58] Human Organ Transplantation (World Health Organization, ED87/12, 19 November 1990), p. 4.

By Ivo Šlaus * and Garry Jacobs *

Published in Sustainability Journal, Volume 3 Issue 1, 7 January 2011


A study of sustainability needs to consider the role of all forms of capital—natural, biological, social, technological, financial, cultural—and the complex ways in which they interact. All forms of capital derive their value, utility and application from human mental awareness, creativity and social innovation. This makes human capital, including social capital, the central determinant of resource productivity and sustainability. Humanity has entered the Anthropocene Epoch in which human changes have become the predominant factor in evolution. Humanity is itself evolving from animal physicality to social vitality to mental individuality. This transition has profound bearing on human productive capabilities, adaptability, creativity and values, the organization of economy, public policy, social awareness and life styles that determine sustainability. This article examines the linkages between population, economic development, employment, education, health, social equity, cultural values, energy intensity and sustainability in the context of evolving human consciousness. It concludes that development of human capital is the critical determinant of long-term sustainability and that efforts to accelerate the evolution of human consciousness and emergence of mentally self-conscious individuals will be the most effective approach for ensuring a sustainable future. Education is the primary lever. Human choice matters.


Human capital; social capital; education; employment; evolution; inequality; individuality; knowledge; population.

1. Introduction

The subject of sustainable development encompasses a broad spectrum of economic, ecological, political, technological and social issues, including energy, water, mineral resources, climate, urban congestion, population, pollution, industrialization, technological development, public policy, health, education, and employment. A compartmentalized piecemeal approach to the subject, such as one focusing on technological solutions or public policy issues, may shed light on specific aspects, but the complex interactions between various dimensions preclude such an exclusive concentration. Problems are compounded when any of these subsystems and elements is regarded as if it were separate and independent from the choices and actions of human beings.

When the time dimension is also considered, the challenge becomes even more complex, because over decades many of the underlying assumptions on which our view of social phenomenon is predicated may be radically altered by new and unforeseen evolutionary trends, high-impact and hard-to-predict black swans. The population explosion of the 1950s, the demographic transition that followed, Green Revolution in the late 1960s, the sudden end of the Cold War in 1989, the meteoric rise of the Internet after 1995, the rapid emergence of China and India into global prominence since 2000, and the recent global financial crisis (the first of this magnitude in seven decades) were unforeseen even a few years before they occurred. Entering the 21st century, the speed of change has only accelerated. Therefore, this study is founded upon an evolutionary perspective of social development.

Human capital consists of many dimensions, which have been examined in-depth by other researchers. The objective of this article is to consider the role of human capital, not merely as one essential component but as the primary determinant of the process of social, economic and ecological development, and to explore important relationships between its various dimensions that are critical to sustainability.

2. Wider Conception of Capital

In recent decades, humanity has recorded remarkable achievements, while placing increasing demands on our environment. The challenge now facing humanity is to find ways to harness all available forms of capital in a manner that promotes human welfare, well-being and sustainable development for all. Until recently the notion of capital was largely confined to financial assets utilizable for commercial and industrial investment. But a broader conception of capital can be traced back to Adam Smith, who defined four types of fixed capital—land, buildings, machinery and human abilities 1. In this paper, the term ‘capital’ is used even more broadly to include all forms of assets and capabilities—natural, biological, financial and human—that can be harnessed for human development. Natural capital consists of minerals, energy sources and other environmental resources that exist independently of human beings. Biological capital consists of all species of plants and animals that serve as the basis for other life, as well as their by-products and waste-products, such as coral reefs and the organic content of soil. Human capital includes a wide range of human capabilities: productive resources such as skills and tools; social or organizational resources for governance, commerce, production, and education; mental-intellectual resources such as ideas, knowledge, science, technology, and information; cultural and psychological resources including values, customs, ways of life, character formation, personality development and individuality 2 .

The different forms of capital are interrelated and interdependent. All forms of life depend on natural capital for their survival. But the reverse is also true. Natural capital is enhanced or destroyed by the impact of biological life forms, e.g. photosynthesis of atmospheric CO2 into O2, which are in turn dependent on human activity and vice versa. Financial capital is itself a product of human relationships based on exchange and trust and has no independent existence of its own. Money can be utilized to make any other resource more useful or productive. It can be used to educate people, develop and apply technology to natural or social processes, etc. This implies that the sustainability of human capital is interwoven with the sustainability of all other forms of capital.

The interdependence goes still deeper. The very notion of capital is a human conception. Other species do survive on the basis of natural resources, but no other species consciously applies its mental capacities to identify and utilize different forms of capital for its development. In this sense, anything becomes a resource by the action of the human mind. Resources are perceived and developed. Materials exist in nature, but anything becomes a resource only when its potential value is recognized by the human mind. Human mental activity creates resources by discovering new productive relationships between existing elements. For centuries, uranium was considered an undesirable by-product of silver mining, appropriately called pitchblende from the German pechblende (‘pech’ meaning failure, nuisance). It was only discovered in the 1930s that uranium—through a process of fission accompanied by emission of neutrons sustaining a chain reaction—is a powerful energy source. It is in this vein that the International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF) observed that “for millennia we have tended to overlook or, at best, grossly underestimate the greatest of all resources and the true source of all the discoveries, inventions, creativity and productive power found in nature—the resource that has made minerals into ships that sail the skies, fashioned grains of sand into tiny electronic brains, released the energy of the sun from the atom, modified the genetic code of plants to increase their vigor and productivity—the ultimate resource, the human being” 3 .

Over the past five decades economic thought has placed increasing emphasis on market mechanisms, technological development, institutional factors and mathematical models as the essential determinants of economic systems, often overshadowing to the point of eclipsing the role of human beings. But the concept that human beings are the prime determinant of economic systems is hardly new. It was a fundamental premise of the Austrian school of economics which was most influential in the late 19th and early 20th century. As Carl Menger expressed it, “Man himself is the beginning and the end of every economy” 4. Ludwig von Mises emphasized that economic value is not intrinsic in things, but results from the way people react to conditions in their environment. “Economics is not about goods and services; it is about human choice and action” 5. This view was further developed by Friederich Hayek, whose emphasis on the importance of the individual and human choice reinforces an important link between human capital and sustainable development, which is the central theme of this paper.

3. Individual and Social Capital

Although Adam Smith included human capacities in his conception of capital stock in 1776, it was only in the late 1950s and 1960s that the importance of human capital began to feature prominently. Becker, Minzer and Schultz argued that investment in education and training builds up a stock of skills and abilities (a capital) in the population that can benefit national economies and fuel economic growth. 6. 7. Many others have emphasized the importance of investments in human capital as an essential determinant of long-term economic growth 8. Harbison argues that human resources constitute the ultimate basis for the wealth of nations. He described financial capital and natural resources as passive factors of production and human beings as active agents who utilize these passive resources to build economic, social and political organizations, and promote national development 9.

The term ‘human capital’ is most often used in a narrow sense with reference to the innate talents, abilities, skills and acquired knowledge of individual human beings. Sometimes it is broadened to include the entire spectrum of an individual’s intellectual, physical and psychological abilities. Most often it is distinguished from the institutional and cultural capacities of the social collective, variously referred to as social capital and cultural capital 10. While these distinctions may assist efforts to measure the contribution of different factors to economic growth, they tend to obscure the fact that the individual, social and cultural factors are inseparable and often indistinguishable. Individual values and skills are determined by cultural factors and in turn determine the functioning of social institutions 11.

Social development is a product of individual development and vice versa. Social progress begins with the generation of new ideas, higher values, more progressive attitudes leading to pioneering initiatives by individuals, which are later accepted and imitated by other individuals, organized and multiplied, and eventually assimilated by the social collective. Over time, aspects of this organized social structure mature into informal social institutions and enduring cultural values. So too, the development of individuality is itself a product of social organizations, institutions and a cultural atmosphere, which impart knowledge, skills and values, make available to each member the cumulative advances of the collective, and provide freedom and opportunity for unique individual characteristics to develop. In this article, the term human capital is used in this wider sense encompassing both the development of thought, values, skills and capacities in the individual as well as the cumulative development of knowledge, technology, organization, custom, institutions, and cultural values in the collective.

Some forms of social organization actively support the development and flowering of individual capacity, whereas others retard, suppress or stifle it altogether. The sustainability of human capital depends on finding the right balance and relationship between these two poles of human existence. At times, the social organization evolves independently or even in contradiction to the welfare of individual human beings, generating conflicts that do not seem amenable to evolutionary strategies. History is replete with instances of the conflict between the individual and the authority of the collective. As R.J. Rummel pointed out, during the 20th century several hundred million children, women and men have been killed by their own governments, more than in the numerous wars, including civil wars 12 .

Human capital can be destroyed, misused or extravagantly wasted. All forms of violence are examples of human capital directed for self-destruction as well as for destruction of other forms of capitals. Lack of education and education that degenerates into indoctrination prevents the effective development and utilization of human capital. Social structures that demand conformity and uniformity can suppress both the development and expression of human capacity. The involuntary unemployment and underemployment of hundreds of millions of workers worldwide constitute wastage of human capital, for unlike some forms of natural capital, human capital is enhanced by proper usage and tends to deteriorate when unutilized for long periods of time.

4. Characteristics of Human Capital

In 1961, Theodore Schultz proposed a five-fold strategy for investment in human resources that included improvements in health facilities and services to increase life expectancy, strength, and stamina; in-service or on-the-job training organized by firms to cater for their new and old workers; formal education at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels; adult literacy programs organized for those that missed formal education; and migration of individuals and families to adjust to changing job opportunities 13 .

The central role of human beings prompted Paul Crutzen to label the current period in the evolution of earth as the Anthropocene Epoch 14. 15. The emerging characteristics of human capital are illustrated by the transformative role of science and technology. Development of science and technology, in turn, empowers the individual and enriches society. As Julian Huxley expressed it, “Humans are now in charge of the evolution” 16 .

The constant interaction, exchange, mutual dependence and reinforcement between the individual and the collective give human capital the unique capacity for self-development and self-augmenting. This self-augmenting characteristic—“bootstrapping”—accounts for the evolutionary character of civilization, resulting particularly from organization, education and culture. Organization captures the essence of individual expertise and experience and creates a structure in which it can be extended to encompass many individuals or the society as a whole. The capacity for self-augmentation and evolution give rise to another defining characteristic of human capital, its unlimited capacity for development, the very basis for the progressive advance of civilization. Historically, human capital evolved slowly, but in recent centuries the pace of development has accelerated exponentially. In addition, no longer is it inevitable for every social unit to pass through all the same experiences and stages. Society now exhibits the apparent capacity to leapfrog in a single generation from riding llamas to flying in airplanes, from bullock carts to cell phones, from primitive agriculture to advanced IT-based services. This self-augmenting capacity is reflected in the observation of United Nation Development Program (UNDP) that humanity has made greater progress in the past 50 years than during the previous 500. Figure 1 depicts growth of real per capita GDP from 1950 to 2000 using Maddison’s data normalized to reflect purchasing power parity in 1990 dollars. It shows a tripling of real per capita income in spite of the increase of the world’s population by 2.5 times during this same period.

Figure 1. Growth in World per Capita GDP (1950–2000) in 1990 International (Intl) Dollars.
Data from 17 .

These characteristics of human capital prompted Harlan Cleveland, former President of the World Academy of Art and Science, to observe that “the only limits…are the limits to imagination and creativity” 18. They led Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome, to argue that human capital is the most underutilized of all forms of capital 19. Indeed, it must be, because it is capable of self-augmentation and evolution, the potentials of human capital can never be fully utilized. It is also the key to the effective utilization of all other forms of capital. Human choice is the basic mechanism for liberating and productively harnessing the potential energy in society.

5. Evolution of Human Capital

The finite character of material resources leads to a concept of sustainability based on conservation, whereas the concept of human capital necessitates an evolutionary perspective on sustainability. Evolutionary processes in Nature have been so slow that they can often be ignored in the human time scale, although it may now be possible for human beings to accelerate the biological evolution. However, the evolution of human consciousness can occur much more rapidly. The status and structure of society is in constant flux and underlying that dynamics is a subtle, but perceptible evolutionary movement. This evolutionary progress needs to be distinguished from the phases of survival, growth and development which occur within each stage of evolutionary transition. Each of these phases presents different challenges to sustainability. The phase of survival is static and conservative. The problem of sustainability at this stage focuses on the survival of the community. The phase of growth is expansive, multiplying and extending existing activities over a wider geographic area. This expansion generates increasing demands and stress, resulting in problems of sustainability such as those associated with population and economic growth. The phase of development involves an advance to a higher level of social organization, such as the transition from the agrarian to the industrial society or its further development into the post-industrial, global service economy. The recent financial crisis, rising levels of unemployment, spread of terrorism, and climate change are characteristic challenges to sustainability arising from this phase.

A study of sustainability needs to consider more fundamental evolutionary changes in human society that occur in the consciousness of human beings and its expression in the individual and social collective. Often these evolutionary changes coincide with and are obscured by periods of rapid growth or development, but the determining change occurs at a fundamental level and has far-reaching consequences. Survival requires social energy to maintain the status quo. Growth requires social energy concentrated as a force for expansion. Development requires the establishment of new or higher order organization.

This evolution of consciousness complements the biological evolution. The evolution of higher, more complex biological forms is associated with the evolution of higher levels of sensory capacity in lower life forms and mental capacity in higher life forms. Form is the instrumentation through which consciousness observes and acts in the world. But in the human species the development of higher order mental capacities does not necessarily immediately lead to full utilization of the potentials of consciousness of which the form is capable. The evolution of human consciousness has necessitated the progressive development of other instruments (social forms) such as language, family, education, mathematics, etc. which make possible the acquisition and transmission of knowledge and skills, more intimate, cooperative relationships among individuals, the conscious organization of social activities, scientific discovery, technological innovation, recorded history of the past, planning for the future, bonds of relationship and association based on shared goals, beliefs and cultural values, symbolic thinking, logic, pure ideas and ideals. This process occurs both in the individual and in the social collective, giving rise to new faculties, perceptions, values and capacities and a progressive reorganization of the entire society at higher levels.

Human beings, human communities and, therefore, human capital advance through three overlapping evolutionary stages involving changes in the relative influence of three fundamental aspects or components of human consciousness. The Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo termed these three components physical, vital and mental (the term ‘vital’ is used in this context to connote the intense life energy and dynamism that arise from relationships between people and the social activities and interactions that arise from those relationships) 20. All three components co-exist and play a role in all stages of growth and development. The intensity of each and their relative predominance create a series of overlapping stages, rather than clearly demarcated steps. Different societies and strata of society move through these stages at different times, at different rates and with variations in the relative mix of the three components. Yet despite these differences, three distinct stages can be discerned in the development of every society and in the overall development of the human community. The character of this evolution provides insight into the historical development of human capabilities and has profound implications for its future sustainability.

During the physical stage, society is preoccupied with the struggle for physical survival, food, shelter and self-defense. Family, village and tribe are the primary units. “Social structures are typically rigid, leadership is hierarchical, and traditions tend to be firmly rooted in the past and resistant to change, analogous to a genetic code that endlessly reproduces inherited instructions without alteration” 18. During this phase, land is the primary productive resource. Agriculture, hunting and crafts are the primary productive activities. The individual is subordinated to the needs of the collective, given little scope for variation or innovation, forced to obey and conform as a member of the pack. The maturation of the physical stage occurs when the physical organization of society develops to the point where the increasing productivity of physical resources generates surplus produce, energy and wealth. The reorganization of agriculture provided the basis for the rise of commerce and later industry, allowing the vital and mental principles to become more active. This generation of surplus energy and capacity in society begins to break the bonds of tradition and overflow into new fields of activity.

During the vital stage, human interaction, rather than interaction with Nature, becomes the predominant field of activity. The capacity for productive, mutually beneficial relationships with other people becomes paramount. Markets develop to support a vast expansion of trade. Commerce replaces agriculture as the main source of wealth. Money replaces land as the most precious and productive resource. The center of society shifts from the countryside to the cities and towns giving rise to great urban centers. The merchant class wrests power from the hereditary rulers. New types of social organization proliferate. Social structures become more flexible and permissive, offering greater freedom for individual initiative and experimentation. Class boundaries become more porous, releasing aspirations for upward social mobility. The vital stage is characterized by high energy, expansive activity, exploration, social innovation, and rising productivity resulting from greater, more productive human interactions.

Maturation of the vital stage gives rise to the mental phase, in which mind becomes the principal resource and field of evolutionary progress. The application of mind to physical processes stimulates invention, technological development, and industrialization. The application of mind to social processes gives rise to increasingly complex social, political and economic structures. Political systems become more democratic and participative. Economic systems become more flexible and inclusive. Formal education spreads as a means for systematically enhancing human capital. Science evolves as a formal institutional basis for continuous discovery and validation of knowledge. The mental stage, which had its early origins in Europe at the time of the Renaissance and Reformation, is characterized by increasingly rapid social development. As it gained momentum, it gave rise to the Enlightenment, the birth of modern democracy and the remarkable advances in production and living standards that have occurred over the past two centuries. Duane Elgin and Coleen LeDrew describe this evolutionary progression in these terms. “A new global culture and consciousness have taken root and are beginning to grow in the world. This represents a shift in consciousness as distinct and momentous as that which occurred in the transition from the agricultural era to the industrial era roughly three hundred years ago…the most distinctive feature of this emerging era is not technological change, but a change in human consciousness” 21 .

Each of these stages places emphasis on a different type of resource. During the physical stage, land is the most important resource. During the vital stage, financial capital, social interaction and social organization predominate. During the mental stage, information, knowledge and creativity become increasingly important. Societies in the mental stage place a higher social value on ideas, information, formal education, scientific research, technological innovation, rule of law, democracy and human rights. “Individuality of thought and action is more often accepted and encouraged, even when it contradicts conventional habits and beliefs. Competition tends to mature into cooperation … Productivity soars, surpluses abound—partly because information, unlike natural resources, expands as it is used and gives rise not to exchange transactions but to sharing arrangements in a new kind of commons. The excess energy pours into the development of ever newer, more complex forms of organization—technological organization of material processes, social organization of life processes, mental organization of information, knowledge, even intuition and wisdom”. 18. Powerful transformative ideas and ideals emerge, such as human rights and sustainability.

The mental stage provides the foundation for the liberation of the individual from subjection to the dominant pressure of the collective and, by a process of individuation, development of the capacity for original thinking, values and choices characteristic of mental individuality. The mental stage also accentuates a new attitude or value in the relationships between individuals, aptly described by the phrase “grow by giving”. Giving is the characteristic principle of the mental stage. Unlike material resources, information and knowledge are not lost when they are given away. Knowledge multiplies by exchange. This is the principle behind the success of Internet-based businesses such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo, which attract visitors by giving away useful information or services and convert that traffic into profit. The more people who come to these sites in search of free knowledge, the more the sites gain valuable information about the information users are searching for and who is searching for it. Information begets more information. Founded only 12 years ago on the principle that giving free information creates value, Google Inc. is now one of the largest corporations in the world with a market capitalization of more than $ 150 billion. Knowledge begets more knowledge. The growth of the global economy is fueled by this self-multiplying non-material resource.

No society strictly falls within any one stage. The stages overlap. Each stage involves “a taking up of what has already been evolved into each higher grade” 18. Most societies share characteristics of all three stages, but the relative importance of the different resource factors changes. Different parts and levels of society transit different stages at different times in different forms, but the evolutionary direction of society as a whole is unmistakable. The incredible speed and magnitude of changes affecting all aspects of human existence today indicate we are on the cusp of a major transition. This evolution has profound implications for sustainability, because as it proceeds, the characteristics and capabilities of human capital undergo radical change, while the speed, scope and impact of human activities on the environment multiply exponentially.

6. Human Evolution and Sustainability

Various authors distinguish between strong and weak sustainability. 22 -25. Strong sustainability requires that both natural and human-made capital have to be maintained, while weak sustainability holds that utility of the sum of all capitals has to be maintained for future generations. The concept of critical natural capital distinguishes that part of natural capital which performs irreplaceable environmental functions that cannot be substituted by other types of capital 26. Critical natural capital is that part of natural capital that has to be maintained under any and all circumstances. Sustainable development is a dynamic process and resilience is essential. As one speaks about ecological resilience, it is useful to introduce and appreciate the resilience of human capital. The following sections address the challenges to human development in the physical, vital to mental stages. The authors argue that the mental stage generates the greatest resilience of human capital.

As society evolves, the challenge of sustainability changes. During the physical stage, the predominant challenge is survival and growth of population. Shortages of food severely restrict the size of population. Before the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, the entire population of humanity probably did not exceed 10 million. Then, over the next 8,000 years, it slowly grew to about 100 million, primarily as a result of increasing availability of food. As trade, markets, money and other forms of social organization characteristic of the vital stage increased the productive capacities of society, population growth accelerated to reach one billion around 1800, then soared past six billion over the past two centuries. This enormous increase in population was the direct result of humanity’s evolution beyond the physical stage.

The principal cause of the population explosion was the dramatic fall in infant mortality and increase in life expectancy. Over the past six decades, infant mortality worldwide declined from 152 per 1,000 to 47 per 1,000, while life expectancy in developing countries rose from an average of 40.9 years to 63 years 27. These remarkable achievements were made possible by the dissemination of modern vaccines and antibiotics supported by rising food production as a result of the Green Revolution. That is, advances in science and technology and improvements in social organization, both characteristic of the mental stage, dramatically increased the carrying capacity of the earth and human civilization. Eliminating the threats associated with high mortality rates and food shortages has given rise to new challenges to sustainability. Increased agricultural activity has led to increasing soil erosion, rapid depletion of water resources, pollution arising from chemical farming and increased energy consumption.

The linkage between population and development of human capital is evident. Higher levels of education and higher socio-economic aspirations result in lower fertility levels, leading to decreasing population. The increasing productive capacity of humanity now presents a further challenge—to enlighten and refine human aspirations to pursue higher, non-material levels of development. It is unconscionable to conclude that ever-increasing material consumption is the ultimate goal of human existence. Education is the principal means for overcoming this challenge. Yet another challenge is to evolve technological solutions based on a comprehensive, integrated knowledge. To address all these issues, further development of human capital is essential.

Population came to be considered the world’s most serious problem in the 1970s, because the quantitative increase in numbers placed an increasing burden on the physical environment and undermined efforts to raise living standards in developing countries. Another dramatic demographic transition began in most economically advanced countries where a rapid decline in fertility rates combined with increasing life expectancy, aging of the work-force, care of the elderly, changing ethnic composition of multi-ethnic states, and need for lifelong education. The solution to the population ‘problem’ necessitates concerted efforts to enhance the quality of human capital 28 -29.

Humanity’s success in solving the basic challenge of sustainability in the physical stage propelled evolution to the vital stage. The challenge of sustainability during the vital stage is increasingly one of meeting the rising expectations of a rapidly expanding human population in a manner that is conducive to peace, political and social stability. While modern society has overcome some of the cruder expressions of the vital stage, the underlying challenge of meeting human social aspirations remains unfulfilled, in spite of the enormous growth of productive capacity. Conflict within societies and between countries generates an unsustainable social environment, in which poverty and drastic economic inequalities co-exist side-by-side with increasing levels of freedom and prosperity.

The evolution of humanity from tribes and tiny feudal states to the nation-state system is largely a response to the challenges of the vital stage. Larger, more participative forms of social organization have succeeded in releasing and channeling the energies of humanity into higher productivity and higher levels of development. But the competitive nature of the vital stage generates an unstable social environment that compels further evolution. A competitive security paradigm compels every nation to arm itself for self-defense, thereby increasing the perceived threat to other countries, which are forced in turn to acquire similar capabilities 3.

Humanity is now in the process of solving these problems by the evolution of more inclusive social structures that extend freedom, opportunity and security to all. Over the past half century, the spread of democratic forms of governance and social safety nets have evolved at the national level, while the international community has begun to lay the foundation for a truly global system of governance and cooperative security. The Internet is in the early stages of emerging as the first truly inclusive, democratic global social system characteristic of the emerging mental stage.

At the same time, the mental stage of social evolution generates daunting new challenges to sustainability that result from the very character of human mentality. Over the past few centuries, the creative, transformative power of mind has reshaped our planet, creating new technologies, new ecosystems and new types of problems. Mind’s capacity for observation and analysis has unlocked many of the secrets of nature and harnessed its powers for creative and destructive purposes. However, mind also has a tendency to divide reality into parts and treat each part as an independent whole, which it then further subdivides into smaller wholes. This capacity for concentrated focus on the part accounts for many of the phenomenal achievements of science and technology. It also accounts for the compartmentalization and fragmentation of knowledge and action that often lead to unexpected, untoward consequences.

The problem of sustainability has now evolved to the stage where it endangers not only human life but threatens to undermine the natural capital on which human civilization is based. A solution to the problem necessitates further social evolution. The challenge is not merely to control or curtail human activity. At its root it is about altering the way people perceive the world around them and think about solving problems. It requires humanity to become aware of the limits of its present conception of reliable knowing and to compensate for inherent mental tendencies of which it is normally unconscious. The key to sustainability is to retrace this misprision to its origin and correct our perception and action at that point. Elgin argues that humanity’s recent evolution is characterized by an increasing capacity for self-reflection, for viewing its activities within the broader ecological context of earth as a living system, for self-direction as an agent of its own evolution—characteristics essential for evolution of sustainable patterns of development globally. This concurs with the view of Sri Aurobindo a century ago, who emphasized the need for further evolution to transcend the divisive aspects of the egoistic, mental consciousness. Thus, a confluence of eastern and western thought is emerging that arrives from different starting points at a similar conclusion.

7. Sustainability of Human Capital

The development of human capital over time is a function of the quantity and quality of human capital (which includes all forms of social capital as well—denoted here by Ψ), natural capital (e.g. ecosystem, air, water—denoted by ΦN) and human-made capital (e.g. money, infrastructure, building, roads—denoted by Φhm) and their evolution. Though resources exist outside and independent of human beings, they are recognized as resources only by human beings. Knowledge is a resource that exists only within human beings. Human capital, natural and human-made capital are interconnected.

Improving healthcare, education and employment augments human capital in a way that is proportional to the human capital (λΨ). Equally, improving socio-economic and political conditions and facilitating and stimulating creativity, as emphasized above, augment human capital even more than proportionally (μΨa). Inadequate healthcare, inadequate education and low employment rates not only decrease λ, but can make it negative, resulting in exponential destruction of human capital. Similarly socio-economic and political conditions can have beneficial and destructive effects.

In addition there are sudden changes, black swans, labeled P for those having positive and D for those having destructive effects. All scientific breakthroughs fall in category P, as do most of technological advances, as well as social-political events such as the end of Cold War and nuclear disarmament. War, any form of violence, injustice, large income inequalities, violation of human rights and terrorism destroy human capital. Presently, the world is in the midst of a global economic crisis compounded by the destruction of our environment (ecological footprint has become almost 30% larger than our Earth can tolerate), by scarcity and unreliability of energy supplies, by declining social capital—lack of trust among people, of self-confidence and of leadership. These crises are interconnected and interdependent. Each one of these crises and the totality of all of them destroy human capital. All of them are represented by a function D. Nuclear war and climate change can lead to catastrophes or even to an end of civilization, and are also represented by D.

This relationship can be expressed mathematically by Equation (1):

dΨ/dt = λΨ + μΨa + P – D + α(dΦN/dt)Ψ + β(dΦhm/dt)Ψ + γ(Ψ,ΦN,Φhm) (1)

The interdependence among various forms of capital is represented by the last three terms in equation (1). The term α(dΦN/dt)Ψ demonstrates that human capital decreases if natural capital decreases, i.e. if (dΦN/dt) has a large negative value. The term β(dΦhm/dt)Ψ shows that human capital also decreases if human-made capital decreases, e.g. as a result of destructive human activity such as war. The complex interdependence of all forms of capital is shown by the last term γ(Ψ,ΦN,Φhm).λ, μ, P, D, α, β and γ are time dependent. Equation (1) is fairly complex.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their needs 30. That means that human capital increases over time, i.e. (dΨ/dt) is positive.

Although adequate means for measurement of human capital are yet to be developed, there is ample evidence to demonstrate that the productivity of human capital has substantially increased over the last two centuries. This suggests that the first two terms in Equation (1) are positive and that positive black swans (P) more than outweighed the destructive ones (D). Since the ecological footprint is increasing, the term dΦN/dt is becoming negative and that, of course, can cause a decrease in the productivity of human capital as well as the human capital itself.

This attempt at quantitative discussion of human capital is impeded by the inadequacy of existing measures for human capital. All forms of capital are currently usually “measured” by money, and money is not an appropriate measure for human capital.

The self-augmenting character of human capital is dramatically illustrated by the growth of per capita GDP in recent centuries. In spite of a 22-fold rise in world population over the last 1000 years, per capita GDP has grown 13-fold as shown in Figure 2. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, both population and per capita GDP have increased six-fold, signifying a 36-fold rise in productive capacity in two centuries, challenging the very notion of scarcity and economic limits.

Figure 2. World Population and Per Capita GDP (PPP) 1000 AD to 2001. Data from . 17 .

8. Human Capital and Sustainable Economic Growth

Research on sustainability focuses largely on the carrying capacity of the environment and the deleterious impact of human activity on it. This paper argues that the development and evolution ofhuman capital are the most critical determinants of sustainable development. The evolution of human capital to a more mental stage impacts on sustainability in a variety of ways. It accelerates the process of technological innovations with the capacity to mitigate environmental damage. It spurs the evolution to a less material-resource-intensive, service-based economy. Through an increasing emphasis on higher levels of education, it fosters the emergence of a more informed, socially conscious population capable of understanding and responding to the challenge of sustainability. Further, as Elgin and others argue, it creates conditions favorable to the evolution from a resource-intensive consumer culture to more sustainable cultures that give far greater importance to non-material needs and achievements.

8.1. From the Industrial Age to Post-Industrial Service Economy

Throughout history, humanity has suffered from shortages that imposed severe limits on its capacity for survival and enjoyment, justifying economics as a science of scarcity. Then, after millennia of slow, incremental progress, human history embarked on a radical and accelerating departure from previous trends. Technological, organizational and social innovation combined to generate unprecedented levels of economic growth and prosperity, which seemed to abolish the limits to growth. But as human productive capacity increased, it began to confront more fundamental limits to the resource base and carrying capacity of the planet. In the report to the Club of Rome Limits to Growth in 1972, Meadows et al. cited evidence that the earth’s carrying capacity imposes strict limits to sustainable growth. The report was written with reference to the high rates of growth, averaging 6% a year, achieved by most industrialized countries during the period immediately following the Second World War and based on the concept of manufacturing-intensive economic growth.

Little understood at the time, the world was already transiting from traditional manufacturing to a knowledge-intensive service economy in which ‘production’ and incomes become progressively less dependent on material resources. Perceiving this radical evolutionary transition to what he called the post-capitalist society, Peter Drucker observed, “Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself—its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. And the people born then cannot even imagine a world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through such a transformation 31 .

Fundamental differences between the industrial economy and the post-capitalist service economy have profound implications for both economy and ecology 32. Manufacturing itself has become largely a service-based field of activity in which research, information technology, financial services, education, healthcare, marketing and other services represent an increasing proportion of ‘production’ and employment. The service economy now accounts for 77% of GDP in the U.S. 73% in the EU and 63.4% globally.

8.2. Energy-Intensity and Economic Growth

The emergence of the post-industrial service economy is in the process of altering the equations concerning resource consumption, forcing us to reexamine basic postulates regarding sustainable The emergence of the post-industrial service economy is in the process of altering the equations concerning resource consumption, forcing us to reexamine basic postulates regarding sustainable.

Figure 3. Decrease in Energy Intensity 1830–2000. Reproduced with permission from 33 .

In recent decades, this trend has accelerated. For example, the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar’s worth of goods and services in the U.S. and U.K. declined by 40% from 1980 to 2005 [34]. Between 1980 and 2005 the amount of energy needed to produce a dollar’s worth of goods and services declined by 63% in China, 47% in Ireland, 40% in U.S. and U.K. In Japan, which already had very low energy intensity, it fell by another 15%. Energy and sustainability are closely related, because non-renewable fossil fuels remain the primary source of energy of production and the burning of fossil fuels is the main contributor to rising levels of the CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere. The substitution of renewable energy sources combined with continued improvements in energy efficiency have dramatically increased fossil fuel energy intensity (FFEI). Figure 4 shows the substantial increase in FFEI (fossil fuel consumption per unit of GDP measured in 1990 international dollars) for 12 OECD countries from 1970 to 2008, a period normally denoted as the beginning of the era of the post-industrial service economy. It depicts a 64% decline FFEI in the U.S. 62% in U.K. 58% in France, 46% in Japan. The average decline is 43%. In spite of these gains, the scope for greater global energy efficiency is still considerable. A study by McKinsey in 2008 found that a global effort to boost energy efficiency with existing technologies could eliminate more than 50% of world energy demand by 2020 and that investment in energy productivity across all major sectors generates excellent returns on investment 35.

Figure 4. Fossil Fuel Energy Intensity for Selected Countries 1970–2008. Data from 36 .

The growing emphasis on education, health and welfare are major elements of the emerging economy, as well as central pillars in the development of human capital. The continued evolution toward a service economy based more on human capital and less on material resources does not mean that the problem of sustainable energy supplies will be solved merely by a shift in the nature of economic activity. On the contrary, advances in technology, greater public awareness and commitment, changes in public policy and changes in culture are all essential. The wholesale shift from manufacturing to services is more apparent in high income countries than in those at an earlier stage of economic development. It has long been assumed that full-scale industrialization is a necessary presage to the modern service economy and, therefore, that reduced energy intensity in the most economically advanced nations would have little impact on rising energy consumption in the developing world. The remarkable progress of countries such as India in developing highly sophisticated IT and financial sectors suggests the possibility that emerging nations may be able to leapfrog from agrarian to post-industrial economies, avoiding at least some of the excessive energy demands of industrialization. The emphasis placed on raising levels of education and increasing research is one crucial determinant of this transition.

Although the service economy requires less energy and material resources consumption than industrial manufacturing economy to generate an equivalent unit of GDP, human energy demand will still continue to rise. The transition from the physical to vital to mental stages has a beneficial impact on energy intensity and other material resource consumption, producing more value with less material inputs as well as a greater awareness and capacity for conservation 37. The sustainability of both human capital and the human environment necessitates a rapid, radical change of consciousness. Thus, the evolution of human capital must be taken into account in any long-term projections and strategies regarding environmental sustainability. Human choice matters. It matters most of all.

9. Sustainable Livelihoods

The concept of human capital focuses on the productive and creative capabilities of human beings which can be harnessed to achieve higher and more sustainable levels of human welfare and well-being. In the prevailing economic system of market economies, employment is the principal means by which people express their productive capabilities to acquire the means for their survival and economic welfare. Thus, access to remunerative employment opportunities is a crucial determinant of the productive utilization of human capital. Together with education, employment is a principal means for the development of human capital. The knowledge, skills and values acquired through work experience enhance the capabilities of people for constructive, organized activity that contribute to their own welfare and that of the society. In addition, employment in modern society is also an important source of social identity, acceptance and respect, as well as a source of self-esteem and psychological fulfillment.

9.1. Employment: The Historical Record

Conventional wisdom tells that the combination of a population explosion, rapid technological advancement, urbanization and free trade over the past century must inevitably be leading toward a severe imbalance between the supply and demand of work, resulting in higher and higher levels of unemployment globally. The actual facts tell a surprisingly different story, which compels us to re-examine basic assumptions about employment.

Figure 5. Growth of Global Population and Employment 1950 to 2007. Data from 38 -41 .

Historically, humanity has done surprisingly well in generating employment opportunities to meet the needs of a rapidly expanding population. Over the past six decades, the world economy has generated nearly two billion jobs, nearly three times as many jobs as during the previous five centuries 38. Global job creation has been taking place at record rates for the past six decades. Figure 5 depicts growth in global population and employment since 1950. Between 1950 and 2007, global population increased by 164% from 2.53 billion to 6.67 billion, whereas total global employment rose 175% from 1.06 billion to 2.92 billion. From 1996 to 2007, global population increased by 16%, while total global employment grew 17% [42]. The world added approximately 400 million more people, yet the global employment to population ratio (age 15+) remained virtually constant, as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Global Employment and Employment-Population Growth 1996–2007. Data from 43 .

9.2. Transformation of Work and Economy

The remarkable expansion of employment opportunities since 1950 is itself the result of a more fundamental social transformation that has radically altered the nature of work and economy over the past two centuries and is now shaping the future of work. Employment as we know it today is a relatively recent concept, the result of a multidimensional transformation that began in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Table 1 depicts important dimensions of that transformation.

Table 1. Transformation of Society and Work.

Individually and in combination these changes have had a profound impact on the nature of work. A near seven-fold increase in population has necessitated an enormous expansion in work opportunities in order to absorb new entrants to the work force. At the same time work has migrated along with people from rural to urban areas. As agricultural productivity has risen, a declining percentage of the population is engaged in agriculture and entirely new fields of employment have been generated in industry and services concentrated in cities. This was made possible by the mechanization of agriculture. Mechanization spurred the Industrial Revolution, as automation and computerization are now transforming manufacturing and many types of services. Over this period, and especially after 1990, world trade has grown enormously, facilitating the movement of jobs to lower wage countries. In combination these factors have radically transformed the nature of economy and employment.

As job creation in Europe and North America shifted from agriculture to manufacturing during the latter half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century, since 1950 it has shifted even more dramatically from manufacturing to services in the most economically advanced nations and to a lesser extent even in developing countries. Over the past half century, the share of employment in agriculture worldwide has declined steadily from 67% in 1950 to 34% in 2008 as shown in Figure 7 44 45. Meanwhile employment in the industrial sector expanded its share of employment from 15% in 1950 to 20% in 1990, reaching 23% in 2008. The service sector, in contrast, has grown steadily in share of jobs since 1950, when it accounted for 18% of total employment globally, growing to 31% in 1990 and reaching 43% in 2008 [45]. In the US, employment in the service sector rose from 53% of total jobs in 1956 to 70% in 1977 and 81% in 2009, accounting for virtually all U.S. job growth since 1972. Services now are the source of 77% of all jobs in the U.K. and France, 71% for all OECD countries, 69% in EU-27, 69% in Japan and Korea, 33% in China, and 31% in India. Services also account for 77% of GDP in U.S. 73% in EU, 70% in OECD countries and 68% globally.

Figure 7. Worldwide Employment by Sector: 1950–2008. Data from 46.

The recent trend in growth of service sector employment is likely to continue indefinitely. Contrary to common conception this trend does not represent a shift from higher skill manufacturing to low skilled, low-wage service jobs. A recent study by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that during the period 2008–2018, 65% of new jobs created in the fastest growing occupational categories will be those requiring medium to high levels of skill and education and 57% of all new jobs will be for workers with those qualifications, such as nurses, bookkeepers and accountants, teachers, management analysts and physicians.

9.3. The Challenge of Full Employment

In spite of the remarkable expansion of employment opportunities in recent decades, 212 million people globally were classified as unemployed by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2010 45. Real unemployment rates in many countries are probably at least twice the official figures, since unemployment data in many countries is notably unreliable and does not take into account those who have given up seeking work. These numbers also fail to take into account involuntary underemployment, which affects at least one billion workers globally.

The problem of unemployment and underemployment is closely linked to the problem of poverty. Unemployment relates to the productive utilization of human resources. Poverty relates to the economic welfare and well-being of human beings. Poverty itself is a relative, value-laden term, therefore measurement must always be somewhat arbitrary. Figure 8 depicts changes in the poverty levels of the world’s population from 1981 to 2005 on five different measures. By all measures, there has been a substantial reduction in the percentage of the world living in poverty, much of it accounted for by dramatic improvements in China due to its huge population and high rates of economic growth.

Figure 8. Poverty Levels over time. Left panel shows poverty levels of the world’s population, and right panel shows poverty levels excluding China. Data from 47.

Nevertheless, these gains still leave more than three billion people living on incomes of less than $2.50 a day, struggling to meet even their minimum economic needs, most of them unemployed or underemployed. World unemployment rose from 7% just prior to the recent financial crisis to 10% in mid-2010, although most of the increase was concentrated in high income OECD countries. Asian Development Bank estimates that Asia alone is home to nearly 500 million unemployed and underemployed 48. Even in economically advanced nations, huge numbers of people—especially youth—are unable to find remunerative employment. Randall Wray estimates that the actual level of unemployment and underemployment in the U.S. is approximately 17.5% of the work force, representing some 25 million people 49. Similar conditions persist in most OECD countries. Especially troubling is the high youth unemployment rate, which is presently 13% globally and much higher in many countries, e.g. around 35% in Poland, Croatia and Slovakia, 30% in Italy and Greece, 20–25% in France and Spain.

Today employment is the greatest challenge to the sustainability of human capital, and full employment is the only effective remedy. Figure 9 depicts growth of the working age population in G20 countries, including India and China, as projected by ILO in mid-2010. The working age population of these nations will increase by 440 million during the period 2010–2020. Of this increase, 30% will occur in India, whose working age population is just peaking. India needs to create about 135 million new employment opportunities in the coming decade just to absorb new entrants to the work force. To put this number in perspective, a study by the International Commission on Peace and Food in 1991 estimated that India would need to generate 100 million new employment opportunities during the 1990s in order to achieve full employment and proposed a strategy to achieve it which was adopted as official government policy, though only partially implemented 3. While official employment and unemployment figures in India and most developing countries are unreliable, evidence suggests that the Indian economy did in fact generate sufficient jobs to prevent a swelling of unemployment during that period. Since then, India’s economic growth rate has risen significantly and is projected to be even higher in the coming decade.

Figure 9. Working age population in G20 countries, including India and China in
mid-2010. Data from

9.4. Demographics of Full Employment

The world is now in the early stages of another demographic revolution that is the result of a steep and steady decline in the birth rate and an increase in life-expectancy in the more economically-advanced countries. Figure 9 above also shows that the working age population will level off or decline in a number of G20 countries, reflecting a trend that is broadly applicable to Western Europe in general. Figure 10 shows that life expectancy in Western Europe rose from 46 years in 1900 to 67 years in 1950 and then to 80.3 years in 2010, while the birth rate declined from 30.8 per 1000 population, in 1900 to 17.3 in 1950 and then to 10 in 2010. Following the same trend, the fertility rate in these countries has fallen from 4.1 in around 1900 to 2.4 in 1950 and then to 1.6 in 2010 27 ,51.

These trends will have enormous impact on the future of employment. Under Eurostat’s moderate scenario, the EU’s labor force is expected to shrink by about 0.2% a year between 2000 and 2030 52. By 2030 there will be 110 million people over the age of 65 in the EU-25, up from 71 million in 2000. This means that the old age dependency ratio—the percentage of people aged 65 and above compared to the number of people aged 15–64—will increase from 23% in 2000 to 35% in 2025 and 45% to 50% in 2050 53. As the old age population grows, the working age population will shrink. By 2030 the working age population in the EU-25 will stand at 280 million compared to 303 million today. The EU-25 would lose an average of one million workers a year 54. The proportion of OECD countries’ population above age 65 is likely to increase from 13% in 2000 to 25.7% in 2050. Globally, the 65+ population is projected to increase from 6.9 in 2000 to 16.2 in 2050 55. Obviously, as health and life expectancy increase, there is no sound rationale for limiting the working age to 15–64 56 .

Figure 10. Birth Rate and Life Expectancy in Western Europe 1900–2007.
Data from
17. 51.

Table 2 shows the U.N.’s moderate scenario projections for growth in working age population by region from 2010 to 2050. This scenario projects an increase in the global workforce of 931 million or 21% from 2010 to 2030, 28% lower than the increase from 1990 to 2010. Growth is positive in all regions other than Europe up to 2030, but it declines from 26% to 8% in North America and from 29% to 1% in China. For 2030 to 2050, the projected increase in working age population declines dramatically to just over 400 million. Growth is –11% in China, 2% in Asia as a whole and under 10% in all regions except Africa.

Table 2. Projected Change in Working Age Population 2010–2050. Data from 27 .

A UN study released in 2001 estimated that Europe would have to accept 161 million new immigrants over the period 2005–2050 in order to maintain present levels of working and tax-paying population 57. A World Bank Study estimated that 68 million immigrants will be needed to meet labor requirements during the period from 2003–2050 58. These estimates may be challenged, but there is no doubt that, unless major policy initiatives are taken, the net result will be a dramatic decline in the relative size of the working age population in Europe and a shortage of workers to fill the available jobs 59.

Recognition of this fact is already prompting major policy shifts within the EU, which has adopted a goal of raising the employment rate within the region from 69% to 75% of those aged 20–64 by 2020 60. It has also spurred efforts to increase participation of women in the workforce. The overall female employment rate for the EU-15 rose from 51% in 1991 to 64.7% in 2000 [46]. But employment rates remain around 20% points lower for women than for men in the EU-15 and the gap is around 25% points in Greece, Spain and Italy. Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden are the only nations that have a gender gap of less than 10 percentage points 61 .

The UN study also estimated that Japan would need to admit 647,000 immigrants annually for the next 50 years in order to maintain the size of its working population at the 2000 level 62. By 2013, labor-force growth in the United States will be zero. The US is forecast to have a shortage of 17 million working age people by 2020. China will be short 10 million workers. India is expected to have a surplus of 47 million workers in 2020, but even this surplus may prove illusory 63. Reliable data on employment growth in India is confined to the formal sector which represents less than 10% of total jobs.

The actual impact of demographic changes on working age population and employment over the next few decades may yet be influenced by technological developments, public policies regarding migration, and outsourcing, as well as unanticipated events, as the rise in unemployment in OECD countries as a consequence of the recent financial crisis demonstrates. Nevertheless, the broad trends indicate a growing shortage of workers in the most economically advanced nations, which will act as a counter-weight to the increasing number of working age youth in developing countries. Both historical trends and future projections support the view that full employment is an achievable goal.

9.5. Right to Employment

Economy is a social organization created by human beings to meet human needs and human welfare. A few centuries ago the vast majority of the world’s population lived on the land and eked out a subsistence level existence by their own physical labor. Society has become so structured and economy so specialized that today the vast majority of human beings are dependent on employment outside the home for their survival and welfare 64. Government policies, laws and regulations permeate virtually every aspect of modern economic and social life, effectively determining what types of activity can and cannot be carried out and thereby directly or indirectly determining the number and type of employment opportunities available to the population. Principles of justice necessitate that a government which controls economic activity must ensure conditions that support the basic economic rights of all its citizens.

The responsibility of government to ensure employment was a basic premise of the New Deal in U.S. during the 1930s. The US Employment Act of 1946 and similar legislation in Canada, U.K. and Australia acknowledge that responsibility. Articles 23 and 24 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) affirm the right to work, free choice of employment, just and favorable working conditions and protection against unemployment. These in turn served as the foundation for thedevelopment of two human rights treaties in the 1960s concerned with civil, political rights, economic, cultural and social rights, which together are generally regarded as an International Bill of Human Rights. These culminated in the ILO’s “Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work” in 1998. In its report to the UN in 1994, ICPF argued that a firm commitment of governments to uphold this right is essential in order to generate the political will required to achieve full-employment: “Without access to jobs, people lack the ability to ensure their own survival and support in modern society. As government has assured the right to education—indeed, compels it—it can and must also ensure the right of every person to gainful employment. Our very concept of the rights of the individual and the responsibilities of the society must undergo radical change. …employment is an absolute necessity for survival in modern society and must be recognized as a fundamental right of every human being. ” 3.

Although the goal of full employment was embraced by all the OECD countries after World War II, in the mid-1990s it was difficult to imagine any country coming forward to seriously implement measures to achieve it. While classical economic theory commonly extols the value of moderate rates of unemployment as a counter to inflation, economists such as Wray argue that the costs of unemployment and the benefits of full employment are so high, that government-funded employment guarantee programs are financially feasible and economically justified. Argentina’s Jefes program was a successful example of a temporary job guarantee program introduced to address a crisis. The program generated two million jobs, representing 14% of the labor force, and helped stabilize the nation’s prices, output and currency. Wray argues that similar programs can be effectively applied in other countries as a cost-effective strategy to generate full employment. In 2005, India introduced the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, designed to guarantee 100 days of employment to the poorest families in 50 districts of the country. In spite of the massive expenditure and enormous logistical challenges, the program was so successful that it was subsequently extended to the entire country and now provides 100 days of employment for approximately 45 million workers annually. The success of India’s program is being studied by other countries as well as international organizations as a model for possible application elsewhere.

There is no inherent reason to believe that we cannot devise an economic system in which everyone that is willing to work and capable of productive activity is assured of an opportunity and means to do so. As long as human wants go unmet and human resources remain underutilized, there is the possibility of refashioning our economic system to utilize human capital in a more effective, sustainable manner. “There is a great deal of work that is not getting done in the world, work that would raise the other half of humanity to middle class status. Apart from this, humanity has an insatiable appetite for more education at all levels, improved health care, more and better attention to the needs of children and the aged, better community development, more research, new forms of entertainment, infrastructure improvements, etc. ” 65. “The notion that there is a fixed or inherently limited number of jobs that can be created by the economy is a fiction. It is not just advances in technology that work in this fashion. Every major advance in social attitudes, institutions, values and lifestyles has a dual effect on employment, creating jobs in some areas and destroying them in others” 3.

Achieving full employment is absolutely essential for the sustainability of human capital. Apart from the possibility of a global level natural calamity or nuclear war, unemployment looms as the single greatest threat to sustainable development of human capital. Unlike most natural resources, human resources are perishable and rapidly deteriorate when left unutilized. Job-related knowledge and skills are lost or quickly become outdated. Socially, the long-term unemployed are looked down upon by employers and find it more difficult to find jobs. Psychologically, they lose their self-confidence and self-respect. Employment is not only the principal means for harnessing human potential; it is also the principal means for nourishing, sustaining and developing human capital. High levels of unemployment are directly linked to poverty, social isolation, crime, regional deterioration, health issues, family breakdown, school dropouts, social, political and economic instability, violence, ethnic hostility, and even terrorism. The cost of dealing with these social problems far outweighs the cost of public jobs programs designed to achieve full employment.

10. Education and Training

Education is the primary means for the progressive development and sustainability of human capital. More than 40 years ago, Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker highlighted the role of education and training in the development of human capital 6. The complexity of modern life demands of the ordinary citizen a wide range of knowledge and skills. Knowledge of the plethora of laws affecting ordinary citizens, traffic rules for driving and parking, travel regulations for boarding a plane, skill in using cell phones, TV and computers or accessing the Internet would appear to our ancestors as signs of a genius, a magician or, like Galileo’s telescope, deeds of the devil. Education is the single most reliable indicator of family size, because it raises social aspirations and motivates people to direct their energies for qualitative increase in living standards and quality of life. Recent studies identify female education as the main driver for bringing down child mortality, helping to improve the health of all family members and leading to a value change towards lower fertility goals as well as enabling better access to family planning 66 .

Education is also the key to sustainable growth and employment. Figure 11 shows cross country studies indicating that an extra year of school is associated with a 30% increase in per capita income. Throughout the world, higher levels of education are associated with higher levels of employment and higher income. In virtually every country of the world unemployment is significantly higher for those with the least education and lowest for those which have at least completed secondary education. An extra year of schooling increases earnings from 6 to 14% 67.

Figure 11. Years of Schooling and Country GDP. Adapted from 68

Figure 12 shows a very high correlation between education and per capita GDP in 20 developed and developing countries, as measured by UNDP’s composite education index, which takes into account literacy and enrollment at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and GDP index, which is based on PPP adjusted per capita GDP. Figure 12 shows a very high correlation between education and per capita GDP in 20 developed and developing countries, as measured by UNDP’s composite education index, which takes into account literacy and enrollment at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and GDP index, which is based on PPP adjusted per capita GDP.

Figure 12. Education vs. per capita GDP (2007). Data from 69 .

Although the correlation between education and income applies to all levels of education, tertiary education plays an increasingly important role in driving the emergence of the post-industrial service economy. Figures 13 and 14 depict the correlation between rising levels of tertiary enrollment and rising levels of per capita GDP over the past four decades for Korea and India, two countries with vastly different absolute levels of educational and economic development. In both instances the growth rates for higher education are closely correlated with the growth rates for per capita income.

Unemployment rates are closely connected with low levels of education. A study prior to the recent recession in the U.S revealed that those with a high school diploma earned 42% more and had an unemployment rate 36% less than those without a high school diploma 70. In the Czech Republic, 23% of people who failed to finish secondary school are unemployed, compared to just 2% of university graduates 71. University graduates in Norway enjoy a 26% earnings premium over people who only finished secondary school. In Hungary that figure rises to 117% 72
. Recent demographic studies confirm that education at all levels is the key driver of economic growth in both high and low income countries 73 .

This same difference exists with respect to unemployment levels for skilled and unskilled workers. In the U.S. those aged 19 and under have an unemployment level that is four times higher than those aged 25 and above, who took the time and effort to improve their skills by training. The employment rate for people with low-skills is only 49% in Europe, compared to 83% for those with high levels of skill. The differential gap between these two categories of people is 35 points in Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Finland and the U.K. The employment rate for women with low-skills in Europe is only 37% and in Italy it is as low as 27%.

Figure 13. Growth in Tertiary Enrollment and GDP per capita in Korea 1970 to 2008.
Data from 74. 75 .

Figure 14. Growth in Tertiary Enrollment and GDP per capita in India 1970 to 2008.
Data from 74. 75 .

The problem of unemployment co-exists with a massive shortage of employable skills. Studies in OECD and developing countries reveal that high levels of unemployment and a severe shortage of skilled workers commonly exist side-by-side. Nor are skill shortages confined to the high tech industries. In the U.S. high tech industries employ only 5% of the work force. The skill shortage is also prevalent in basic manufacturing industries, such as the tool and die industry, that many companies are forced to invest in expensive, computer-based machines or outsource the work to overseas suppliers. Plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters and other skilled craftsmen are also in short supply. By recent count there is a shortage of at least 126,000 nurses in the U.S. By the year 2020, a shortfall of 400,000 nurses and 200,000 doctors is projected 76. 77.

The situation in most European countries is similar. A study conducted by International Data Corporation predicted a shortfall of networking skills to the extent of 615,000 personnel in Europe in 2008. Wall Street Journal reported that there were 600,000 unfilled jobs in Germany in 2007, of which 40,000 were jobs for engineers and other skilled people 78. Another survey revealed that 80% of small firms in Germany find it very difficult to mobilize the skilled labor force that they require. The Cologne Institute for Business Research (IW) has projected that the labor shortage will reach alarming proportions by the year 2050, as it will be compounded by demographic changes that will shrink the labor force by another 30% 79.

The developing countries present a similar situation. Though India produces more than 500,000 technical graduates annually, corporations are finding it difficult to recruit sufficient skilled personnel 80. Here too, the skill shortage spans a wide spectrum of industries and types of jobs. A 2007 study by the Federated Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry estimated a shortage of 500,000 MDs, one million nurses, and 500,000 engineers. They also projected a shortfall of 80% for doctorate and post doctorate scientists in biotechnology, 65 to 70% in food processing, 50 to 80% in banking and finance, and 25% for faculty in education. The study also found a severe shortage of top pharmaceutical scientists. Shortages also exist for middle-level and junior scientists, factory workers, machine operators, mechanics, carpenters, masons, painters and plumbers 81. Figure 15 presents the results of global surveys conducted in 2010 by Manpower Inc. one of the world’s largest recruiting and employment agencies, showing the percentage of employers reporting difficulties in finding people with the skills needed to fill vacant positions. Employers reporting the most difficulty finding the right people to fill jobs are those in Japan 76%, Brazil 64%, Argentina 53%, Singapore 53%, and Poland 51% as shown in Figure 16.

Figure 15. Global Skills Shortage (2010). Adapted from 82 .

Figure 16. Skills Shortage by Country (2010). Adapted from 82 .

These skill shortages reflect the fact that the rate of social change brought globally far exceeds the rate of human resource development. All evidence points to an ever increasing rate of social change. Therefore, unless a concerted effort is made to consciously accelerate human capital formation, the gap will continue to increase. Left unaltered, this trend would be enough to account for rising levels of unemployment in the midst of unprecedented prosperity.

10.1. New Delivery System for Higher Education

Sustainable development of human capital necessitates a radical overhaul of the current systems of education and vocational training. According to UNESCO estimates, global enrollment in universities rose from 500,000 in 1900 to around 100 million in 2000 83. Raising global participation rates in higher education to the level prevalent in the U.S. would require the establishment of hundreds of thousands of new colleges and universities and the training of millions of qualified instructors. For India to raise participation rates to the current U.S. level through traditional means, the number of college students would have to rise from 14 million to 81 million, which would require creation of a few thousand new universities and about 100,000 new colleges in India alone.

The brick and mortar system of higher education prevalent throughout the world is a high cost, low-productivity delivery system that places quality education far beyond the means of most of the world’s population. Of course, the internet is being used to extend the reach of traditional colleges and universities. In the U.S. which leads the world in on-line higher education, enrollment in fully online courses represents only 11% of total enrollments. By 2014, this figure is expected to rise to 20%. Still less than half of all US degree-granting institutions offer fully online courses. 84.

Furthermore, these initiatives fail to take maximum advantage of the new technology. The potential now exists for creating a global virtual university capable of engaging the highest quality instructors and educational materials to deliver high quality education at a fraction of the cost of current systems. At a time when major bookstore chains were trying to figure out how to leverage the power of the web as an adjunct and extension of their brick and mortar stores, Amazon started from scratch and built an entirely new, exclusively web-based system designed for optimal reach, lowest cost, ease of use and quality of service. In less than half a decade, this scrappy start-up grew to become the largest bookseller in the world. A similar strategy can dramatically transform secondary and higher education worldwide. While the cost and expertise for producing high quality multi-media instructional materials may be prohibitive for private companies, a global consortium backed by national governments could elevate the quality of education globally to the highest levels now prevailing in the most advanced nations.

There is considerable evidence to support the view that computer based learning can be more effective than traditional classroom learning, with learning and retention rates as much as twice as high. With access to a global storehouse of information at one’s fingertips, greater emphasis can be placed on stimulating thinking rather than on mere retention of facts. Multimedia computerized courses can use a mix of written, spoken and graphic materials along with video footage to impart lessons in a manner that cannot be done in a class room. Students can interact with the learning software and receive immediate feedback. Students are able to learn at their own pace. Computer-based learning also reduces the need for experienced teachers. Courses can be designed according to the highest possible standards and quality, whereas instructors in classrooms vary enormously in their teaching capacities. Moreover, through internet-based, multi-media courses, the very best instructors in the world for each subject can be made accessible to students everywhere. Computerized course materials can be more readily altered in response to changing requirements than printed textbooks. Uniform testing and evaluation can be done on-line. Even if computer-based learning becomes far more prevalent, the need for teachers and professors will increase by an order of magnitude, since both the number of students and the number of years of education continues to grow. Therefore, there is a need for more teachers and professors. The lifelong and life-wide education presumably implies that the ratio of teachers/professors to population will increase by a factor of 3–4 from the present situation.

10.2. Vocational Training

Globally there is an urgent need to expand vocational training facilities and programs across a broad spectrum of industries in order to cope with the rapidly changing demands of the new economy. The need is especially great in the fastest growing developing countries, India and China. Presently some eight million youth enter the Indian job market every year, but only 5% of Indian youth in the 20–24 age category receive any type of formal vocational training, compared to 28% in Mexico, 60 to 80% in most developed countries and 96% in Korea. The more trained job seekers are, the more readily the market absorbs them. Conversely, the less trained, the more difficult it becomes to get good jobs and the more expensive for employers to impart the required skill levels. Both the market value and the bargaining power of untrained job seekers are far lower. India has 4,200 industrial training institutes which impart vocational training to nearly 600,000 trainees in 43 engineering and 24 non-engineering trades. If all types of professions are included such as agriculture, medicine and law etc. the total number of trainees is 1.7 million per annum. Still this number represents only about 14% of new recruits to the labor force. The country needs other short training courses that people can take at their own time and at lower costs. Moreover, those already in employment also need training courses to upgrade their skills in tune with developments in their professions. The deficiency in vocational training covers a very broad range, including basic mechanical skills required for repairing machines to skills required for book keeping, insurance, marketing and journalism etc. Recognizing the need to radically expand and improve vocational training, India has recently formed a National Skills Development Corporation to impart skills training to 150 million workers over the next 15 years. The mission of this body is to make sure that by 2022 at least 30% of the work force is properly trained for employment.

Existing arrangements for vocational training are far from adequate to meet the changing demands of the workplace in both OECD and developing countries. Compare Denmark, for example, where workers receive almost 1,000 hours of non-formal job-related training over the course of their career with Italy where they receive less than 100 hours 85. The huge size of the global labor force, the complex range of skills required and the high cost of training make it necessary to develop alternate training methods to increase the supply of skills to match the demand.

It is surprising to note that the most obvious solution to the general skills shortage has received very little attention until now—the use of computerized vocational training. It is surprising because computer-based training is already the prevalent means of providing instruction in a wide range of software and other computer-related skills. In spite of the fact that flight simulators have been around for decades and recent advances in video game technology make it possible to replicate a wide range of life and work related situations, computer-based vocational training is rarely used for imparting other types of vocational skills. Computerized simulation has been proven an effective training tool even for learning complex vocational skills such as flying an aircraft or handling sophisticated military equipment. This medium will lend itself to a very wide range of skills in such diverse fields as commerce, education, tourism, entertainment, media, language, health, environment and even agriculture. Computerized vocational courses will have world-wide demand. Therefore the cost of developing the courseware can be amortized over a very large number of trainees, reducing the cost of training per worker substantially.

10.3. Education and Culture

Science and technology can provide powerful instruments for improving sustainability, but ultimately it is human choices expressed in individual and collective action that will determine the future of our race and life on earth. Lured by profit or mandated by law, the introduction of new technologies can often be done quickly. But altering the pattern of human choices necessitates fundamental changes in the perceptions, understanding, values, attitudes and actions of countless individuals and myriad social organizations at the local, national and international levels. Therefore, issues related to long-term sustainability must be addressed at the fundamental level of our collective human consciousness, which is the basis of culture. Culture represents the quintessence of human learning distilled from the experience of the collective, acquired subconsciously, stored in our racial memory and enshrined in our deepest values, attitudes and perspectives. Changes in behavior can be imposed or occur in response to dramatic events, but cultural change normally occurs over long periods of time as changing circumstances, perceptions and understanding seep down into the fabric of our thought, emotion and relationships with the world around us.

Education is the primary instrument society has evolved that is capable of consciously effectuating changes in culture. Biopolitics International Organization has proposed a new model of universal higher education designed to promote an environmentally conscious society and developed a model syllabus. Of course, change in culture cannot be brought about merely by increasing the amount, expanding the range or altering the content of information and skills imparted to youth. It requires more fundamental changes at the level of individual and social character, which can only be effected by changes in the essential values enshrined in and communicated through our educational system. What is the essential change in culture needed for the long–term sustainable development of human capital and life on earth? What type of educational system is capable of bringing about that change? Elgin argues that global consciousness and culture are already in the midst of a radical transformation, which is reflected in the emergence of a global consciousness as a result of the global communications revolution, greater ecological awareness and concern, a shift toward post-modern social values and a shift toward more sustainable ways of living 21 .

10.4. Early Childhood Education

Regardless of our answer to these questions, one thing is clear. In order to be effective, the change in educational content and method will have to commence at the earliest possible age, for it is in childhood that the most essential values and attitudes are communicated and the basic structure of human character acquires form. Many new approaches to early childhood education have been developed and successfully applied on a pilot scale in the U.S. Europe and elsewhere. The best of them share some common characteristics that are central to the optimal development of human capital. They are founded on a faith in the unlimited potential of the individual human being. They seek to create an environment of freedom in which that potential can naturally emerge.

One successful alternative model was developed by the American educationist Glenn Doman at the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia. Doman has sold millions of books explaining methods for early childhood education that can be applied by parents teaching their children at home or by teachers in the classroom. Doman’s methods have been culturally adapted and replicated in such diverse contexts as India, Italy, Japan and Mexico. At Primrose School in Pondicherry, South India, application of his methods in conjunction with computer-based, self-learning techniques has demonstrated that children before the age of six can learn to read two, three or even more languages, acquire a huge fund of general knowledge and develop the capacity for thinking and working independently out of native curiosity and for the sheer enjoyment of the learning process without homework, testing, or any competitive pressure on the students to learn.

Home schooling is another approach which can be very successful for education in families with educated parents, computers, internet and access to quality educational software. After the advent of the internet, home schooling has grown exponentially in the U.S. from 50,000 students in 1985 to about 2.5 million in 2009 and it is still increasing at a rate of 5–12% annually. Since the mid-1990s, British Columbia has been offering financial incentives for home schooling averaging $4,000 per family to subsidize the cost of educational materials. Much more can be done to promote home schooling as an alternative pathway to value-based, family-centered learning.

Education is the most effective means for constructively influencing human perceptions and behavior. Moreover, education, research, public policy and culture are interlinked. Learning fundamental concepts, vocational training, skills development, stimulating innovation and excellent teaching extended throughout our lifespan are imperative for the full sustainable development of human capital and the sustainability of our planet.

11. Income Inequalities

Development of science and technology combined with advances in social organization has created a global system capable of meeting the economic needs of the entire world population. But increasing productive capacity has not reduced or eliminated the gross inequalities of power and privilege that characterized earlier periods. Indeed, the disparities have in many cases increased. Income distribution is a crucial factor in the development and sustainability of human capital. Gross and increasing income inequalities are a pronounced characteristic of the modern age. Approximately one billion people living in high income nations, representing 16% of world population, consume about 75% of the total global product; whereas 1.3 billion living in low income developing countries, representing 20% of world population, consume only 1.4% of the world’s global product. The average income in the richest 20 countries is now 37 times that in the poorest 20. This ratio has doubled in the past 40 years 47. The inequalities within countries are also wide and increasing. Figure 17 shows the difference in incomes between the richest and poorest 20% of the population in a range of economically advanced nations.

Human beings are not equal, and complete equality would result in suffocation of free will and diminish human choices. However, there is strong evidence that large income inequalities severely retard the development and sustainability of human capital. High levels of inequality result in decreasing life expectancy, poorer educational performance, increasing crime rates, higher levels of corruption, and increased macro-economic instability. In 2006, average life expectancy in the 10% of countries with the lowest of income inequalities was 77.4 years, compared with only 60 years in the 10% of countries with the highest level of inequality. Wilkinson and Pickett have shown that the incidence of health and social problems is higher in countries with higher levels of inequality in Figure 18. Japan and the Scandinavian countries report very low levels of income inequality combined with the lowest levels of health and social problems. The correlation holds good for all 20 countries shown in the chart. Nor can the variations in health and social problems be accounted for by different absolute levels of per capita income. Countries at the same level of per capita income vary widely in health and social problems. Income inequality is a more accurate predictor of problems than actual level of income 42 .

Figure 17. Income inequalities in selected countries. Data from 86 .

Figure 18. Impact of income inequality on health and social problems. Data from 86 .

Health is not only a fundamental requirement for a full human life. It is also an important determinant of the productivity of human capital. World Bank and others have drawn attention to health as a factor in economic development 87 ,
88. Fogel found that one third or more of the economic growth in England over the last two centuries was attributable to improvements in nutrition which result in greater height and weight 89. Healthy individuals are more efficient at assimilating knowledge and, in consequence, obtain higher productivity levels 90. Another study by the same authors found that an extra year of life expectancy is associated with a 4% rise in per capita GDP in the long run 91 .

Inequality is not merely a question of social justice. It has profound impact on the sustainability of society. Inequality results in unsustainable life styles among both those who consume excessively as well as among those who are compelled to ravage their environment for their very survival. As Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said at the first UN Conference on the Human Environment in 1972, “Poverty is the worst form of pollution.” Widening income disparities have also been linked to social unrest and violence in developing countries, threatening the sustainability of society itself. In an age of mass communication, rising prosperity in one section of the population raises expectations of a better life everywhere. Indeed, a global revolution of rising expectations has been a major driving force for change over the past five decades. Television carries images of luxurious life in the metropolis and overseas to impoverished urban slums and outlying rural villages. When this growing awareness is not accompanied by growing opportunities, it gives rise to increasing frustration, social tensions and violence, as expressed by the increasing incidents of violence in China and India, the two fastest growing major economies in the world. A rising tide of protest among ethnic groups and factory workers is sweeping across China, which goes largely unreported in the press. A Carnegie Endowment study reported a ten-fold increase in social unrest based on economic causes between 1993 and 2003, a period of rapid economic growth, as shown in Figure 19 92.

Figure 19. Mass incidents of social unrest in China 1993–2003. Adapted from 93

The Naxalite insurgency in eastern India has been around for decades, but is spreading more rapidly than ever before in poor tribal areas at the very time when prosperity is blooming elsewhere 94. Naxalites are believed to number from 10,000–20,000, and are active on a large scale in as many as 13 of India’s 28 states, mainly Andhra Pradesh, Jharkand, Bihar, Maharashtra, Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Both the rebels and the government concur that the roots of this conflict are primarily economic. Andhra Pradesh is one of the poorest regions in India and suffers from extreme wealth inequality. Conflict over resources is growing with India’s increasing demand for coal-fired electricity: 85% of India’s coal reserves come from the five states most affected by the Naxalite uprising 95. 96. In both India and China, disparities between rural and urban incomes are increasing and rapid economic growth is associated with a dramatic increase in social unrest, especially among those who have not been beneficiaries of that growth 97.

Inequality plays an essential role in social development 98. It creates an urge for upward social mobility, which is a driving force of social innovation and higher accomplishment. In his recent book Fault Lines, former IMF Chief Economist Raghuram Rajan observes, “Not all forms of income inequality are economically harmful. Higher wages serve to reward the very talented and hardworking, identify the jobs in the economy that need the most skills, and signal to the young the benefits of investing in their own human capital. A forced equalization of wages that disregards the marginal contribution of different workers will deaden incentives and lead to a misallocation of resources and effort” 99. On the other hand, IMF research confirms the “growing recognition that an excessively unequal income distribution may itself be detrimental to sustainable growth” 100. High inequality reduces economic development by slowing poverty eradication, retarding investments in education, and inhibiting entrepreneurship 101. World Bank and others have drawn attention to health as a factor in economic development 88 .

In recognition of this fact, Cornia and Court postulate that there is an ‘efficient inequality range’ which is most conducive to economic growth 102
. However, the level of inequality that is optimal for economic growth may not be optimal for social stability and development of human capital. More research is required to determine what may constitute the optimal level of inequality for overall social welfare and well-being. But there is abundant evidence to support the view that lower levels of income inequality are essential for achieving optimal and sustainable development of human capital. In recognition of this fact, UNDP has incorporated a measure of inequality in the 2010 version of the Human Development Index 103. More than two thousand years ago Plato extolled the virtue of limiting the ratio between the lowest and highest income strata to 1:5. A century ago financier J. P. Morgan favored a maximum disparity of 1:20. In 2007, the ratio was as high as 1: 500 104 .Wilkinson and Pickett have shown that in countries such as U.S. and U.K. they can be directly attributable to changing public policies, especially those related to taxation 105. But, opportunity for access to gainful employment represents the single most important determinant of income inequalities. While employment rates and incomes levels tend to be high for educated and skilled workers, levels of unemployment or underemployment remain high, especially among youth, the poor and unskilled, in many countries. Thus, generating remunerative employment opportunities for all job seekers remains the greatest single challenge to sustainable human development.

12. From Welfare to Well-Being

One element of the culture change that is needed is already clearly evident to most serious thinkers, only the means of effectuating it are in doubt. Humanity needs to evolve from a culture preoccupied by quantitative growth and ever-increasing consumerism to one which places primary value on qualitative improvements derived from harmonious, fulfilling human relations. That shift would mark a fuller transition of humanity from the physical stage of material preoccupations and the vital stage of social competition to a more enlightened and fulfilling way of life, a change that can be best characterized as a shift from preoccupation with welfare to the pursuit of well-being.

The present energy-intensive pattern of consumption typified by the most prosperous nations is unnecessary for ensuring a reasonable level of human development for all in terms of education, health and incomes. Figure 20 shows that a number of countries achieve very high performance on the Human Development Index with less than half the energy consumption of the most energy intensive countries. Even taking into account differences in climate and geography, it indicates that high levels of human development are compatible with far lower levels of per capita energy consumption. Granted the HDI measures only the most basic criteria for development, the data amply demonstrates the scope for improving energy efficiency without sacrificing quality of life. The earth may be able to support nine or ten billion people at high levels of material comfort, but it surely cannot support waste of precious resources or avoidable inefficiency. A change in attitude is imperative for sustainability.

Figure 20. Relationship between Energy Consumption and Human Development Index. Data from 106. 107

Left to itself, this prevailing pattern of resource-intensive consumption might persist for decades or even longer, unless a concerted effort is made to alter it. Such an endeavor may seem daunting or even impossible to many, but it is not without precedent. Indeed, radical shifts in values have occurred in the past, but the process governing these changes has been largely subconscious and therefore difficult to document or replicate. The sudden rise of the Hippy Movement among American youth during the 1960s marked a drastic change in values relating to materialism, conspicuous consumption, authority, social conformity, racial and social tolerance, war, environment, sexuality, marriage and human relations. The movement arose among the first generation of baby boomers born after the Second World War, youth who had never experienced the traumas of war or economic depression. This was a generation raised in unprecedented prosperity, confused and outraged by the sudden onset of war in Vietnam, disturbed by the vast inequalities between rich and poor, and baffled by artificial social barriers and arbitrary power structures. The underlying values expressed by this movement resonated powerfully with educated youth not only in America, but in Europe, South America and even behind the Iron Curtain. Although the most visible signs of that movement gradually receded as the baby boomers aged and moved into the work force, essential elements were retained and formed the basis for radical social changes over the past four decades. Prominent among them are the human rights movement, global environmental movement and the movement for abolition of nuclear weapons, which persist with increasing vigor even today.

Social and cultural changes of this magnitude are possible and can be consciously initiated. But doing so requires a deeper understanding of the process of social development, the process by which human society evolves and human capital develops. Over the past decade, collaborative research by The Mother’s Service Society and The World Academy of Art and Science has been striving to elucidate that process. “The essential knowledge of that process is embodied in social and cultural values. Values represent the essential knowledge of experience condensed into ultimate principles of successful functioning. Presently society transmits these values without being fully conscious of why they are so essential for success. The same knowledge when made fully conscious and consciously transmitted will be far more effective” 18.

The magnitude of the challenge appears less daunting when we recognize that it is to be done by a social process. Every change in fashion that sweeps across the world from San Francisco to Mumbai is an example, though at a superficial level. The very sudden worldwide concern with climate change that has arisen over the past decade is a more profound instance. One striking element of this process is that it originates from points of highest social prestige and gradually spreads from there to other levels where people aspire to rise in status and prestige. As advertisers know well, the key to effecting widespread rapid change is to reach the trend-setters.

The shift in human aspirations from welfare to well-being is far more profound than a change in fashion or even a move to environmental sustainability. Just three years ago most advocates of total nuclear disarmament were so disheartened that they were ready to give up the quest. Then Korea detonated its first nuclear tests and evidence emerged of a covert nuclear program in Iran. A few months later, G. Schultz, W. Perry, S. Nunn and H. Kissinger, former US cabinet secretaries from both political parties, announced their support for total abolition of nuclear weapons. The following year for the first time in history, the goal of nuclear disarmament was endorsed by all three democratic candidates for the US Presidency. After his election, President Obama reversed the policies of his predecessor and announced the intention of his government to work seriously to achieve this goal. Other nuclear weapon states such as India came forward to endorse and support. Today nuclear disarmament has been pushed to the top of the international policy agenda.

Abolition of nuclear weapons is a political issue under the direct purview of governments. A change in social values related to conspicuous consumption and life style is a social issue under the purview of the world’s intellectual and social leaders. That is where the change must start and once ignited can rapidly gain momentum. But it cannot be brought about solely by individual leadership. The real mechanism for the shift lies in changing the values implicitly communicated by the educational system. The environmental movement really gained momentum when graduates of the hippy generation became parents, teachers and government officials, and when, as a result of their concern, sustainability infiltrated into the educational curriculum and the legal system. But a change in values must come first. Law represents the codification of public conscience.

13. Human Choice and Resource Constraints: Case Study of Water Demand in India

Nature forms the physical and biological foundation for human evolution and sustainability. Based on the way human beings are presently interacting with the environment, there is no doubt that increasing scarcity of water, depletion of soil and climate-related changes pose serious physical challenges to sustainability. A central thesis of this paper is that the real limits are not natural. They are limits to our knowledge and willingness, limits imposed by human choice. The sustainable development of human society and our natural environment will depend on the choices we make, which in turn depend on our social and psychological evolution. Therefore, the ultimate solution to the most pressing and immediate material problems depends on necessary changes in our consciousness and choices. Sri Aurobindo identified seven types of ignorance that presently limit the knowledge and effectiveness of human action. Ironically, the last and most difficult to overcome of the seven is our practical ignorance regarding precisely what to do at the very next moment. That is because precise knowledge in the here-and-now is constrained by ignorance at all the other levels. Because of our egoistic ignorance, people tend to approach every issue from the perspective of their own personal self-interest and it is difficult to make them comprehend, let alone accept and act, from a wider point of view that encompasses the perspectives of other people, nations and the world as a whole. Because of our temporal ignorance, it is easy to forget the lessons of the past and ignore the coming future, preferring to live blindly in the moment or focused on the short-term. However slow this process has been in the past, once we are fully conscious of the process of social development, we will possess the power to accelerate that evolution.

The potential for viewing and addressing ecological issues as problems of human consciousness and human capital formation can be illustrated by the problem of water shortages in India. India possesses 16 per cent of the world’s population but just 4% of its water resources. Although current water resources are more than sufficient to meet total demand at the national level, tens of millions of people in different parts of the country are already impacted by water shortages. As population, food production, industrialization and living standards continue to rise over the next few decades, total water consumption is expected to increase by 20–40%, making the problem even more acute 108. While total water availability in India still exceeds demand, the gap between the two is closing rapidly as depicted in Figure 21. Since population and water supply are not evenly distributed, this means that hundreds of millions of people will be living in water deficit regions as the gap closes further.

Figure 21. Utilizable Water and Demand in India 1997–2050. Adapted from 109 .

Yet a closer examination reveals vast potential for addressing the problem. Agriculture presently accounts for more than 85% of water consumption in India, as shown in Figure 21. Increasing population will necessitate continuous efforts to raise food production. On the other hand, crop productivity levels in India are far below international averages. Average maize yields in India are less than 25% of levels in U.S. and only 40% of those achieved in China. Rice yields are 40% of the U.S. and 50% of China’s average. High water consumption combined with low crop productivity means that the productivity of water in Indian agriculture is extremely low. California Agricultural Consulting Services estimated that water consumption for cotton cultivation in India was 35 times higher per unit of crop output than cotton cultivation in California. Raising crop yields by 50 to 100%, which is technically feasible and economically attractive, can by itself substantially improve water productivity in India, freeing up to 40% of the nation’s total consumption for other purposes.

Excluding desert regions, water scarcity in India and most parts of the world is the result of unthinking, unplanned, wasteful human behavior, not an inevitable and irreversible result of population growth. There are innumerable ways to address and reverse the growing problem of scarcity, but they require a change in human awareness, attitude and behavior—in other words, the further development of human capital. For example, the town of Cherrapunji in northeast India records the highest rainfall in the world, averaging 450 inches annually, yet frequently suffers from acute water shortages during summer months due to indiscriminate deforestation and the absence of measures to capture and store the rainwater. Rainwater harvesting, check dams and other conservation measures designed to prevent run-off and recharge the water table have demonstrated the capacity to significantly enhance the groundwater supply in both urban and rural areas of India 110.

Water wastage is aggravated by a policy of free or subsidized electricity supply to farmers in most of India, encouraging indiscriminate use of irrigation capacity. The efficiency of canal irrigation systems in the country is also far below international standards. Revising government policies to provide incentives for the efficient use of water can substantially improve water utilization. Furthermore, control of water resources in India resides with the states, rather than with the central government. Given the necessary public support and political will, the potential exists for implementation of major projects, including creation of a national, integrated system of inland waterways, to redirect excess water flows from flood prone to drought prone areas.

The problem of water scarcity in India is real, but it is a human problem and there is a human solution for it. The problem and the solution depend on knowledge, attitudes, values, social organization and actions. The solution lies in educating youth about the precious value and measures for conserving water, applying proven technologies, generating greater public awareness of the problems and solutions, instituting sound public policies such as mandatory rainwater harvesting, and rewarding constructive behavior. A study of India’s water problem led the government to conclude that “Given the vision and political will, India can convert the present water problem into a huge opportunity” 108 .

14. Future Scenarios for Sustainable Human Capital

The objective of this paper has been to examine a broad spectrum of issues related to human capital and sustainability, with emphasis on the linkages between employment, health, education, economy, social welfare and ecology. Examined individually, each of these issues is sufficiently complex. Examined as aspects of a greater whole which encompasses the entire humanity and its environment, the task is challenging and even daunting. The authors have argued that solutions to these complex challenges are possible, if and only if, human choice and development of human consciousness—not only technology, policy, economy or any other factor—are made the central focus and lever for change. It is beyond the scope of this paper to project scenarios or solutions to address the totality of these challenges. Nevertheless, a brief examination of opportunities for substantial progress over the next few decades may serve as an example of a more comprehensive approach to a sustainable future.

This paper examines the interrelationship between several crucial determinants of sustainability—population, employment, education, health, social equity, social stability and energy consumption—in the context of a gradual and progressive evolution of consciousness toward the mental stage. Granted that expectations of higher standards of living will continue to rise globally, is there any possible scope for meeting the aspirations of a still growing world population? This paper argues that global society does possess the capability to generate employment opportunities for all job seekers and achieve full employment, provided that the central importance of employment is recognized as a fundamental human right. Contrary to popular belief, the principal source of new jobs is social development, not economic policy. Public stimulus programs, manipulation of the money supply and interest rates can certainly have short-term impact, but it is the growth and development of society that serves as the foundation and context for economic growth. Full employment can be achieved by broad-based social strategies that accelerate social development, including measures that improve the quality and quantity of education and training, promote entrepreneurship and self-employment, increase the speed of communication and transportation, encourage research and innovation, and more fully utilize the power of social organization, e.g. the Internet.

Of all these measures, education and training are the most crucial, both for generating employment and facilitating the evolution of social consciousness and culture to a more mental and environmentally-conscious, less materialistic basis. The trend from material-intensive manufacturing to human-intensive services is one expression of this movement that is already well underway and will continue for the foreseeable future, generating more, better quality and better paying job opportunities for people with the required education and skills. Over the next decade, 57% of the new jobs created in the U.S. will fall in this category. This paper cites studies supporting the view that availability of workers with the requisite education and skills is a major impediment to new job creation, not only in economically advanced countries, but in lower income developing countries as well. Delivering world-class higher education to hundreds of millions of youth is a direct means for accelerating the transformation of economy and society. As described earlier, the Internet offers an ideal platform for global delivery of low-cost, high quality education. Higher levels of education at all levels will also reduce fertility rates and significantly improve health and longevity, thereby determining the point in time at which world population levels off and begins to decline.

Figure 22. Working Age Population. (15+) for 120 Countries by Educational Attainment 1970–2030.
Data from

Education is an investment in the future. Figure 22 is a projection of the working age population aged 15 years and above for 120 countries by educational attainment for the period 1970 to 2030, based on the mildly optimistic educational scenario. It shows that the past decades have seen great progress in education. Whereas over the past 40 years the number of people without education or with only primary education has remained roughly constant, those with secondary or higher education have increased almost fourfold. The population with only primary or no education reached a peak around 2010 and will decline slowly hereafter. The population with secondary and tertiary education is likely to double over the coming four decades (increasing by a factor of seven compared with 1970) 112. Of course, the profile for individual countries will vary enormously.

Figures 23A and B show the profile of the population of South Korea in 1970 and 2010. The blue portion represents the proportion of each age group only primary education, the red and green represent those with secondary or tertiary education. Tertiary enrollment rose from a mere 7% in 1970 to 98% in 2008, highest in the world followed by U.S. at 83% 113. Note that while Korea’s current educational enrollment is the highest; its workforce still lags behind the U.S. and other economically advanced nations in educational attainments. During the period 1970–2008, Korea’s per capita GDP multiplied eight-fold to reach $25,500 (2005 intl. dollars). At the same time, employment in services underwent a dramatic transformation, rising from 31% to 69%. Manufacturing jobs also rose from 19% to a peak of 37% in 1991 before declining to 24% in 2009. Over the past decade Korea has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world. Figure 23C is a projection of Korea’s population and educational profile in 2030. It shows that virtually the entire workforce will possess either secondary or tertiary education, quite possibly making it the best educated in the world.

Korea’s investment in education provides optimal conditions for growth of employment, growth of GDP and a shift to less-material-intensive economy and life styles. Figure 24 shows that over the past three decades, fossil fuel energy intensity per unit GDP has declined by 77% in the U.K. by 71% in the US and by 33% in Japan. After rising dramatically as manufacturing expanded in the late 1980s, over the past ten years, energy intensity in Korea declined by 14% and fossil fuel energy intensity (total fossil fuel energy consumption divided by total GDP measured in 2005 intl. dollars) fell 16%. Still there is enormous scope for further improvement. While Korea derives a slightly higher proportion of its energy from fossil fuel sources than Japan (85.5% vs. 83%), Korea’s fossil fuel energy intensity is 48% higher than Japan’s and 66% higher than U.K.’s. At its current rate of change, Korea will reach the U.K. level of fossil fuel intensity by 2020.

Figure 23. Republic of Korea—Population by Age and Educational Attainment in the Year (A) 1970; (B) 2010; and (C) 2030. Data from 111 .

Numerous factors contribute to overall energy intensity, but the development of human capital is central to them all. The capacity to evolve from a low-cost manufacturer of volume goods to a high end manufacturing and service economy producing higher value with lower energy inputs depends very much on the quality of human resources available and the social support for innovation. Similarly, the shift to more environmentally-conscious life styles referred to by Elgin is related to education and evolution of a more mentally conscious society. The example of Korea highlights the macro-level relationship between human capital development and sustainability at the national level. Much more research is required before similar analysis and projections can be made at the global level.

Figure 24. Fossil Fuel Energy Intensity for Select Countries 1980–2008. Data from 74. 114 .

15. Projecting World Population

Population provides the most reliable insights into the long-term relationship between human capital and sustainability. The size of the human population determines the demand for food, water, forest products, ocean fisheries, energy and other non-renewable resources, and affects the very climate of planet earth. This paper argues that the qualitative development of human resources is truly the key to sustainability, because it is the quality or consciousness of people that determines their creativity, capacity for invention and technological innovation, employability, fertility rates and life expectancy, capacity for governance and peaceful co-existence, moderation of material life-styles, awareness of the environment and responsible action.

Recent studies by Wolfgang Lutz and associates at IIASA present new evidence supporting the direct relationship between the quality of human capital (as measured by level of education), fertility rates and population growth. These studies conclude that raising the general level of education of the world’s population is the single most powerful and effective means for controlling population and enhancing the sustainability of human settlements. When they projected world population in 2050 based on several different educational scenarios, they found that higher levels of education could reduce the growth of population by one billion over the next four decades.

While long-term population projections are subject to extreme uncertainty, education will unquestionably have a profound impact on demographic trends. Already more than half of world population has a fertility rate below the replacement level of two surviving children per woman 115. Figure 25 shows the ten countries with the lowest fertility rates. Fertility rates in East Asia are already 50% below the replacement level. Most European countries are either slightly or below the replacement level.

Figure 25. Ten Countries with Lowest Fertility Rate (births per woman) 1960–2008. Data from 74 .

Stochastic projections of world population published by the IIASA show a 80–85% chance that the world population will peak and start to decline before the end of the 21st century 116. Other studies project that if global fertility rates were to fall to the level already prevalent in Europe for the past decade, then world population could decline to the range of 3.5 to 4.4 billion in 2200 and 1.1 to 1.7 billion in 2300 117. These findings prompted Lutz to conclude that “education is probably the single most important determinant of empowerment for coping with and adapting to the dangerous consequences of climate change” 112. Regardless of whether these projections are realized, they illustrate the extent to which future sustainability will depend on population size, which in turn depends on level of education and human choice. The development and evolution of human consciousness will be the ultimate determinant of the sustainability of human capital and life on earth.

16. Individuation of Human Capital

Human beings have inherited a conscious capacity to learn from their experiences, systematically accumulate and transmit knowledge, and evolve from physical and vital to mental ranges of consciousness and beyond. This evolution directly impacts on the sustainability of human society and the environment. The process of interaction between the individual and the collective is not symmetrical. During early stages of evolution, the collective plays a dominant role, imposing its will on its members and demanding strict adherence in thought and deed. The individual is a dispensable member of the collective destined to sub-serve social aims. But as humanity evolves from the physical to the vital and mental stages, the collective comes to recognize that its own maximum development is only possible when it accords maximum freedom to each individual member for expression, variation, dissent, innovation, creativity and development of his or her unique capabilities. In the vital stage, this expresses as increasing latitude for the pursuit of self-interest and personal accumulation, independent from and often in disregard of the welfare of others, leading some to conclude that individuality is synonymous with selfish egoism.

In the physical stage people learn how to survive and discover the resources in the environment around them. In the vital stage they learn how to interact with one another for mutual benefit and discover the creative powers of human relationship and social organization. In the mental stage, they learn about their place in the larger universe, the context that includes everything. People become self-conscious and discover the untapped resources that are the source and essence of human capital. They consciously evolve by changing themselves, the way they think, their attitudes and their values.

Rising levels of education, information, scientific knowledge, technological capacity and social organization are characteristics of the transition to the mental stage, but they are not the sole or even its most central characteristics. In earlier stages the individual is subordinate to the collective in thought, values and actions. In the mental stage a process of individuation occurs in which the individual progressively replaces the values, beliefs and behaviors imposed externally by society with his or her own self-determined values, understanding and behaviors. New capacities emerge, including original thinking freed from the trammels of social acceptability, the ability to take other people’s point of view freed from the subjectivity of our own ego-centric perspective, and the courage to differ and withstand the pressure to conform. This is a creative stage in which people individually become conscious of the infinite resources they possess within themselves. In contrast to the preoccupation with survival characteristic of the physical stage and the competitive pursuit of self-interest characteristic of the vital stage, in this stage the individual pursues personal fulfillment and well-being by consciously identifying—rather than subconsciously conforming—with the aspirations of the collective, and strives to fulfill them by making a unique contribution that is both self-fulfilling and serviceable to society. The true individual is not one who merely serves a social ideal selflessly or idealistically, but one whose ideals and values transcend the limitations of society in pursuit of something more true and absolute. Leading psychologists of the 20th century, including Jung, Maslow and Rogers, have applied various terms to describe this process, such as individuation, self-realization and self-actualization. Maslow describes it as an evolutionary process leading eventually to a future society in which self-actualized individuality would become prevalent. “The evolution of a synergistic society is a natural and essential process. This is a society in which all individuals may reach a high level of self-development, without restricting each other’s freedom” 118.

The researcher, explorer, pioneer, inventor, social innovator, entrepreneur, artist and original thinker are some of the prominent expressions of this process of individuation at different levels and in different fields. A few people invent. A few people think originally. The pressure for social conformity remains very strong. In the past it most commonly took the form of threats or actual physical punishment or ostracism. Today it survives in the form of peer pressure, the need for social acceptance, respect and approval, the drive to compete and keep up with others. But the creative initiatives, the new ideas, the social and technological innovations that change the world originate from those who develop their own internal frame of reference and act from there on the world around them. Increasing mental development in society as a whole enhances the receptivity and responsiveness of the collective to these pioneering initiatives.

Figure 26 presents data for a selection of countries surveyed repeatedly from 1981 to 2006 to measure changes in social and cultural values. The surveys reveal a sharp increase in the value accorded to individuality, self-expression, and freedom of choice. Although countries vary significantly in the relative importance accorded to these values, similar trends are shown for 80% of the countries surveyed. Somewhat surprisingly the change in values is even greater among the more educated sections of many non-Western nations than it is in Europe and North America. Self-expression is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies. Most significantly, this shift to more individualistic, self-expressive values is associated with increasing emphasis on environmental protection, greater tolerance and trust, and rising demands for participation in decision making in economic and political life—changes associated with evolution to the mental stage of social consciousness that are essential to achieve more sustainable public policies and life styles 118.

When human beings and society more fully comprehend the process of their own development, they will realize that conscious efforts to promote individuation are important means for the sustainable development of human capital. Then fostering individuation will become a principal objective of both the individual and the collective. Each will pursue a concept of welfare and well-being that is consistent with the fulfillment of others and sustainable for all. Then the true self-augmenting character of human capital will come fully to the fore. Each individual becomes a center for self-development and the sustainable development of the collective. A society that succeeds in releasing this potential of individuality will learn and adapt swiftly. Sustainability is ultimately about becoming conscious of ourselves, the characteristic ways in which people see, think and act, and the inner potentials for their own conscious evolution. Sustainability and human evolution go hand in hand. As Aurelio Peccei put it, “The most valuable assets humankind can count on. to stop the decline and to prepare for the future are to be found in the still untapped resources of comprehension, vision and creativity inherent in every human being” 119.

Figure 26. Change in Self-Expressive—Individualistic Values 1981–2006. Data from 120.

17. Conclusions

Throughout this paper, the authors have drawn attention to the central role of education in human development. Education influences virtually every aspect of human existence, including fertility rates, infant mortality, health, life expectancy, population growth, employability, income levels, economic growth, patterns of consumption, technological and social innovation, entrepreneurship, public awareness, social values, public policy, type of government and quality of governance. Education is the means by which society passes on to future generations in an organized and condensed form the sum total and essence of knowledge and experience it has acquired over millennia. The basic skills and information imparted in primary school and the wider range of knowledge incorporated in the secondary curriculum is further enhanced by the development of higher order mental capacities at the tertiary level. But even a complete education as it is delivered by formal institutions today does not exhaust the potential for education. Along with academic knowledge, mental and vocational skills, education can be utilized to transmit values, interpersonal and psychological skills that are essential for higher accomplishment, welfare and well-being. It also has the potential to serve as a conscious medium for character and personality development and for individuation. Educational systems are not yet oriented to develop this higher range of human capacities, yet it is precisely this aspect of education that offers the greatest potential for the future evolution of human consciousness and sustainability of earthly life.

The problem today is not physical limitations, but rather limitations imposed by the quality of our choices and our actions. Rapid economic development and rising levels of consumption are taking a severe toll on the natural environment, which can only be partially mitigated by technological solutions. Sustainable development appears to be a contradiction in terms, a paradox, which can be fully resolved only by the evolution to a higher level of human consciousness. As Carl Jung expressed it, “In the history of the collective as in the history of the individual, everything depends on the development of consciousness” 121. Today economic development is generating pressure for evolution to the mental stage in which human beings increasingly seek greater fulfillment in harmonious relationships, psychological gratification and cultural enrichment, rather than ever increasing material consumption. Thus, the progressive development of human capital made possible by the continuous evolution of human consciousness is the ultimate determinant of sustainability. This article calls for a much more profound shift in thought and action to make the development of human capacities and fostering of human welfare and well-being the centre-piece of sustainable development strategy.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the research assistance provided by R. Lakshmipriya, Ranjani Ravi and Saraswathi Mukkai of The Mother’s Service Society, India.


* Garry Jacobs, Vice President, Mother’s Service Society & Member of Board of Trustees, World Academy of Art & Science.
Ivo Slaus, President of South East European Division & Member of Board, World Academy of Art & Science.

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