Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia: Changing the Way Progress is Measured in the South Pacific

1 Sep 2010

The Republic of Vanuatu has begun the process of testing alternative indicators of well-being which reflect Melanesian values. These specially tailored indicators modify the existing progressive measures accepted internationally by governments and aid agencies in order to better track the factors that contribute to ni-Vanuatu wellbeing. The indicators focus on factors not currently captured by the Human Development Index or accounted for within the Millennium Development Goals— factors including free access to land and natural resources, community vitality, family relationships, and culture.

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The almost universal use of GDP-based indicators to measure progress has helped justify policies based on rapid material progress at the expense of more holistic criterion. Because it is a crude measure of only the cash value of activities or production, GDP is heavily biased towards increased production and consumption regardless of the necessity or desirability of such outputs. Policies developed with regard only to increasing per-capita GDP can have negative, and potentially disastrous, impacts on other factors contributing to life quality.

The development and use of alternative indicators of well-being is past due. Indicators drive society in certain directions and even determine the policy agendas of governments. Not only decision makers, but ordinary citizens tend to take social or economic programs at face-value and accept proposed policy implementation without examining the ultimate values underlying those programs. The Alternative Indicators of Well-Being for Melanesia project aims to bridge that gap and enable the countries of island Melanesia to develop in accordance with the expressed needs of their populations.


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