salvaris - Democracy happiness and progress measurement1...

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Democracy, happiness and progress measurement 1 Adj Professor Mike Salvaris School of Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University, Melbourne Third International Conference on Gross National Happiness 22-28 November 2007, Bangkok, Thailand Introduction (Slide 2) 2 ‘Human advance is conditioned by our conception of progress’. Over a decade ago, the UN Development Program called for an end to what it described as ‘the mismeasurement of progress by economic growth alone’. It recognised that a new and ‘more legitimate’ paradigm must be ‘people centred, equitably distributed and environmentally and socially sustainable’. The term ‘more legitimate’ is crucial. The way we define and measure social progress is an issue of fundamental importance for democracy – and for human rights and good governance. Democracy and progress measurement are connected in at least five different w a ys . First, how we define and measure progress officially and in public policy has a major impact on the lives of citizens and the development and priorities of nations and communities; in a democracy these collective decisions should be made democratically. Secondly, democracy, human rights and good governance are themselves an integral part of the idea and the meaning of progress and they therefore should be measured in their own right. Social progress means in part improving democracy and human rights. Third, the quality and effectiveness of democracy and human rights in a society is one of the key drivers of the wellbeing of its citizens. Societies which are stronger in democracy and human rights, and are well governed, will achieve better general 1 This paper is a revised version of a paper presented at the OECD Global Conference on ‘Measuring and Defining the Progress of Societies’, Istanbul, June 2007. It includes new sections on democracy and subjective wellbeing, and a proposed international collaborative project. 2 Bracketed items refer to relevant slide in Power Point presentation, below.
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2 wellbeing for their citizens; and conversely, participation and inclusion in democratic processes is itself likely to increase the happiness and wellbeing of citizens. Fourth, progress and wellbeing indicators are an extremely powerful tool for good democratic governance, especially in improving planning, evaluation, transparency and accountability. (Slide 3) Finally, we know that engaging citizens in developing the goals and measures of progress, whether for a community or a nation, is itself an important way to strengthen democratic process. It is one of the answers to the pervasive modern problem of democratic disengagement and alienation; it may even be part of a new form of democracy. Certainly the scale at which community and citizen driven progress and sustainability
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