What to measure? Alternatives to GDP

What to measure? Alternatives to GDP

Day 1
14:00 – 15:45
Bastion 1+2


GDP as a sole measure of progress has been critiqued for a long time. In the last half century, from Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 proclaiming that GDP ‘measures everything except that which is worthwhile’, to the 1987 Brundtland Report which questioned the logic in measuring wealth and growth alone to the April 2012 UN Meeting on the measurement of progress, highlighting the importance of developing indicators that go ‘Beyond GDP’.

It is widely accepted that economic growth alone does not tell the whole story of a state, but what role does economic growth have? The UN Human Development Index (HDI) has gross national income (per capita) as a component of its measure. The Sustainable Development discourse widely promotes the three pillars of social, economic and environmental development. GDP remains a component of the OECD’s Well-Being index. But is there still too much focus on economic growth?

Newer measures, like the Happy Planet Index (HPI) of the New Economics Foundation, take economic growth out of the equation. The HPI uses environmental footprint, experienced well-being and life expectancy to create an index which ranks countries based on their efficiency in promoting well-lived years. The changing measures effect rankings. In 2012, Australia was #2 on the UN Human Development Index and #76 in the HPI.

How does measuring progress or development impact on resilience and governance decisions? This session will present cases that seek to shed light on that question.

The Cases:

Case 1: Annie Quick, a researcher in Wellbeing at the New Economics Foundation (NEF), will speak about the NEF’s Happy Planet Index as a case, and speak about how new measurement tools can influence policy and how civil society can take part in that process.

Case 2: Elise Huffer, from the Secretariat of Pacific Community will present a case study on the traditional economy as a source of resilience in Vanuatu, as well as a discussion of Vanuatu’s National Development Plan.Vanuatu was famously ranked #1 in the 2006 Happy Planet Index. To what extent does Vanuatu pursue economic growth? If growth as a policy priority has shifted, how has that impacted well-being and the environment? What role does culture play in their national development plan?

Case 3: A video presentation from Dr. Chetri Saamdu, the Executive Director of the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Centre in Bhutan will be played. Dr. Vandana Shiva, a member of the GNH Advisory
Committee will then join the discussion.


Annie Quick

Annie Quick Commonwealth People's Forum 2015 speakerAnnie joined NEF's Centre for Wellbeing as a Researcher in February 2014. Annie is particularly interested in how new measures of progress can be used to transform the way in which individuals and governments achieve positive change. She is also interested in economic and social interventions to reduce inequalities in wellbeing. Before joining NEF, Annie worked as a civil servant in the health inequalities unit at Public Health England, after completing an MSc in Health Services Research focusing on health inequalities. Annie also has a background in public participation and democracy, working at the think tank Involve, among other organisations.

Elise Huffer

Elise Huffer is the Culture Adviser in the Human Development Programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) based in Noumea, New Caledonia. In this position she is responsible for the promotion of culture in the Pacific Islands region. This entails implementation of model laws for the protection of traditional knowledge, the promotion of measures to assist the development of the arts and crafts sector (including the protection and promotion of natural resources the arts and crafts sectors depend on) and the promotion of cultural epistemology. The SPC covers 22 Pacific Islands Countries and Territories and works closely with member countries, the civil society sector and other governmental and non-governmental regional and international agencies.

From 1997-2007 she held positions as Associate Professor and Acting Director, Institute of Pacific Studies Publications/Pacific Studies Program, Pacific Institute of Advanced Studies in Development and Governance (PIAS-DG), at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. She was also in charge of IPS Publications, a publishing house specialised in the Pacific region which focused on presenting Pacific views and fostering Pacific writers and researchers.

Huffer's educational achievements include 1991 Ph.D. in Political Science, International Relations (July 1991), Highest honours with commendation of the jury, Universite d'Aix-Marseille III; 1988-1990 Research scholar, Institut de Recherche Scientifique pour Ie Developpement en Cooperation (ORSTOM), Noumea ; 1986 M.A. in Political Science with Honors. Universite de Toulouse; 1983 B.A. in Political Science, International Relations, Magna Cum Laude, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).