Investing in the Human Person

The World Youth Alliance supports the work of the Commission on Population and Development in their efforts to promote the human person as the central subject of development. The World Youth Alliance recognizes that all persons have intrinsic dignity; it is this dignity that provides the basis for all human rights. This reality should drive and order the work that is pursued here, and precipitate the question, “How can we best serve the needs of the human person?” Only with a full understanding of the human person, with his or her physical, mental, spiritual, social and emotional needs, can we pursue policies that lead to integral human development.

With this as our foundation, it is clear that authentic human development begins with investment in the human person. What does it mean to invest in the human person? This can only be accomplished within a holistic paradigm that respects the dignity and complexity of each human being. It begins by investing in the things that human beings need for fulfillment and productivity; the most basic of these are healthcare and education.

Adequate healthcare promotes a healthy population and is essential to the ability of a person to live up to their potential. Women’s access to health care is a key indicator of development, impacting both maternal and child health. High maternal and infant death rates are indicative of social and medical failure, and each death has a devastating impact on the family, the community, and economic and social development. Women should be able to live happy, flourishing lives; however maternal health policies that focus primarily on family planning do not ensure healthy pregnancies and deliveries. These are ensured through investment in skilled birth attendants, prenatal and postnatal care and provision of health education for women and families.

Education addresses the intellectual and social needs of the human person; it is one of the most important means of empowering persons with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence necessary to participate fully in the development process. Investing in the human person through education is a multi-dimensional task. It not only entails an adequate educational system with trained, uncorrupt teachers but also the elimination of barriers which prevent attendance, especially for the girl child. Investment in infrastructure, including roads and means of transportation, fosters student access. Systems should be developed to retain boys and girls in school, such as adequate record-keeping and provision of hygiene supplies for adolescent girls as they begin menstruation.

Investment in the human person fosters integral human development and thus greater economic and social flourishing. Educated, healthy persons enter the labor force at a higher level and are retained longer, leading to greater economic productivity. When persons have their basic needs met and are equipped through education, they can invest their time in intellectual, social, and cultural activities. The human person, with his or her capacity and creativity, can develop new ways of engaging the world, effecting areas of resource management, distribution and sustainability. Healthy and educated parents can raise healthy future generations, perpetuating societal and economic growth. The promotion of healthcare and education is not only critical to achieving authentic, sustainable development, but more importantly is fitting to the dignity of persons. The World Youth Alliance recognizes that human dignity and a holistic understanding of the person is the only foundation on which appropriate and effective programs and policies can be developed.

WYA Declaration on Population and Economics

New York, March 2011

We are young people of diverse ethnic, religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds from every region of the world. Many of us are from the developing world, which has large, young populations capable of innovation and creativity, a driver of economic growth. Some of us are from the developed world, which currently has lower fertility rates, ageing populations and in some cases stalled economic growth. As young people, we are concerned about the relationship between population and economic prosperity. A proper understanding of this relationship is necessary in order to propose policies that will reduce poverty and lead to both human and economic flourishing.

The economy is the system of production and management of material wealth in a given society. Proper social and cultural development is a necessary condition for, rather than a result of, a thriving economy. When societies are built upon respect for human dignity and the family, sustainable economic growth follows, demonstrating that cultural and human capital are the primary resources driving overall human development.

The intangibility of human capital makes the relationship between population and economics complex. The potential of the human person to generate wealth using knowledge, skills and creativity is unique and reflects an aspect of human dignity. Therefore, investing in the human person, in a climate of freedom and respect, leads to integral human development and economic growth. Investing in the human person requires investing in healthcare and education, as healthy and educated persons can reach their potential in the workplace, engage civilly and raise healthy families, thus contributing to the economy. A society that recognizes, supports, and encourages the value of occupations that respect human dignity, including informal care-giving, allows for the maximization of human capital and economic growth.

Since human capital is our most important resource, responsible stewardship is a necessary condition of sustainable economic development. Population management programs categorize human beings, especially vulnerable populations, as burdens instead of essential participants in long-term economic development. The premise that fixed resources and equitable distribution require fewer individuals is not only flawed but inconsistent with human dignity. Population management programs ignore the real causes of economic growth: anti-corruption policies, protection of basic human rights, access to education and investment in infrastructure.

Human capital is first and best developed within the family, the basic unit of society. It is within the family that children first understand their dignity, realize their potential and are prepared to be responsible agents of economic and social development. We recognize that both the role of the mother and the father are significant to the child’s development. Civil society, governments, and international institutions can play an important role in the development of human capital by creating supportive environments in which families thrive.

We call on civil society, governments and international institutions to invest in the human person, and to work with us to build societies which foster economic and human flourishing.