Public Release:  UN-­backed symposium: Beyond Gross Domestic Product -- transitioning into sustainability

Major changes needed in global ­economic measurement

Malaysian Industry ­Government Group for High Technology

Enlarging the world's perspective on economic progress with social and environmental indicators is the focus of "Beyond GDP: Transitioning into Sustainability," a UN­-backed high level symposium open to the public May 19 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (12.30 ­ 4.20 pm, Grand Ballroom, Hilton Hotel).

Organized by the UN University-­hosted International Human Dimensions Programme (UNU-IHDP) based in Bonn, Germany, together with the Malaysian Industry ­Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), and in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Environment and the Sime Darby Foundation, the symposium will be an innovative, interactive gathering of the public, researchers, academics, government officials and international experts. More than 500 attendees are expected. It will foster greater attention to, understanding of and involvement in setting the foundations for a new, more comprehensive way to measure economic wealth ­­ beyond Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The failure of indices such as GDP and the Human Development Index (HDI) to capture and reflect the full wealth of a country and changes in natural or "nature-­based" assets and human well-­being has come under growing scrutiny as their limitations may in part be fuelling environmental decline and degradation. While many economies appear to get wealthier, it often happens often at the expense of the natural capital base.

Measuring well-­being, many experts now say, requires a shift from conventional production indicators to metrics that incorporate non­-economic markets­-based aspects of well-­being, including sustainability issues and natural capital, such as forests; produced capital, such as roads and factories; and human capital, including levels of education, knowledge, and creativity.

New research has begun to show that people often value non­-material wealth just as highly, if not more, than monetary wealth.

Moreover, as countries develop, there are diminishing returns to quality of life from economic output - indeed, the relationship becomes increasingly contentious and questionable. Growing inequality within and across nations is becoming a force for social tension and conflict in developing and developed countries alike, where calls grow for a more equal society and sustainability in a world of human­-driven climate change and losses of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

UNU-IHDP and the UN Environment Programme have led development of the Inclusive Wealth Index, debuted at the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero.

A new, internationally-comprehensive Inclusive Wealth Report (IWR), including a major focus on human capital in national account measurement, will by released in Nagoya Japan in November. A two-day IWR experts' workshop and half-day IWR Science Committee Meeting will precede the May 19 public symposium.

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The public symposium agenda, online at http://ihdp.unu.edu/file/download/11677, includes the debut of a UNU-IHDP video featuring the perspective of people from a variety of economic and geographical backgrounds.

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