Development is the process of making life better for people living in a country or region. This can involve changing social structures, improving economic systems or introducing new health and sanitation services, for example.
Development can be defined in different ways, and its meaning has been subject to controversy over the years. It is often seen as a broad term that encompasses change of the human condition, but it can also refer to specific policy objectives and performance indicators.
It may be a slow, gradual or abrupt process.
Continuity or discontinuity of human development is the question that many developmental theorists struggle with. Some assume that everyone passes through a set of stages in the same order and with a similar character, while others believe that a variety of pathways and patterns can be observed depending on the particular cultural, historical, and societal contexts under which development takes place.
A more complex understanding of human development is necessary to explain why some places experience dramatic improvements in life expectancy and income while others do not. These differences in life outcomes are driven by a range of factors including, but not limited to, economic policy, the availability of resources such as food and energy, political instability, natural disasters and long-term conflict.
A key challenge for development is to find a way to address the needs of all of society and not just those in a particular area. This requires an emphasis on equality and fairness, a respect for diverse collective identities, processes of political and economic decentralisation and strengthening of indigenous traditions and institutions.