Jo Beall

Antonio Vigilante

Professor Nabeel Hamdi

Sheela Patel




The LSE in conjunction with DFID held a one-day colloquium entitled REMOVING UNFREEDOMS - SHIFTING THE PARADIGMS OF DEVELOPMENT. The Development Management Programme at the Development Studies Institute (DESTIN) hosted this event at the London School of Economics with the participation of Professor Amartya Sen and Professor Lord Meghnad Desai from the LSE.

The colloquium had been convened to further inform and invite responses from both those who formulate and implement policies and those who promote and engage with change at the grassroots level. It brought together academics, international development agencies and NGO's to discuss the relevance of this new thinking and possibly to help formulate a common overarching freedom framework which could include and go beyond existing development goals.

It would appear that our understanding and the goals of 'development' keep changing. Between the 1970's and 1990's the rallying point for the international development agencies was "poverty reduction". Since then this UNDP-led approach has been diversified to include other frameworks such as rights-based and sustainable livelihoods approaches. These have become central for understanding development.

In 1998 Amartya Sen's seminal work "Development as Freedom" was recognised by the Nobel committee as a fundamental new paradigm that defined new goals for development.

Sen views development as a process of expanding the real freedoms that relate to each individual's well-being and the freedom to lead the kind of life they value leading.

Sen evaluates societal arrangements in terms of their contribution to enhancing and guaranteeing the substantive freedoms of individuals viewed as active agents of change, rather than passive recipients of dispensed benefits.

This freedom-centred understanding of economics and of the process of development explicitly recognises the positive role of free and sustainable individual agency.

"Freedom is the primary end as well as the means to development"

Is this just another shift in the goals of development and can the means and ends of development coincide? Does this Freedom perspective give an entirely new meaning to development and its place in our aspirations for the 21st century?

In October 2002 a discussion paper and film interview with Professor Amartya Sen was presented by Romi Khosla, at the UN-World Habitat Day in Brussels entitled Removing Unfreedoms, Citizens as the Agents of Change. The paper proposed the potential of a shared International Freedom Framework for Urban Development (see UN-Habitat Discussion paper) HERE

Research with expert development consultants continued in preparation of a workshop with members of National Slum Dwellers Federation, Manila Milan and Society for Promotion of Area Resource Centres (SPARC) in Mumbai, India.
The UN advisor, Romi Khosla introduced Sen's Freedom Approach to the colloquium with an overview of the proposed freedom development framework, and new evalutions. He isolated the key goal to Sen's development approach as the freedom to enable citizens to lead the kind of life they value leading. The success or obstrucitons would be made observable through assessment of the five freedom framework by NGO's and evaluators to International government donors and institutions. He compared Sen's freedom approach to DFID Livelihoods and the Rights approach before focusing on the practical implications and ground reality of project design and implementation in the reivtialisation of urban settlements.

Jane Samuels then introduced the project research that focused on exploring the success of Mahila Milan, the Women's Saving Group and the International Slum Dwellers Federations, applying the tools of a shared Urban Freedom Framework. The Mahila Milan are an example of community led development initiatives now replicated and functioning across 50 cities in India and in 11 countries.

The research focused on the interactions that take place in the process of daily savings that appear to address a wide range of development concerns. Even so the members of the Mahila Milan daily savings group are, for the most part illiterate and operate exclusively in the oral domain of communication. They do not monitor their own evaluations by written reporting. The development method is founded on trust formed purely in verbal agreements and arrangements that form the collective federations.

The findings of the research were presented to the LSE colloquium by Jane Samuels who concluded her presentation with the opinion that the success of the Mahila Milan would be made more observable through the proposed adoption of a shared international Freedom Framework. The sucesses could then be communicated both vertically and horizontally to the other Federations, NGO's and to external evaluators reporting to donor and international government agencies.

The colloquium then invited specific responses from Jockin, the director of the International Slum Federation, ISDF, Sheela Patel from Sparc, the NGO supporting the work of ISDF, and Antonio Vigilante from the United Nations Human Development Office in Cairo.

Other speakers included both Jeremy Holland from the Centre for Development Studies in Swansea who was asked to speak on DFID's Right's Approach, and Jo Beall from LSE who discussed the comparisons between the Livelihoods approach and Sen's Freedom Approach. The event was chaired by Michael Mutter.

The second part of the day comprised participatory discussions that introduced the dynamic World Café to ensure all contributions would be heard, followed by the final afternoon session where key questions and concerns from the earlier discussions were engaged with in-depth responses from both Professor Amartya Sen and Lord Meghnad Desai.

All the papers, discussions and responses including that of Professor Amartya Sen and Lord Meghnad Desai have been transcribed and are accessible here in pdf files.  


Prof Amartya Sen

Romi Khosla

Michael Mutter

Jane Samuels

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