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Carlos Acosta Bermudez
Economic affairs officer, UNECA
Ethiopia, 27-03-2015

Promoting Inclusiveness[1]

In the words of a British mathematical physicist and engineer, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), “if we can’t measure it then we don’t know it”. Therefore , one of the  most important steps in the path towards inclusion is the capacity  to correctly assess and address the determinants of exclusion, while ensuring that  success is measured by overall improved wellbeing of people and not only by economic performance and growth.

In this sense, strengthening the capacity to measure the progress towards inclusive development should be a priority of development cooperation. A key element of this effort is to promote and adopt a common framework to establishing a clear, measurable criteria for inclusiveness.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is proposing a paradigm for inclusive development (ECA, 2014) based on the premise that exclusion has particular manifestations at different stages of a person’s life. This paradigm, referred to as Human Exclusion, is built on the understanding that the risk of being excluded is not static but rather dynamic, and that countries need to adopt and implement policies that address the key dimensions of exclusion to help reduce the particular vulnerabilities faced by individuals in a lifetime.

Utilizing a life-cycle approach, the Human Exclusion paradigm proposes six phases of the life cycle and their corresponding dimensions of exclusion give a clear understanding of the minimum requirements that people should enjoy from an inclusive economy to bring about inclusive development, as follow:

(i)                           Child survival [birth to 27 days] ,

(ii)                        Early child nutrition (28 days to 5 years),

(iii)                      Youth literacy (6 to 14 years),

(iv)                      Youth employment (15 to 24 years),

(v)                        Household poverty (25-60 years) and

(vi)                      Life Expectancy after 60 (60+ years).

The African Social Development Index (ASDI) brings together these dimensions and provides a historical analysis of progress, and facilitates a policy mapping exercise of the determinants that were successful in improving people’s lives. Additionally, the index provides information on the gender aspects, as well an urban/rural implication of strategies that promote inclusiveness.

There is an important capacity building and cost effectiveness component of this process of measuring inclusivity. The implementation of the ASDI is led by the planning and economic agencies of development in each country, as is based on data that is mostly available through the regular surveys that are being implemented in each country. Experts from ECA facilitate training and support data, as well as ensure cross-fertilization of the knowledge generated in the region.

Focusing on the impact of exclusion on people’s wellbeing, as opposed to coverage and infrastructure, helps to provide a better understanding of the issues, thus identifying policy interventions in particular sectors and areas based on the life cycle model.  A comprehensive development policy should look to establish the proportion of population that is being excluded and set targets to achieve their inclusion. This life cycle approach to human exclusion also exposes gaps in the social protection and welfare systems that should be in place to enhance equity.

Achieving inclusive growth and development is not simply about increasing the size of national economies but, learning and shaping enduring opportunities that take the rights of individuals into consideration. The global and regional frameworks such as the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the AU Agenda 2063, offer an opportunity to move the focus economic growth to a higher emphasis on decent jobs, reduced inequality and improved social outcomes.


[1] This opinion piece is prepared by Carlos Acosta Bermudez, from the Social Development Policy Division of ECA, with contributions from Semia Guermas Tapia and Jack Jones Zulu, as part of the consultation on how to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda for trade and international cooperation.

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Promoting inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation

This contribution is part of a consultation for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on how to promote inclusiveness in the Dutch policy agenda on trade and international cooperation.
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