On March 7, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development Charles Kenny in Washington addressed faculty and students in a lecture titled “Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding.”
In his lecture, Kenny, who recently published the book Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding - And How We Can Improve the World Even More, discussed the alternatives to using economic indicators to measure development.
Kenny began his lecture by comparing the experiences of the “dismal” explorer Mungo Park in West Africa to those of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in North America.
According to Kenny, Park's exploits were wrought with dysentery and malaria while Lewis and Clark's were relatively unimpeded.
“This is important to the dominant model of economic development,” he said. “In places that were healthy, people stayed around, bred and prospered … they set up institutions and made a living there.”
“It's all a bit of a depressing story, really. For centuries and centuries countries are on the wrong side of development,” Kenny said. “The good news is that this can't be the whole story.”
Kenny then discussed the several measures of quality of life that indicate improvements in modern global development: life expectancy, education, liberty and instances of violence.
“The world has changed on all these matters dramatically,” Kenny said.
According to Kenny, the infant mortality rate for rich and poor countries historically was one in three. Recently released infant mortality rate averages indicate that now one in every 20 children die before their first birthday.
“For the first time in history, almost every child will complete primary education,” he said.
According to Kenny, significant improvements have also been made toward gender equality in the academic arena.
“There has also been a global trend towards liberty,” Kenny said. “There have never been this many people in the world as today living in liberty.”
Kenny cited the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a means of ensuring increased liberty.
Kenny said that increases in global life expectancy should be attributed to simple vaccination programs and oral rehydration therapy.
“Oral rehydration therapy is one of the greatest gifts to humankind over the past century,” he said.
Though Kenny said that he acknowledged the question of environmental sustainability caused by modernization of the developing world, he said that the real issue is “not about consumption, it's about distribution.”
“I think the future will look brighter and brighter,” he said. “It is still a great time to be alive, the greatest time ever to be alive.”