Interest in human development is not new to humanity. This motivating concern has its roots in the writings of early economists such as Gregory King and Antoine Lavoisier. According to their concepts, ‘wealth maximization’ in community as a whole, irrespective of the effects of this wealth on humanity, forms the mainstay of human development. Other factors like public care and social organization, which also contribute to the well-being and freedom of individuals, are therefore neglected. The concept of human development is in the process of incessant evolution. Modern day definition of human development takes into account, factors like ‘interests’ and ‘needs’, of individuals while stressing the need to develop an environment which helps them develop and achieve their full productive potential. UNDP being a world leader in this cause stands high to set standards for the ongoing activities of human development throughout the world.
Development is a complex subject and various definitions emphasizing different needs of humanity exists till this day. As new reports about the development occurring throughout the world are published, the definition, as well as the focus of developmental actions continues to evolve. After the publishing of UNDP’s 1990 report about Human Development, there has been a major shift in the funding pattern of UNDP, from economic growth and efficiency to social welfare and poverty reduction. The working of UNDP has remained ‘behind the scenes’ in most of the cases and receiving or seeking recognition for its work has never been the aim of UNDP. Regardless of ideological, ethnic or geopolitical conditions of different parts of the world, UNDP has managed to work with the underdeveloped communities and design development plans which have earned for UNDP, the title of “The development program of the developing countries” (Murphy, 2006). Working for the capacity development of marginalized groups and individuals is one of the aims of UNDP. Like other organizations which are working for human development across the globe, UNDP has to tolerate the demands of donors while struggling for the successful implementation of its plans. The international power structure and interests very often become a source of resistance to the developmental efforts of UNDP. There are instances where UNDP is forced to compromise and as a result its efforts for human development are impaired.
Promotion of human development has to be integrated with safeguarding its effectiveness for future. This sustainability concern is of significant importance. Moreover the integration of human development and environmental conservation has emerged as a core challenge of modern day development (Speth, 1992). UNDP takes the initiative to safeguard human development that has been achieved in the past and at the same time put efforts to sustain for future what is being achieved now by humanity, and extend further human development activities instead of being threatened by pollution, exhaustion of natural resources or deterioration of global environment.
The working environment of UNDP has in its core the flexibility required to meet the ever-changing and continuously constraining conditions of the world. There have been times when UNDP suffered from inefficiency, shortsightedness and bureaucracy issues, but this has always contributed to the learning of this organization. The structure of organization is such that its workers are autonomous to a maximum extent, thus making it possible to continuously improve its approach to development. Due to this fact, UNDP has made a gradual shift in its vision of development from “development as efficiency” to “development as freedom”. So, the focus has changed to providing technical knowledge for improving human development, which in turn provides a chance to reduce poverty levels (UNDP, 1990). The issues of education, empowerment of women, promotion of democracy and health form the core of the new agenda of UNDP.
UNDP is the world’s leader in human development sector. Ever since its inception it has taken steps to promote the cause of human development throughout the world. The vast diversity in the economic, political, ethnic and religious conditions of the world pose a number of challenges to it effective working. Although there have been times when UNDP faced failures, yet the working of UNDP has brought about considerable improvements in the developing countries of the world.