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Concept Note: Freedom

Zhanaiym Kozybay


Freedom is a key attribute to human development theories, including Integral Human Development and the Capability Approach, yet is lacking a clear and comprehensive definition. This paper will juxtapose core ideas of both Integral Human Development approach as a part of Catholic Social Teaching, and the Capability Approach, which has been the backbone of the UNDP human development index, to compile a definition of freedom. The paper has two goals: first, to glean a common definition of freedom based on two approaches, and second, dispel the common misconception of freedom as the absence of influence and limits to one’s actions. The misconstrued definition of freedom has been detrimental to human development and hence needs to be replaced by a working definition in theory and practice. The state of the global pandemic and economic crisis may further push the misunderstood destructive freedom. There are an urgent need and a great opportunity to restructure global tendencies, both individual and societal, towards sustainable human development. A proper definition of freedom is a first step to restructure the mindsets to inform action.


“Freedom” is wanted, since it is implied that it is inherently “good”. When asked for the meaning of freedom the first thought is usually what the person wants: how the person wants to be free or from what. An adolescent girl forced to enter an arranged marriage might define freedom as freedom from the marriage. A prisoner might define freedom as being out of prison. A teenager might define freedom “to do whatever I want and whenever I want”. Freedom is inherently subjective. The second matter is how to obtain freedom. Whom should I ask or what should I do to obtain freedom? For the girl, it is parents and society, for the prisoner, it is prison guards and judges, and for the teenager it is parents. If freedom can be granted by someone who has more power, or rather has power over a particular person, it follows that freedom is the absence of power or control over the person. The third matter is how much freedom is enough. Does the girl want to run away from home and never see her parents and the society wherein she was raised? Does the prisoner want the absence of laws and courts or just termination of the prison sentence? Does the teenager want to live alone with no “power over” by the parents and hence no support? These interpretations of freedom, however, seem to be missing a crucial point—being what is the purpose of freedom, or is there any to begin with?

Freedom is a “wanted good” with implied assured happiness. But, if the prisoner’s subjective happiness is the absence of laws and impunity, others’ freedoms are endangered. How does the prisoner know if the absence of laws and impunity is the authentic freedom that will provide maximum happiness? Is there better freedom that can provide more happiness and satisfaction that will not limit others’ freedoms? Can subjective individual freedoms coexist with no conflict? Is there a universal definition of freedom that facilitates subjective needs? Integral Human Development (IHD) posits a vision of freedom that involves the well-being of every person. Authentic freedom, understood through an IHD lens, involves understanding, recognizing, and strengthening the interrelationships one has with others, the Earth, and oneself. The Capability Approach supports this definition by providing a framework to evaluate how substantive freedoms are formed to contribute to well-being.

I. Integral Human Development and Freedom

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom is a responsibility. Following Catholic Social Teaching and an Integral Human Development approach, freedom can be understood in light of the concept of human dignity. For Catholic Social Teaching, human beings’ universal dignity is attributed to their being “imago dei,” or created in the image and likeness of God. Dignity is reflected in persons’ capacity to steward creation and to exercise reason, reflective of the Divine reason. Biblical texts indicate that humans were created in God’s image to make them capable of “the dominion over the world”—the responsible management of all the resources to ensure the development of full human dignity for all (Tongeren 159). Human dignity is “a very high vocation” gifted by God to all humankind with the divine command to learn about and take care of the Earth (Stabile 8; Tongeren 157).

Human dignity manifests in the mind—the ability to reason, conscience—the capacity for and pursuit of morality, and freedom— “autonomy or the power of self-determination through choices” (Sison et al. 4). While human dignity is a source of freedom, it is also the end goal of freedom. Basic human dignity —the ability to think, the ability to judge right and wrong, and the ability to act based on free will—is universal. Full human dignity, however, is developed based on basic human dignity via answering the divine commandment of God to pursue integral human development, which is the development of human dignity for all (Sison et al. 5).

Full human dignity is available for everyone, yet is not universally achieved due to the abuse of freedom (ibid). In other words, humanity has been given the tools and resources to develop “each and whole person” to achieve full human dignity, yet has been failing to do so due to the misuse of freedom. Tongeren (160) emphasizes that human dignity is not “a license for unrestrained self-enrichment and uninhibited exploitation of nature”, but rather a responsibility entrusted to humankind by God. Benedict XVI contends that integral human development is a vocation, therefore it entails “a free assumption of responsibility in solidarity on the part of everyone” (Turkson 205). Hence, freedom in Integral Human Development and Catholic Social Teaching is a free choice of responsibility, while irresponsible squandering of freedom is a waste of human dignity, thus not authentic freedom but an abuse of freedom. The capacity for freedom is a reminder of the divine task rather than a one-time gift with no expectations of reciprocity. Freedom is an expression of agency, an ability to make autonomous choices and act on them. It entails accountability for God’s gift, therefore, only responsible freedom— “not spontaneously following the particular interest but rather determining oneself knowingly and voluntarily for the good and truth that man finds in himself”—grants genuine autonomy and dignity (Lazaro 107).

Freedom, The Common Good, and Subsidiarity

Freedom is a means to an end, and not the ultimate end. The end is human dignity for all, that is the development of each and whole person (Lazaro 107). The complementary principles that guide freedom to human dignity are common good, subsidiarity, and solidarity (Sison et al. 3, Stabile 8; Tongeren 155; Wodka 22). The principle of common good “stems from dignity, unity, and equality of all people”, and is described as “the sum total of the social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more easily” (Sison et al 6). Individual flourishing is possible only through the flourishing of others (ibid; Stabile 9). For instance, in a class full of diverse individuals, who are flourishing, that is, immersed in creative learning, the classmates are reinforcing each other’s learning and development. For this collective and individual flourishing to happen, there needs to be a school, a really good teacher, good parents, and a society that prioritizes creative education and has the resources to use them efficiently. Individuals must use freedom to create an enabling environment for positive feedback loops, where everyone has the freedom to achieve full human dignity. In other words, political and social institutions must be built by people for people so that everyone has equal and maximized opportunities for individual self-fulfillment that eventually feeds others’ fulfillment.

Subsidiarity emphasizes the role of “higher-order entities” such as the government that must facilitate agency and autonomy of “lower-order entities” such as civil society in their capacity to the responsible exercise of freedom (Sison et al. 6; Stabile 10). Solidarity connects the common good and subsidiarity. It is a code of conduct for using the freedom to pursue the common good via subsidiarity. The principle of solidarity highlights “the intrinsic social nature of the human person, the equality of all in dignity and rights and the common path of individuals and peoples towards an ever more committed unity” (Sison et al. 7). That is, everyone is equal in dignity and rights, hence should be treated accordingly. Equality of dignity and rights is to be strived for. Biblical texts emphasize that solidarity is not a feeling of compassion or pity towards the deprived individuals and peoples, but a “firm and persevering determination” to pursue common good (Sison et al. 7). Thus, freedom’s authentic purpose is to strive for social and environmental justice, where each and whole individuals reinforce each other’s development in a shared enabling environment.

Freedom is inherently altruistic. For one person to develop full human dignity and flourish, others must flourish also: “For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates to others, he can never live nor develop his potential” (Sison et al. 5). Tongeren (161) sees the divine assignment in two: first, the humankind must take care of the Earth and all creatures on it responsibly as God would; second, individuals must respect human dignity in each other. The respect for others’ dignity is active, not passive: “Everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity” (Sison et al. 5). That is, responsible management of the Earth and all creatures on it assures an abundance of resources for sustenance of human dignity for all, and by actively pursuing the others’ human dignity as if your own, the humankind achieves collective flourishing, that is, integral human development.

Despite the emphasis on individual human dignity and development of “each and whole person”, Catholic Social Teaching recognizes that for individuals to have equal and adequate opportunities to thrive the social institutions must be efficient (Stabile 8). Individual freedoms are limited in impact, while the capacity of freedom can be increased by social institutions. Individual good deeds are not enough. Social institutions must facilitate efficient collaboration among individual freedoms to maximize impact.

Relational and social dimensions (Sison et al. 4) to human dignity and development are recognized in both directions: individuals build social institutions, and social institutions form individuals. Individuals have the “right and duty” to participate in economic, political, social, and cultural settings of their community striving for the common good, hence forming efficient institutions (Sison et al. 6). Misuse of individual freedoms creates inefficient social institutions that breed decay, further spreading misuse of individual freedoms. It is a vicious cycle that can be made positive. The majority of individual misuse of freedom or inability to exercise freedom stems from social problems, which “must be addressed by community networks and not simply by the sum of individual good deeds” (Tine 30). Thus, freedom must be targeted towards maximizing human dignity for others, which in turn maximizes the person’s dignity. Social institutions have the role to provide a framework for individual freedoms to work in positive feedback loops, enforcing each other.

II. Integral Human Development and the Capability Approach

Freedom and Integral Well-being

“Freedom” in Integral Human Development and “freedom” in the Capability Approach share a common conceptualization. Both approaches reflect a human-centered design and criticize other approaches focused on GDP growth or unemployment rates as short-sighted and misguided indicators for development.

The Integral Human Development examines how an overvaluing of economic growth results in social and environmental injustices incongruent with human dignity. The “well-rounded” development of “each and whole” person goes beyond economic development (Deneulin 275). The development of “each” person is straightforward: every person’s development is required and should be considered in evaluating development. That is if economic growth led to the development of some, yet in the decline of others, that should not be considered as development.

“Well-rounded” or development of “the whole person” refers to a combination of economic, social, political, and spiritual dimensions to development (Keleher 31). That is, a person might be financially affluent, yet not have access to education or political participation. A person might have a job, yet the conditions might be less than satisfactory for human dignity to flourish. Hence, economic growth indicators such as GDP growth or unemployment rates are not indicative of integral human development. However, Integral Human Development’s emphasis on shared human dignity requires more than the multidimensional development of each person: “...not only that the poor are relieved of their poverty, but that the poor and the rich stand together in a relationship of solidarity as members of the human family” (Keleher 31).

It is not sufficient if everyone has developed in economic, social, and cultural aspects, there must be shared solidarity that goes beyond pity for the deprived or polite greetings with your neighbor, but active recognition and determination to act on the human dignity of others—recognition of one’s human dignity in others (ibid).

The Capability Approach echoes these concerns. Criticizing the utilitarian and welfarist approaches to development, Amartya Sen introduced the Capability Approach, which evaluates well-being based on capabilities rather than Rawlsian primary goods or utilities (“Equality of what?” 219). He defines freedom as capabilities— “freedom to achieve actual livings that one can have reason to value” (Development as Freedom 73).

For instance, the girl mentioned in the introduction values a living of not being forced into a marriage or rather having veto power in whom, when, and if she marries. Her income level or education level may tangentially affect her freedom, yet is not evaluative of the freedom itself. Sen argues that instead of focusing on income level or even education level, her freedom—capability to achieve the lifestyle she values—should be the ultimate end and metric. Capability, in this case, is not only to be able to choose a husband but more comprehensively “the freedom to achieve various lifestyles” (Development as Freedom 75). In other words, the greater freedom she has to choose whom to be, say, a pilot, a chemical engineer, or the president of the United States—the greater is her capability set. The freedom to choose—having the access to these lifestyles that she has reason to value—matters, rather than the result. That is, the result for a fasting priest and a starving man is the same—lack of nutrition, yet the former has the capability to be well-nourished, but the latter does not (ibid).

Being a pilot or the president of the United States, being well-fed and well-clothed are all “functionings” while having access to achieve these functionings is the capabilities (ibid). The more functionings are in the “capability set”—the active pool to choose from—the greater is the person’s freedom. Hence, Sen defines development as the expansion of capabilities: “Expanding the freedoms that we have reason to value not only makes our lives richer and more unfettered, but also allows us to be fuller social persons, exercising our own volitions and interacting with—and influencing—the world in which we live” (Development as Freedom 14).

Freedom and the Social Context

Both the Integral Human Development approach and Sen’s Capability Approach focus on an individual while acknowledging the influence of social context. The prisoner’s crime could be theft for survival due to the absence of the freedom to achieve another lifestyle, one cause of which could be the absence of freedom to graduate, which goes far beyond access to a school in the neighborhood. Each person has some set of endowments that the person converts to entitlements over the commodity bundles. One universal endowment is the body. Depending on how the person treats the body, the commodity will vary (e.g., strong healthy body vs. unhealthy addicted body). How the person converts the body into a capability depends on conversion factors (Lessmann and Rauschmayer 99).

Sen identified at least five conversion factors (Development as Freedom 70). First, personal factors such as age, gender, or genetics affect how the person may use the body. For instance, the freedom to be an athlete is not an option for someone born with lung disease. Second, environmental factors such as air pollution or regional prevalence of tuberculosis may limit the person’s freedom to be an athlete by causing damage to the lungs. Third, social factors such as the education system that gives an option for the person to pursue athletics will affect a person’s freedom to become an athlete. That is, social institutions affect what endowments the person will get when born, the person’s ability to convert them to entitlements over commodities, and the ability to convert the commodities to capabilities (Osmani 4; Stewart 3). Most capabilities are possible in social institutions only (e.g., public utilities such as transport, heating, schools, etc.). Social institutions such as cultural norms, family, and schools directly shape individuals, hence their choices and capabilities. Finally, every individual around the person affects the person’s capability set directly (e.g., family instilling prioritization of marriage) or indirectly (e.g., a female protagonist in a sci-fi movie steering a ship).

There is a temptation to dissect the individual from the environment to form the definition of freedom or autonomy, yet it is misleading. Autonomy does not presuppose the absence of influences from society. Freedom is not isolation. If freedom is defined as the absence of influences, the closest state that would qualify would be death. Authentic freedom is recognizing the interrelationships of influences on the person, understanding them, reinforcing some and weakening others based on what the person values.

Both Integral Human Development and the Capability Approach support this definition based on a few core shared ideas. First, there is an interconnectedness with others, the Earth, and oneself. Second, every individual has the power to judge what they value and act on this judgment. Third, the individual’s judgments are formed based on the interconnectedness mentioned above, as well as innate free will. Fourth, for one person to flourish everyone else must flourish also. Finally, authentic human development is in expanding freedoms individuals have to achieve the lifestyle they have reason to value—expanding human dignity for all. The only distinction the approaches have is that the Integral Human Development approach states that freedom is human dignity that was gifted by God to accomplish the task to bring development for each and whole person, while the Capability Approach does not seem to have explicated the sources of freedom. A subsequent distinction is that social justice, that is, the development of each and whole person, is explained by God’s will in Integral Human Development, while the Capability Approach relies on human morals, social choice, practical reason, and deliberations, as well as the fact that the person’s capabilities are maximized if the others have also expanded their capabilities, at least to the substantive level.

Freedom and Justice

Authentic freedom does not need imposed limits, since it does not violate others’ freedoms or dignity. Misunderstood freedom, however, does. Integral Human Development calls for sustainable development, which is economic development that is built around social and environmental justice (Tine 9; Wodka 21). That is, the development of each and whole persons’ dignity today presupposes social justice, while related, development of persons’ dignity in the future presupposes environmental justice. Current social and environmental injustices are attributed to misuse of freedom and exclusive focus on economic growth, which is “a symptom of a much deeper moral crisis, a crisis of culture rooted in a fundamentally distorted view of freedom” (Ryan 337). Pope Francis condemns irresponsible human freedom in today’s “progress” that is backfiring. The Pope also points out that the environmental crisis is a manifestation of a deeper human and social degradation that must be addressed first (Tine 5).

Let us consider both individual and societal dimensions of freedom. First, there have been protests against quarantine measures and universal mask-wearing since the global COVID-19 pandemic evolved in the spring of 2020. The protesters’ reasoning reflects the understanding that they have the freedom over their bodies; hence, masks should not be mandated by the government (Stewart, Freedom to wear or not to wear a mask is not necessarily authentic freedom. As per the Capability Approach, there is no value in “not wearing a mask” as there is no value in wealth. But, wearing a mask to achieve freedom from the virus, or using wealth to get an education is valuable. Sen states that the person has the power to decide what “beings” or “doings” are of value. Yet, he also pointed out that public deliberation and the social choice will rule out any conflicts of capabilities (Robeyns 356; Development as Freedom 249). The majority of Americans agree that universal mask-wearing is necessary, hence anti-maskers’ definition of freedom is outvoted (Stewart, Integral Human Development would also not consider the liberty to not wear a mask authentic freedom. Freedom is a responsibility to contribute to one’s and others’ human dignity. Not wearing a mask endangers lives, hence is a misunderstood freedom “to do what I want with no limits”.

Misunderstandings of freedom can be engendered by inefficient institutions. For one, inconsistent messaging from the government due to individual peculiarities of politicians, political institutions, and uncertainty over the COVID-19 has contribute to the confusion and distrust, which further feeds polarization of the issue and prevalence of fake news. While the Capability Approach might not elaborate as to what to do with anti-maskers beyond the prioritization of democratic principles of participation and deliberation, Integral Human Development might suggest a few tips. First, each individual should be treated with respect as per inviolable shared human dignity; hence, attacking or punishing the anti-masker is not an option. The anti-masker’s dignity must be respected, while the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and common good must be upheld. Second, human and social degradation must be addressed, hence shared human dignity and solidarity must guide action. Thus, a healthy conversation should be the first step, which seems more productive compared to attacks.

Freedom is in recognizing the interconnectedness of anti-maskers’ position to the positions of others, the society at large, and the government. That is, some factors formed these individuals to hold their position of an anti-masker. Few of them have been mentioned: inconsistent messaging, distrust towards government institutions, and American politics. Freedom is in understanding how these interrelationships work. How did the history of American politics and societal tendencies inform the anti-maskers’ position? How did the fake news arise and why do people believe them? Finally, freedom is in strengthening the interrelationships for the common good. On an individual level, freedom is in recognizing and understanding the anti-masker’s position and acting accordingly. That is, a dialogue will suffice. Listening to the person while recognizing shared human dignity—no animosity but goodwill, engaging in a participatory deliberation—discussing what fake news is and why it is problematic, how the virus spreads and how we know it spreads is a responsible exercise of freedom. The same is true for the anti-masker. Exercise of authentic freedom is, in this case, engaging in a participatory deliberation with goodwill and genuine determination to understand the other.

On a societal level, more power entails more freedom, hence more responsibility. Individuals and social institutions have more freedom to recognize, understand, and act on interrelationships since they have more resources and power to do so. Pope Francis calls for “a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power … [and] some economic sectors exercise more power than states themselves” (Tine 28). The Pope also calls for climate action to mitigate the impact of the man-made climate crisis, which was caused by misguided policy, hence should be addressed by policy and collective action.

The climate crisis is contributing to social and environmental injustices, endangering human dignity, while the damage intensity is increasing (Parks and Roberts 133). Pope Francis claims that countries that have been emitting most of the greenhouse gases to boost their economies via industrialization have more power, more freedom, and more responsibility to mitigate the climate crisis they have caused (Tine 23).

Furthermore, the Pope identifies the damage caused by the misuse of freedom, including greenhouse gases and pollution as the “ecological debt” that has to be repaid by developed countries (Tine 9). The debt is to be repaid by limiting fossil fuel consumption and assistance in building sustainable development for “poorer countries” (ibid). The “poorer countries” are disproportionately more vulnerable to the impact of climate crisis, and they lack the capacity to adapt compared to the “richer countries” that have built their capacity on fossil fuels. In other words, the “poorer countries” have limited capabilities to manage the impacts and to restructure their economies towards sustainable development compared to the “richer countries”. This inequality in capabilities has deep roots in social and environmental injustices perpetrated by the “richer countries”. Thus, “richer countries”, first, have the moral obligation to repay the debt, second, they have the capability for a greater impact. They have the freedom to limit fossil fuel consumption and assist other countries in a collective restructuring of the global economy towards sustainable development. Fossil fuel consumption, similar to not wearing a mask, is misunderstood freedom. Authentic freedom is to recognize the links between one’s actions and consequences on one’s and others’ human dignity, and to act to maximize human dignity.

III. Freedom in the Development Practices

Freedom as a mindset

Freedom has mainly strategic and planning implications in development practices—it is a mindset that shapes how the problems in development are defined, and hence how these problems are solved. That is, development as freedom has two main contributions: first, redefined metrics for evaluation of development, and second, reshaped design for development programs.

The Capability Approach initiated a shift from development as economic growth to development as freedom. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has adopted this shift in the UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) and its annual Human Development Reports. The HDI attempts to measure the freedoms as in capabilities via the proxy of functionings: “The Human Development Index (HDI) is a summary measure of average achievement in key dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, being knowledgeable and have a decent standard of living” (UNDP 2020). The functionings are life expectancy, education (i.e., years of schooling for adults and expected years of schooling for children), and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. HDI does not measure capabilities or freedom, since, for instance, years of schooling are not indicative of “being knowledgeable”, yet it is a more comprehensive tool.

Human Development Reports go beyond HDI and focus on one theme each year such as inequality, climate change, and human rights, with an explicit focus on the expansion of capabilities. The Human Development Report Office releases four additional indices: Inequality-Adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), Gender Development Index (GDI), Gender Inequality Index (GII), and Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). Besides the provision of tools and products of data collection and analysis, these reports make policy recommendations that focus on human development as freedom. UNDP symbolizes authentic freedom as in the responsible exercise of freedom—human dignity—for others. This is most evident in two ways: first, “the richer countries” that have more capabilities and freedoms contribute financially for the sustenance of UNDP and its operations; second, UNDP shares its capabilities, that is, expertise and human resources for the development projects in “the poorer countries’ that may lack in both. Hence, development as freedom affects national development program design via the popularization of tools to redefine the approach to development and UNDP projects worldwide that operationalize development as freedom.

Freedom as impact

At the project level development as freedom has directly reshaped planning, monitoring, and evaluation processes. Alkire assessed the female literacy project using both the capability and cost-benefit analyses as a part of a larger evaluation of poverty reduction projects in Pakistan (Robeyns 362). Cost-benefit analysis missed non-quantifiable effects such as knowledge and social capital that are crucial for long-term sustainable development, individual human dignity, and well-being. The female literacy project had negligible results on women’s earnings, hence cost-benefit analysis would conclude that there is no impact and no reason to further fund this project. Yet, the project has significantly expanded women’s capabilities, that is, human dignity and their freedom to contribute to others’ human dignity. Robeyns noted that despite the negative internal rate of return, women had been empowered by learning to read and realizing that they are equal to men and that domestic abuse is not normal. Literacy empowered them to solve their problems. Finally, expansion of capabilities via literacy, agency, and feminism brought satisfaction and well-being. This small project that had no economic returns sparked a change that will spiral through generations. That is, these women’s economic status did not change—they did not get jobs, yet their human dignity has been improved, which they will pass on to neighbors and their children.

CARE’s holistic approach to empowering women and girls in the fight against poverty is another example of authentic freedom in strategic planning and implementation. Their definition of empowerment is the embodiment of freedom as defined previously: recognition, understanding, and being able to act on relations with others, the Earth (i.e., structures and environments), and oneself: “Empowerment is the sum total of changes needed for a woman to realize her full human rights: the combined effect of changes in her own aspirations and capabilities, the environment that influences or dictates her choices, and the interactions she engages in each day” (CARE 7).

CARE’s approach to empowerment is to facilitate women and girls to empower themselves—freedom to breed more freedom. As for the monitoring and evaluation of freedom expansion CARE identified five key indicators: 1) women make important decisions within the household, alone or with other adults; 2) women participate meaningfully and visibly in the public sphere; 3) women make decisions and take action regarding their own bodies, their own sexual and reproductive health; 4) women confidently control productive assets such as capital, farmland or micro-enterprises; and 5) men cease to commit violence against women (CARE 15). This is far more comprehensive than having a source of income or having a high school degree.

To illustrate, CARE’s Bal Bachau program in Nepal started as a child health project that focused on improving access to health services cultivating certain health-related behavior (CARE 20). They soon found out that discrimination against women and Dalits (lowest caste) prevented them from enjoying the benefits of improved access to information and outreach to improve health. CARE facilitated Dabi (pressure) group meetings for women, including Dalit women, to come up with action plans for advocacy using rallies, press meetings, and interactions with authorities on their own. Results were impressive and sustainable: health delivery structures and children’s health conditions improved, civic engagement, including the marginalized, increased significantly. Vaccination against tetanus among pregnant women skyrocketed from 13% prior to 97% after the project (CARE 20). Dabi groups managed to pass new alcohol regulations and decrease violence against women. 25 groups were trained by CARE, while 43 formed on their own. The groups persisted after the project. This project showcases authentic freedom: recognition, understanding, and acting on interdependence among oneself, others, and the Earth. First, women recognized and understood their rights and human dignity to live without violence and good health services. Second, they expanded their knowledge, skills, and capabilities via learning advocacy, and claimed these rights. Third, their individual actions towards authentic freedom and human dignity formed more inclusive and accountable institutions that will facilitate more freedom. Finally, the formation of diverse groups deepened solidarity among people and facilitated learning and bonding that transformed into social mobilization and political activism. All of these dimensions formed freedom.

IV. Conclusion

The definition of authentic freedom as an altruistic and empathetic responsible exercise of one’s power must replace the toxic definition of no limits to one’s actions and absence of influence. Misunderstood freedom has caused social and environmental injustices, including the climate crisis, and avoidable deaths due to COVID-19. To prevent further deterioration of human dignity today and greater damage to the capabilities to achieve human dignity in the future, freedom must be clarified in the Integral Human Development approach and other theories, as well as in practice among the general public. Integral Human Development should solidify that freedom is a responsible exercise of autonomy to build the development of each and whole person, freedom is not irresponsible egoistic self-fulfillment. One is truly free when one can recognize and understand the interconnectedness of one’s human dignity to others’, to Earth, and oneself. Freedom is acting towards common good based on this recognition and understanding. Disrespect towards other human beings, even if well-intentioned and aimed at common good, is not freedom. In the middle of the pandemic, misunderstood freedom is gaining momentum, as there is pressure to rebuild the economy using any means. Determined change in policy, economic growth agenda, and individual consumerism to be driven by a change in mindset is critical to pursue sustainable integral human development. The pandemic provided an opportunity, a policy window to redefine freedom and development in practice. We must seize this opportunity to expand freedom.


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