A Career in Human Development

Photo by  Emad Kolahi

Photo by Emad Kolahi

Broadly speaking, human development is defined by the process of enlarging people’s freedoms, opportunities and improving their well-being. The concept gained popularity in the 1990s, as a result of the United Nations Development Programme publication entitled “Human Development”. This new approach developed as a response to the almost exclusive emphasis development policymakers had given to economic growth and stabilisation. The paradigm shift evolved from the reaction of the international community to the social ills derived from this emphasis, which included high levels of poverty, insufficient levels of education and health services, rising inequality and unemployment.

In this mutated scenario, economic growth is not an end in itself, but a means towards a broader goal, one that centers on people and their betterment as an indicator of societal progress. Central to the human development approach is the concept of capabilities. Capabilities, what people can do and what they can become, are the equipment one has to pursue in terms of life’s value. These are basic capabilities valued by virtually everyone such as: good health, access to knowledge, and material standard of living.

Translated into international policies, this means embracing and implementing programmes of foreign aid, healthcare, education, poverty reduction, gender equality, disaster preparedness, infrastructure, human rights, environmental sustainability. This all-encompassing approach is far more ambitious than just focusing on economic growth. In the long run, international leaders and decision-makers know from experience that incremental change is not enough. Tackling drought in Somalia is not just about water. Fighting poverty in Argentina is not just about income. Promoting hydrogen-based clean mobility in China is not just about technology. In reality, preventing drought and famine will consolidate peace and security, and increase confidence in the economy. Fighting poverty will improve people’s health through access to medical insurance. Promoting hydrogen energy solutions will improve public services, making cities healthier, and helping to stop global climate change. This is a virtuous circle.

A career in this league has the potential of being one with tremendous impact on world issues, making it worth exploring for anyone who is passionate about implementing societal change in the developing world and delivering long term hope of progress that centers on individuals. 

Arranged by topic, we compiled a list of organisations that tackle human development challenges and offer the perfect step to start a career in this all-encompassing field.

Humanitarian Aid and Relief

Less developed parts of our world are plagued by famine, malnutrition, poor water quality, and poor sanitation, as well as AIDS, TB, malaria, and other deadly diseases. These problems frequently overlap, particularly in the poorest regions of Africa, India, and South America. When combined with weak education systems, corruption, or civil war, these problems become even more difficult to solve. In addition to health and social dilemmas, extreme weather conditions also greatly harm the global poor. There is clearly a high demand for professionals to respond to such crises, as well as growing numbers of opportunities for administrators, fundraisers, grant writers, program organisers, teachers, researchers, policy analysts, and others.

  • Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere - CARE is an organisation dedicated to fighting global poverty. The organisation leads community-based efforts to improve basic education, prevent the spread of disease, increase access to clean water and sanitation, expand economic opportunity, and protect natural resources. CARE also provides emergency aid for war and natural disasters. They have supported close to 1,000 poverty-fighting development and humanitarian aid projects.

  • Doctors without Borders - International humanitarian group dedicated to providing medical care to people in distress, including victims of political violence and natural disasters. The populations the group assists typically lack access to or adequate resources for medical treatment. The group was awarded the 1999 Nobel Prize for Peace.

  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies -  The largest humanitarian network in the world, present in 190 countries and active for over a century. Its mission is to alleviate human suffering, protect life and health, and uphold human dignity, especially during armed conflicts and other emergencies.

  • Oxfam International - Oxfam is an international confederation of 17 organisations working in approximately 90 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and related injustice around the world.  They focus on issues of active citizenship, agriculture, education, gender justice, health, peace and security and youth outreach. Through advocacy, campaigning, policy research and development projects, Oxfam continues to change the lives of many.

Food Security

Food security is a condition related to the supply of food and individuals’ access to it. It was further defined at the World Food Summit of 1996 as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Food security is a complex sustainable development issue, linked to health through malnutrition, but also to sustainable economic development, environment and trade.

  • Action Against Hunger - AAH is a global humanitarian organisation committed to ending world hunger, works to save the lives of malnourished children while providing communities with access to safe water and sustainable solutions to hunger. In 2012, AAH provided 550,000 small farmers with tools, treated 42,000 malnourished children in Democratic Republic of Congo and helped 170,000 people gain access to clean water in Kenya.

  • Bioversity International – This is a research-for-development organisation focused on preserving agricultural and tree biodiversity as a means of improving nutrition security, promoting sustainable agriculture, and adapting to climate change. They are a CGIAR Research Center, part of a global food security research partnership. Bioversity works with partners in low-income countries to disseminate scientific evidence, management practices, and policies that protect biodiversity.

  • Green Shoots Foundation - GSF works in six different countries throughout Asia, including Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Kyrgyzstan. GSF’s work, along with programmes targeting healthcare and education, includes a dynamic initiative developed over the last few years called the Food & Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) programme.

  • Fairtrade America – Fairtrade works to redesign the international trade system, focusing on small-scale farmers and workers in developing countries. By growing demand for Fairtrade products, certifying foods with the Fairtrade mark, and setting international standards and minimum prices, Fairtrade America aims to alter power imbalances in the economy.

  • Feeding America – Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programmess fighting to end hunger. The organisation provides assistance to one in seven Americans, including 12 million children, and studies the causes and impacts of food insecurity in America. Feeding America prioritises food security, safety, nutrition, and recovery.

  • The Small Planet Institute This group was created as a tool to explore and share the root causes and root solutions to modern challenges. The organisation focuses on environmental devastation, global food injustices, and deficits in democracy. The institute also manages the Small Planet Fund to support grassroots democracy movements worldwide addressing the causes of hunger and poverty. Since the fund was created in 2001, two grantees have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Global Public Health

No country acting alone can adequately protect the health of its citizens or significantly ameliorate the deep problems of poor health in developing countries. The spread of disease, the importation of consumer goods and the migration of health professionals cannot be adequately controlled by states in isolation. Such problems are simply intensified by an increased cross-border and trans-border flows of people, goods and services, and therefore depend on international cooperation and assistance. Furthermore, the governance of global health is changing rapidly, responding to a multi-faced landscape where the management of this field has a pivotal impact on a range of other issues, such as security, migration, foreign policy, public health and environmental concerns.

  • Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation – The Gates Foundation is an independent foundation that works to alleviate poverty and improve livelihoods. Global Health Programme is one of three major initiatives, and focuses on preventing disease through increased access to vaccinations, developing and ensuring access to new health technologies.

  • The Global Fund – The Global Fund is a 21st-century partnership organisation designed to accelerate the end of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics. Founded in 2002, the Global Fund is a partnership between governments, civil society, the private sector and people affected by the diseases. The Global Fund raises and invests nearly US$4 billion a year to support programmes run by local experts in countries and communities most in need.

  • Save The Children Foundation – This is an independent organisation that provides relief and support for children in developing countries, as well as coordinating emergency efforts to help ensure global childhood health with a large mandate focusing on maternal health.

  • Unitaid – Unitaid promotes international drug purchase facility established to provide “reduced prices of drugs and diagnostics” for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis treatment in poor countries. The organisation achieved 40 percent price reduction on antiretroviral treatment for 100,000 AIDS-infected children and helps to fund treatment for 150,000 children with tuberculosis.

  • World Health Organisation – WHO is the leading health body of the United Nations, providing leadership on global health matters, shaping health research, setting norms and standards, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assesses health trends. WHO defines health as a shared responsibility, involving equitable access to essential care and collective defense against transnational threats.

Gender Equality

Ending all discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but crucial for sustainable future. It is proven that empowering women and girls helps economic growth and development. Although there are more women than ever in the labour market, there are still large inequalities in some regions, with women systematically denied the same work-rights as men. Sexual violence and exploitation, the unequal division of unpaid care and domestic work, and discrimination in public office all remain huge barriers. Climate change and disasters continue to have a disproportionate effect on women and children, as do conflict and migration. Together with women, people of the LGBTIA+ community continue to suffer the toll of discrimination and violence around the world.  

  • The Center for Reproductive Rights – CRR is a global legal advocacy organisation that seeks to advance reproductive rights. The organisation’s stated mission is to “use the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill”.

  • ILGA - The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is the world federation of national and local organisations dedicated to achieving equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people across the globe. 

  • International Planned Parenthood Federation – This member-association provides family planning services, sexual health and abuse prevention training and education. Their goals include giving clients the information necessary to make informed sexual health decisions, promoting continuing sexual health, making available high quality sexual health services, improving the overall health of low income individuals, and using democratic organisation and the leadership of volunteers to promote these goals.

  • International Women’s Health Coalition - IWHC is a nonprofit organisation that works with individuals and groups in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to promote women’s reproductive and sexual health and rights. They provide technical, managerial, moral and financial support to reproductive health service providers, advocacy groups and women’s organisations in Southern countries.

  • UN Women – UN Women is the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. It is comprised of the UN Division or the Advancement of Women, International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Its primary roles are to support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms. The agency helps Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, and to forge effective partnerships with civil society. UN Women also hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.