Human and Development: What we are talking about?

Two decades ago, in 1990, the first Global Human Development Report gave the birth to new concept of development—human development concept. English was main language of the report, as well as the working language for the most of authors. Translation of the concept in other languages, mostly Slavic ones, has faced difficulties. Mechanical translation of the term human development cannot translate the essence of the concept. It is important to avoid terminological misunderstanding, taking into account that during these two decades three terms appeared in Russian literature—«человеческое развитие», «развитие человеческого потенциала» and «развитие человека». This becoming especially relevant when one start thinking what are we measuring: development of society? personal development? process of development?

The most correct and most frequently used term is «человеческое развитие», which more correctly transfer the essence of the human development concept—type of development aimed on people, or, in other words “development of people, for people and by the people”. In the very first report Mahbub ul-Haq put it in the following way: “The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. People are real wealth of nations.” Namely by its orientation on people this concept differs from other development concepts. Actually, exactly in this way, by using adjective to the word “development”, the term is translated into French (développement humain), Spanish (desarrollo humano), Romanian (dezvoltarea umană) Czech (lidský rozvoj) and many other languages. Namely in this form one could find in dictionaries. Namely by this term one could find in search engines articles, manuals and other materials. Namely in this way was entitled human development manual, produced by Moscow State University.

Expression «развитие человеческого потенциала» is linked with the roots of the human development concept, namely the “human capital” theory of Schultz, which appeared in 1960s. Formation of human capital included not only expenditures for education, but also research and development expenses, health care services, family planning. In other words, all investments in people were considered as productive ones, regardless the aim—either to increase gross national product, or to increase human capabilities. Still, people were treated as a resource for development, the aim of development per se was economic development, and the measure of development was GDP growth. Also, human capital concept did not take into account empowerment of people and their participation in the development process. This term is most frequently used in the national and regional Human Development Reports in Russian Federation and for translation of “human development index into Russian. If you google it out, you will get mostly economic articles and Human Development Reports for Russia and its regions.

«Развитие человека» is related to biology, psychology, and anthropology. It could be used in very broad philosophical sense as “humankind development”. If you look for this term in search engines, you will get papers from anthropology, biology, psychology, and philosophy, but not ones related to the human development concept.
To sum up, the most appropriate translation of the human development term in Russian is «человеческое развитие». It most adequately translate the essence of the concept and is most frequently used in Russian papers. In future one should stick to this term to avoid terminological confusions.

Related materials:
Andrey Ivanov. “Internalizing the human development paradigm: reflections of a witness