Each year the United Nations Development Program releases the Human Development Report.
The first report, released in 1990, highlighted important differences between economic growth and economic development, emphasizing (for a lot of reasons that we'll discuss in class) that national income measures (such as GDP) simply do not suffice as a measure of human well-being within a given nation.
UNDP essentially defines "development" as the improvement in people's options. Options for education, options for employment, options for health care, leisure, culture, political representation and so on... The basic idea is that more options in these facets of life translates to the ability to achieve an improved standard of living, but having more (less) money in a nation doesn't necessarily mean that people have more (less) options.
That first 1990 report provided a look back at historical development around the world since 1960, critically analyzed the state of human development around the world and suggested strategies for improvement in the future. Each year since then, the HDR provides an update since the last report, analysis and lessons learned, a lot of great statistics and a central theme.
Last year's theme (actually '07 & '08) was global climate change. In 2006 it was access to water. The theme for 2009 is migration.
These reports are extremely well-written and easy to follow and should prove to be valuable resources for our studies throughout the semester. Click here to access all Human Development Reports. Detailed reports by region and nation are also available.