International Centre for Human Development's (Shimla) fellowship programme hopes to ready mid-career professionals from the Global South to be able to analyse critical development issues

They come from diverse countries in the Global South, but their aim is common – to identify the most critical development issues and learn how to tackle them. Yes, these are the fellows from Shimla’s International Centre for Human Development (IC4HD) that was set up last January with an aim to boost India’s soft power among countries in the Global South and share skill sets of research in human development.

It was a first-of-its-kind venture in India and a result of a partnership among the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla, in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The centre’s focus is on identifying critical human developmental issues of under-privileged countries of the vast region. Gradually, it will act as a catalyst in the holistic growth of these nations. IC4HD has now launched a human development fellowship programme.

According to Professor Chetan Singh, director of IIAS, the fellowship aims to encourage mid-career professionals from different Southern countries to analyse critical development issues from the human development perspective, promote South-South learning and share expertise.

In its initial project mode, four fellows from Bhutan, and one each from Cambodia and Laos People’s Democratic Republic have joined the programme. The theme for 2013 is ‘Social Security in the South’.

The work done by the fellows will be compiled into a journal published by IIAS. The budget for three years is Rs. 36 crore and the fellowship will run for three to nine months. Various seminars and workshops will be organised across the country for the international fellows.

“The IC4HD project is an investment for the country. India is one of the few countries which are able to do a systematic study on Human Development Index. China and India were competing against each other in UNDP to establish the centre. India was successful in bagging the opportunity,” Prof. Singh said, reiterating that setting up such a centre is a social, economical, political and diplomatic move which will bring South-South closeness and strengthen the cultural and emotional bonds.

Twenty-six-year-old Kan Ponhrith from Cambodia said, “This fellowship was the first opportunity for the people of Cambodia to participate in human development research on an international level. I want to learn from India and share what I bring from my country.”

The centre will offer policy advisory services to national governments, civil societies and other stakeholders and will support national and sub-national governments in mainstreaming human development.

Oudone Maniboung (40), who works for the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Laos, is researching on the need to expand disabled persons’ choices, social security measures, inclusion, social and economic participation. “Perhaps, my research will be one of the first studies on the measures to enhance livelihood of persons with disability,” he said.

Tshering Wangmo (31), currently working in Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission, is conducting an analysis of availability and access of social protection to vulnerable groups. “India and Bhutan shares very friendly relations and my stay in India has strengthened my emotional bond with the people of India,” said Ms. Wangmo.