Community Portal October 2010


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Community Portal from the month of September 2010. See this months news and events in the up-to-date Community Portal or past news and events in the Community Portal Archive.

In the Spotlight: Mappiness

mappiness maps happiness across space in the UK. Mappiness is a free app for your iPhone. It's part of a research project at the London School of Economics. The application was created by George MacKerron and Susana Mourato of the Department of Geography & Environment and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). They created it to better understand how people's feelings are affected by features of their current environment—things like air pollution, noise, and green spaces.

See official mappiness website.

Community notice board 

The community notice board is a place for the community to interact. Feel free to post questions and comments here.


See in the section below contains news articles and blogs that have been released this month.

Progress in the News (October 2010)

India has slipped 10 places to the 88th spot, way below neighbouring China, in the World Prosperity Index due to poor healthcare and education systems coupled with weak entrepreneurial infrastructure.

The first self-assessment tool for cities to measure biodiversity - the Singapore Index on Cities' Biodiversity - has formally been endorsed at the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (COP10) in Nagoya yesterday.

As the Security Council met to debate women, peace and security and 10 years of progress in implementing SCR 1325, about a hundred women in white T-shirts inscribed with the words “Put Peace Women at Peace Tables: Implement 1325 Women Peace and Security NOW!” gathered outside the Church Center building across the street from the United Nations

Video from the equivalent of the House of Commons in the Indian legislature regarding men having to face abuse from women.

United Arab Emirates ranks as number one prosperous country in the Middle East, and globally sits as the 30th out of 110 countries in the latest global prosperity index, local newspapers reported on Thursday.

A recent annual study of prosperity and well-being finds that, while many countries in Central Asia and Eastern Europe have -- by and large -- good health care and education programs, they suffer from bad governance and a high level of corruption, which translates into a poor overall rankings.

New edition of annual Human Development Report will evaluate decades of development data, introduce new approaches to measuring inequality, gender bias and poverty

Legatum index ranks the Emirates as No 1 in Middle East, with North European countries topping overall list

For two days—October 26-27—leaders from business, government and the nonprofit sector will explore the ways we measure progress, looking at issues that range from the validity of GDP as an indicator of how well a country is doing to the purpose of the firm and its relation to its stakeholders and to societal challenges such as healthcare, the environment and building a sustainable future.

In Eat Pray and Love, the Hollywood blockbuster, Italy is where heroine Elizabeth Gilbert’s pursuit of happiness begins. Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts, goes on to “pray” in India and eventually finds “love” in the arms of a Brazilian in Bali, Indonesia.

"The "key message" of the Club of Rome is more valid than ever The awareness about the limits of growth is increasing day after day, but too slowly to avoid future risks."

John Helliwell discusses the different measures of happiness

Bhutan has been in the news this week with the official visit to India of its king, the 30-year-old Oxford educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who is impressive by any standard, as he presides over his country’s transition from a 100-year-old monarchy to the world’s newest democracy. I was in Bhutan last week with a group of women journalists, who went there under the aegis of the Indian Women’s Press Corps. None of us had expected the experience that Bhutan offered.

After some hard calculations from 50 industrial experts and months long studies, a group of political advisors have come up with the newfangled idea that quality of life should guide Shanghai's development into the future. Apparently, the idea of looking beyond GDP as the sole indicator of a city's "happiness" deserves a long feature in The Global Times.

Bhutan's famed gross national happiness will be in the spotlight at the India International Centre, with King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk - the Himalayan nation's young monarch - inaugurating an exhibition on Thursday. The week-long exhibition, titled The Forest, traces the intricate linkages, via art, photography, films and food, between the planet's green cover and its state of well-being.

If you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life? This was the intriguing question posed in an unprecedented study by Newsweek, a leading American international magazine.

Korea's per capita GDP has risen more than 60 percent since the years before the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, but quality of life has deteriorated.

A Weak currency, despite its appeal to exporters and politicians, is no free lunch. But it can provide a cheap one. In China a McDonald’s Big Mac costs just 14.5 yuan on average in Beijing and Shenzhen, the equivalent of $2.18 at market exchange rates.

Americans' wellbeing fell for the fourth straight month in September to 66.4 after reaching an all-time high of 67.4 in May. The current Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index score, however, slightly exceeds the 65.9 measured in September 2008 at the start of the financial crisis.

  • Hans Gutbrod talks on Well Being and Happiness at TEDxYerevan

Many Indians were outraged with the way the Commonwealth Games were organised. The bad news about corruption, disorganisation, and apparent unconcern of the agencies responsible until almost the very end, following on the heels of the spectacularly successful Beijing Olympics and World Cup in South Africa, did not inspire much confidence in India’s ability to get things done.

It may depend on structural reforms as much as prudent macroeconomic policy. Look at the world economy as a whole, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the recovery is in pretty decent shape.

Corruption in China is now so far reaching that it regularly includes people claiming to have degrees or licenses in high skill professions such as medicine and piloting aircraft. The cancer has spread so far through the societal body that it could seriously hinder the modernizing nation's ability to climb to the next level of development or reach the advanced peg of industrialized Western ones, experts claim. That was the report in the New York Times on October 6th.

Many countries in Africa are enjoying a period of economic growth, but the continent's progress has been undermined by declines in the rule of law, a political-performance survey said Monday.

The prevailing view from scientists researching happiness has so far been that it is largely determined by your personality traits and genetics.

Leaders from the 27 European Union (EU) Member States and 16 Asian countries, including China, along with the European Commission and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat, will hold their 8th ASEM meeting on October 4 and 5 to discuss common issues under the new motto "Quality of life."

Three years after the onset of the global financial crisis, much has been done to reform the global financial system, but there is much left to accomplish, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Sunday.

On Friday, October 1, the UN released the DRC Mapping exercise report that alleges Rwandan troops committed crimes against humanity in the Congo, going ahead to further suggest that there was a deliberate move to kill Hutus.

John McCarthur is the brain behind the brain of Professor Jeffrey Sachs. Mr McArthur heads Millennium Promise, the philanthropic arm that oversees Mr Sachs's oft-praised and much-criticised Millennium Villages.

News highlights from last month

Confronting Elderly Poverty and Improving Seniors’ Economic Security

Experts track economic growth obsessively, but there are better ways to measure the well-being of the people

Traditionally, economic growth has been used to measure societal progress. Increasingly, however, experts are asking whether growth in GDP really does improve a society's well-being. And if not, should this metric be replaced by other methods?

  • A Global Peace Index video of world leaders singing along to John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance' in honor of International Day of Peace, 21.09.2010.

The MDG Summit got underway with speeches, dozens of side meetings, and countless informal caucuses and exchanges on the sidewalks around UN headquarters. The message from world leaders was clear: the MDGs are at the centre of national objectives in poor countries, and remain at the centre of global cooperation of rich countries. But the rich countries were also clear: we need a new financing system to ensure the success of the MDGs. The current approach is simply not adequate.

Perhaps it's a function of being in my 30s with small children to support or of being a freelance journalist in lean times or of living in the relatively expensive D.C. metro area, but if I had a dollar for every time I thought my life would be just a little better if we had more money, well, I'd be rich. But would I be any happier?

GDP used inappropriately, says Australian Treasury official - (Radio New Zealand News 19.09.2010)

I guess you've heard the good news: the devastation of the Christchurch earthquake will be a godsend to New Zealand's gross domestic product, giving it an almighty and much-needed boost. So maybe it's a pity earthquakes don't happen more often.

Blogs on progress (October 2010)

an journalism about conflict actively promote peace? It's a question that I raise with my City University students every year in a lecture dedicated to the work of Johann Galtung and that of Jake Lynch and Annabel McGoldrick.

I recently did a session at the Aspen Institute's Business and Society forum in NYC, with David Walker, former head of the GAO who is now leading a new organization called the Come Back America Initiative, and Walter Isaacson, former editor of Time magazine and now the CEO of Aspen. We talked about how you can measure and gauge the success of a society or a country, beyond just looking at the GDP.

The NGO Transparency International just released its annual Corruption Perception Index, rating 178 countries for their degree of the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

In the beginning of March 2010 Friends of the Earth Europe organised a two-day workshop on "Transforming the (Economic) Growth Paradigm" in Brussels. 28 participants and speakers from 10 member groups and the Brussels office met to share knowledge and experiences with the issue of economic growth and how it relates to our current and future work

John de Graaf, executive director of Take Back Your Time, spoke at the University of Northern Iowa this week on his forthcoming book, "What's the Economy For, Anyway?" John developed the mid-90s film "Affluenza," which correlated Americans' search for material goods and their unhappiness. The new work extends this idea and points to public policy implications.

Initially intended as a means to manage the 1929 economic crisis, The GDP can be used to measure only one aspect of the quality of life. The combined scientific, technological, and industrial revolution, which has grown since the 19th century, has led to an improvement of living conditions (a considerable increase in life expectancy, improved health, better access to education, greater social justice, progress toward the equality between men and women, etc.).

“Economics: the study of mankind in the ordinary business of life”. –Alfred Marshall (economist). From the above definition then, we can say that an economy is mankind at the ordinary business of life.

Here are seven English words that may never have been used in this order before: Thank goodness for the Gulf oil spill. No sane person would ever articulate such an idea, given the loss of life and the injuries on the oil rig after the blowout six months ago this week. From a human or moral point of view the notion is, clearly, indefensible. From an economic point of view, however, there may be a case.

Environmentalists have argued that ecological degradation will lead to declines in the well-being of people dependent on ecosystem services. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment paradoxically found that human well-being has increased despite large global declines in most ecosystem services.

Too many people consuming too much is depleting the world's natural resources faster than they are replenished, imperiling not only the world's species but risking the well-being of human societies, according to a new massive study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), entitled the Living Planet Report.

The underlying assumption of modern economics has always been the notion that having more things makes people better off. Economists of all ideologies - from Adam Smith to Karl Marx, from John Maynard Keynes to Milton Friedman - have implicitly accepted this assumption, even while arguing with one another over the best way to optimize the production or distribution of things.

How do you do GNH? For a simple question like this answers are complex and bewildering. GNH according to our King who propounded it in 1972 said, “GNH is better than GNP (Gross National Product)? Later our Prime Minister (PM) added meat to it and promulgated to the mass, both inside and outside the country.

On Older People's Day, Imogen Blood looks at the challenge of improving life for the growing, and changing, UK population of older people

At a recent conference I had the opportunity to learn about the Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Most of us had not heard of this country, but we should have, because they have done something that is reminiscent of the Broadway Musical “Camelot,” or possibly “Brigadoon.”

Blog highlights from last month

Last week I lamented what I perceive to be an obsessive focus on GDP growth. If it’s a fact that more wealth doesn’t make us happier, why are we obsessed with economic growth as a measure of progress?

Toward the end of a week focused on how the world’s rich can foster progress at the other end of the Slinky of social and economic progress, a reader here posted a provocative comment.

See how you can use our site to find the world's top aid and development data
• Go straight to our aid and development data search
• Use the API

Why is human well-being improving globally when our environmental woes appear to be worsening all the time?

At the Trilogue – a meeting of EU parliamentarians, academics, civil society, the arts and independent organizations – a debate that took place within the discussion of re-thinking growth/development was that of “Moving Beyond GDP” as a measure for social and economic progress.

Progress papers and reports released this month

Call for papers

Call for Abstracts - You are cordially invited to submit abstracts for papers to be presented at the 3rd International Conference of the International Society for Child Indicators to be held at the University of York, UK 27-29 July 2011.

Over 800 delegates from all over the world will convene in York, United Kingdom for the EADI / DSA conference. Delegates will represent development research institutes, international organisations, the European Commission and bilateral donor organisations. These thinkers, leaders and decision-makers will exchange ideas about new values, voices and alliances for increased resilience.

  • Well-Being 2011: The First International Conference Exploring the Multi-dimensions of Well-being FIRST CALL FOR ABSTRACTS - Deadline 26th November 2010 - Abstracts should be a maximum of 300 words in length and should be submitted via e mail. They should include author details, contact address and a brief outline of the paper. Papers may be exploratory in nature or consider the findings of existing studies drawn from academia or practice. They need to address issues relating to well-being; we are particularly interested to consider new and innovative work irrespective of its origins


Ideas Economy: Human Potential 2010 (The Economist 15-16th September)

Debate hosted by the Economist Ideas Economy- Human Potential 2010

'Today, humanity is on track to advance physically, economically, and intellectually more than ever before. But there are still serious challenges ahead. For instance, how do we educate billions of new people in the coming decades—and manage their successful entry into the global economy—in an age of high unemployment and aging demographics? It is this kind of global challenge that can only be resolved by bringing together the smartest minds from government, academia and business—including education, human resources, healthcare, design, policy, science and technology—to debate tough issues and collaborate on practical solutions. With a new workforce that will be unlike any ever seen—a generation of young workers demanding entirely new work environments, and an aging population that requires heavy resources—the nature of work and talent development must evolve dramatically. The Ideas Economy: Human Potential event is an opportunity to understand these important issues from every perspective—and meet the leaders who can help optimise human potential, for individuals, companies, and society at large in the decades to come.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index

This is more of a back and forth than a debate. The subject is the recently launched Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Duncan Green, renowned blogger for the Oxfam blog From Poverty to Power, gives a brief overview of the new index. World Bank research director, Martin Ravallion criticizes the MPI for two key reasons, firstly the aggregation of indicators to a single index and secondly the choice of weights for the index. Finally Sabina Alkire, director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) and co-creator of the Index, defends her work and responds to both previous posts. For further background information, see Multidimensional Poverty Index

Background and introduction to the debate: The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) has been working for years to try and develop such metrics, and they recently launched the ‘Multidimensional Poverty Index’ (MPI), which will feature in this year’s UNDP Human Development Report, celebrating its 20th anniversary. I’ll briefly summarize it here, before unleashing an exchange of guest blogs between the World Bank and OPHI.

Martin Ravallion is Director of the World Bank’s research department, the Development Research Group. 

Sabina Alkire responds to the previous posts by Martin Ravallion and Duncan Green. 


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