Complements to GDP: What Values Guide Development?
Baha'i International Community Event
New York, 15 June 2023
Government representatives, UN officials, and civil society actors joined the Baha’i International Community (BIC) and the Coalition for the UN We Need to explore new ways to measure economic and social progress, beyond just the exchange of money for goods and services. The BIC also offered ideas and proposals on this theme with its perspective piece Complementing GDP, Proposed Paths Forward.
While acknowledging GDP’s many flaws, Daniel Perell, a BIC Representative to the United Nations, who authored the piece, said that simple and intuitive indicators can play a key role in facilitating the participation of large numbers of stakeholders in discussing societal challenges. Indicators also need to suit the challenges facing humanity today, Mr. Perell wrote.
This event, Complements to GDP: What Values Guide Development?, built on a policy brief (link is external) developed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, on ways of moving beyond gross domestic product (GDP) as a benchmark to measure progress.
“GDP doesn’t count things like environmental impact, biodiversity preservation or depletion, crime rates, or pay equality, which we measure, let alone things like social cohesion and care work, which we don’t,” Mr. Perell noted in opening remarks.
“We need to think about how we’re conceiving of success, even in our everyday lives,” he added.
Central to many interventions during the 90-minute event was the need for economic systems — and the indicators measuring them — to reflect a wide range of social necessities and goals, rather than material growth alone.
“One of the challenges in constructing a new economic narrative is to redefine what is meant by social and economic progress,” observed Ambassador Paula Narváez, from Chile.
“This redefinition implies a wiser understanding of the relationship between the economic productive sphere and the well-being of the human spirit.”
Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the UN Statistics Division and co-author of the Complements to GDP policy brief, outlined areas that should be measured by any indicator seeking to augment GDP as identified by a recent UN proposal (link is external). These included well-being and agency, respect for life and the planet, reduced inequalities and greater solidarity, participatory governance and stronger institutions, innovative and ethical economies, and movement from vulnerability to resilience.
“The economy is not an end, but a means,” Schweinfest said, referring to the broader outcomes he mentioned in his remarks
The event, outcomes from which were captured in a summary of key findings, was the ninth in a series leading up to the proposed Summit of the Future in 2024. The next will explore links between the Sustainable Development Goals Summit taking place this October and the Summit of the Future.
Last updated 20 June 2023