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Article from the Economist 12.08.2011
 
Article from the Economist 12.08.2011

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In the spotlight - current

Testing the Spotlight

Article from the Economist 12.08.2011

IT IS always a little disconcerting to realise a generation has grown up never knowing what it was like to manage without something that is taken for granted today. A case in point: the World Wide Web, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of its introduction last Saturday. It is no exaggeration to say that not since the invention of the printing press has a new media technology altered the way people think, work and play quite so extensively. With the web having been so thoroughly embraced socially, politically and economically, the world has become an entirely different place from what it was just two decades ago. Whether the web has made it a better place or a worse one is for readers to decide.


Link to full text



In the spotlight - archive

What makes people happy? CGD on subjective well-being


The Center for Global Development has released an essay on subjective well-being. See the abstract below on link to the full article.

Abstract There is a burgeoning academic literature on happiness polls that has used a range of different measures and approaches across countries rich and poor alike to answer the question, “what makes people say they are happy?” The excitement surrounding this work is well justified. These polls suggest an idea of happiness that would be broadly understood by philosophers from Aristotle to Mill to Rawls or Parfit. Happiness studies also suggest some potential reasons why we appear to act irrationally according to the dictates of revealed-preference-utility-maximization. Subjective-well-being (SWB) polls also help to illustrate some of the absurdities of taking income per capita as our measure of the ultimate good. At the same time, a lot of things we surely care about are not reflected in SWB poll answers. Cross-country studies involving economies and societies at distinctly different levels of development suggest a limited role for income, rights, health and social factors all combined in explaining SWB. And all the usual criticisms of and concerns with utilitarianism apply to SWB polls. Polls do not capture a be-all and end-all measure of the good. Both because of the difficulty of interpreting SWB evidence with regard to SWB-maximizing policy and because it appears clear that SWB (on whichever measure) is probably not what we want to maximize, considerable caution is required in the use of such polls for policymaking.

Link to full text


Happiness should have greater role in development policy – UN Member States

The General Assembly today called on United Nations Member States to undertake steps that give more importance to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.

In a resolution adopted without a vote, the Assembly invited countries “to pursue the elaboration of additional measures that better capture the importance of the pursuit of happiness and well-being in development with a view to guiding their public policies.”

Read full article from UN News Centre



New Directions in Welfare Congress

This congress is jointly organised by the OECD, The Open University, Oxford University and Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and is addressed to economists, statisticians and policy-analysts. It builds on the event held last year at Oxford University and sponsored by the UK’s Government Economics Service to celebrate Amartya Sen’s 75th anniversary and his contributions to welfare economics.

The range of papers and topics will follow a similar pattern to the Oxford Conference which was attended by over 130 economists and generated a special issue of the Journal of Public Economics in honor of Professor Amartya Sen. The event will welcome contributions from theorists and empiricists alike who are interested in broadening our understanding of the economics of welfare which continues to flourish. Following work by Sen, Stiglitz and others that has helped to bring about the Sarkozy Report, the EU’s Beyond GDP memorandum and a number of other initiatives, the congress particularly welcomes papers relating to the theoretical or empirical economics of Health, Development, Social Policy, Environment, Labour, Education, Childhood, Aging, Migration, Culture, Happiness, Equality and Equity, Behavioural Economics and Life course issues – any area of economics, in fact, closely interested in understanding the economics of human welfare. Previously nearly a third of papers came from the following areas where there will again be strands: Social Choice, Utility Theory, Experimental Economics and Philosophical Foundations of Economic Theory.

This year’s congress will be opened by the OECD Secretary-General and will feature a policy-focused day comprising several roundtables, followed by two days of empirical and theoretical research presented by some 100 economic researchers from Europe and beyond. The first day will include presentations by OECD colleagues, the World Bank, EBRD, WHO and the EU on topics such as:

Broadening the Measurement of Economic Progress Opportunities for Improving Health and Health Services MDGs: Achievements and Challenges in Development. The overall focus will be on areas of economic analysis relating to national and international social and public policy agendas.

See more details New Directions in Welfare event article

See all video interviews from the event


ODI Mapping progress- evidence for a new development outlook

"We believe that by providing robust and accessible information on progress at national level, Development Progress Stories will offer lessons for policymakers and support the evidence base for continued international engagement." ODI Director, Dr Alison Evans.



The past two decades have delivered unprecedented progress and improvements in quality of life across the developing world. Poverty has fallen in most developing countries, and the number of low-income countries fell from 60 in 2003 to just 39 in 2009. Countries such as India and (particularly) China have managed to lift very large numbers of people out of extreme poverty. Progress has not been restricted to increases in income; many developing countries have also dramatically improved their access to vital services, such as education and health. Read more on the report

Media highlights from the ODI report release



(H)activate - developers producing web, SMS and smartphone solutions to change the world

H-activate developers produce wonders in a weekend (The Guardian Technology Blog 21.06.2011)

Over the course of just two days the developers involved in the hackathon produced web, SMS and smartphone solutions to change the world – and present at Activate on Wednesday. A gaggle of geeks descended on the Guardian's HQ at King's Cross on the weekend with a simple yet ambitious brief to develop ideas to change the world. And boy did they did deliver.

The two-day hackathon – organised by the Guardian and Rewired State as part of this year's Activate Summit, which celebrates the role web technologies play in shaping a better global future – saw developers from as far afield as the Netherlands, Germany, India and sub-Saharan Africa join forces with their domestic counterparts to build a range of apps for good... read more on the Guardian

(H)activate is part of the 2011 Guardian Activate Summit



United Nations Development Dialogue - the Millennium Development Goals

The United Nations General Assembly’s Development Dialogue held on Tuesday addressed the progress made toward achieving in 2015 Millennium Development Goals. Asha Rose Migiro, UN deputy secretary-general, addressed the Assembly stating 'We have a framework that will tell us where the money is coming from, where it is going, and how effectively it is being spent, the ability to track resources and results is critical for ensuring that all partners deliver on their commitments, and that we are achieving tangible progress in achieving our goals.' See a round up of media highlights below.



United Nations Report Declares Internet Access a Human Right

A United Nations report said Friday that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation and against international law. Included in the report is a section dedicated to protesting the blocking internet access to quell political unrest. 
Flag of the United Nations.png

While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, states have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

See more on the Threat Level Blog.

See the full report Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue



2011 Global Peace Index

The 2011 Global Peace Index (GPI), released today by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), shows a decline in levels of world peace for the third consecutive year. According to the GPI, levels of peacefulness in 2011 were most impacted by the threat of terrorist attack and the likelihood of violent demonstrations.

See also: Global Peace Index, Vision of Humanity website



The Economist online debate on Happiness

Join The Economist online debate 'This house believes that new measures of economic and social progress are needed for 21st-century economy.'
HappinessSmile.jpg
  • Defending the motion: Richard Layard

Emeritus Professor of Economics, London School of Economics
Surely the quality of life, as people experience it, has got to be a key measure of progress and a central objective for any government.


  • Against the motion: Paul Ormerod

Economist and author, "The Death of Economics"
Government attempts to increase measured happiness, rather than making life better for us, may well actually do the opposite.



United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries

UN opens forum on unlocking economic potential of world’s poorest countries (UN News Centre 09.05.2011)

A major United Nations conference aimed at devising a new strategy to help the world’s poorest countries unlock their economic potential and accelerate development opened today in Turkey, where of heads of State and senior officials from international organizations are among7,000 participants in attendance. The Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in Istanbul will assess the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action – the outcome document adopted at the last such conference, held in 2001 – and try to reach agreement on a new set of support measures for the 48 nations classifiedas LDCs.



Progress is education for all

Winners of the OECD's 50th Anniversary Video Competition have been annouced. The competition invited young people worldwide to create a short video describing their vision of Progress. 'Progress is Education for all' (video below) was voted number 1 by the public. See the top 3 videos and special mentions on the OECD 50th Anniversary Video Competition page.


Nic Marks on The Happiness Manifesto


Nic Marks gives a great talk at TEDx Danubia 2011. Nic Marks is the found of the Centre for Well-being at Nef (the New Economics Foundation). In his presentation he talks about various organisations and governments who are committed to measuring quality of life. Watch out for his mention of Wikiprogress!

How to inspire and enable people to help build a happier society together



'Action for Happiness' is a new movement launched on the 12th of April by 3 great progress thinkers, Lord Layard, Geoff Mulgan and Anthony Seldon. Due to the overwhelming response, the website for Action for Happiness is currently down. See a selection of news items on the movement below and full coverage in the Action for Happiness - Media Review article. We'll post the link here as soon as the site is up! You can also stay up to day by following the Action for Happiness Twitter account


More and more politicians are adopting the infant discipline of happiness economics - but they may face painful questions

The world's first membership organisation dedicated to spreading happiness is being officially launched.

A new organization is dedicated to the principle that money can't buy happiness — but individual acts of kindness can.


The inaugural United States Peace Index

Today the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) will launch the first ever United States Peace Index (USPI) that will rank 50 states
according to their peacefulness. The index aims to identify the key drivers of peace by state and will analyse the economic benefits of peace. In a statement from the IEP, the USPI ‘finds that a reduction in violence and crime could equate to billions of dollars in saved revenue.’
As the world’s largest economy, America is the ideal candidate to kick-start the planned series of national peace indices by the IEP and highlight potential economic and social gains from increasing levels of peace.
The national peace indices will build on the existing 149 national perspectives in the Global Peace Index. The Global Peace Index (GPI), which was launched by the IEP in 2007, ranks 149 countries based on 23 indicators of peace. The United States currently ranks85th on the GPI, with neighbours Canada ranking 14th and Mexico 107th.

Hans Rosling and the magic washing machine

China to Measure Happiness

We have created a media review of a variety of news items related to China's move to measure happiness. Two of the key articles are selected below, to see all items in the news review go to China to Measure Happiness - Media Review


The government introduces the country’s new mantra.

The pursuit of happiness, runs one of the most consequential sentences ever penned, is an unalienable right. That Jeffersonian sentiment seems to have influenced even China’s normally strait-laced, rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), which has just wrapped up its annual session. Increasing happiness, officials now insist, is more important than increasing GDP. A new five-year plan adopted at the meeting has been hailed as a blueprint for a “happy China”. The prime minister, Wen Jiabao, however, appeared downright miserable as he described the challenges he faces.



In a world of 7 billion people, who is most typical? National Geographic Special Report


See the 7 Billion focus on National Geographic.

There will soon be seven billion people on the planet. By 2045 global population is projected to reach nine billion. Can the planet take the strain?

Earths 7 billion are depicted by 7000 human figures each representing 1000 people.


UNICEF releases the State of the World's Children Report 2011

The latest Unicef state of the world's children report is out, with a special focus on adolescents. So, how do the world's teenagers compare? Children are unambiguously the focus of the millennium development goals (MDGs). But what happens when they grow up? This year, the United Nations Fund for Children (UNICEF) have dedicated their annual flagship report to the world's 1.2bn teenagers. "In the global effort to save children's lives, we hear too little about adolescence," says Anthony Lake, UNICEF's energetic new executive director. "Surely we do not want to save children in their first decade of life only to lose them in the second." The State of the World's Children 2011 produces a snapshot of what the world looks like for its billion-plus teenagers, 88 percent of which live in developing countries.
See Guardian article for more

See also

For In the Spotlight prior to 2011, see:

References

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