Press release

Pioneering work of Nobel Prize-winning economist becomes comic book to reach mass audience in poor nations

February 4, 2003

Illustrated version of "Development as Freedom" by Amartya Kumar Sen is launched for use by educators, students, opinion-makers, especially in developing countries

WINNIPEG — A pioneering book by distinguished economist, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Amartya Kumar Sen has been reformulated and published as a 48-page comic book with the goal of reaching and influencing a mass audience in some of Africa's poorest nations.

Prof. Sen's "Development as Freedom" has been produced in an illustrated format with characters who interpret and explain his economic theory in everyday language, emphasizing the role of personal freedoms and capabilities in defining the success of development efforts.

In an effort to convey his ideas in the most accessible format possible, the Canadian-based International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) initiated this innovative project with the Mazingira Institute of Nairobi, Kenya, and with seed funds from the C.P. Loewen Foundation of Canada. Kenyan artist Terry Hirst donated his time to the yearlong project.

Prof. Sen, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, critiqued the text and said he was "very happy with what elegance and reach you have reflected the main concerns that I tried to present, and in such an accessible and entertaining form.

"The art of communication can be very exacting especially when the content is complex. The authors of this marvelous book of cartoons have done a superb job in reaching out without losing the basic features of seeing development as freedom."

The illustrated version of Prof. Sen's book, entitled "There is a Better Way," will be launched Feb. 5 in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Governing Council meeting of the UN Environment Programme, an active supporter of the project.

An initial run of 5,000 copies will be distributed via local workshops in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania to schools, universities and development organizations.

In his book, Prof. Sen argues that economic growth is only one of many factors involved in reducing poverty and improving well being; that essential freedoms and personal capabilities in a democratic decision-making system are the real measures of national development and quality of life.

Students and policy-makers at the University of Nairobi, Cambridge University and UNEP were highly positive after reviewing early copies of the comic book and felt its potential market was especially large in Africa as many of the issues covered are highly relevant to the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) initiative, the development agenda for African countries over the next decade and longer.

A passionate advocate of enhanced investment in health, education and the creation of opportunities, Prof. Sen's landmark work in welfare and development economics earned him the Nobel Prize in 1998, the same year he was appointed the first non-British Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University, considered by many the most prestigious academic post in the United Kingdom.

In his Nobel Prize citation, Prof. Sen was credited by the Royal Swedish Academy with "having restored an ethical dimension to economics."

During the launch of "Development as Freedom," one commentator characterized Prof. Sen as an economist who "distrusts unadulterated market economics" and "has a penchant for emphasizing the social in the social science of economics." The review noted that his Nobel Prize raised eyebrows at the time among more conventional economists who hold that economic growth through a process of liberalization, stabilization and privatization will solve the poverty problem and improve human well being across the board.

IISD President David Runnalls called Prof. Sen's writings "a powerful tool for change.

"Prof. Sen's 'Development as Freedom' is now more easily accessed by many people in developing countries, especially the poor. The illustrated version, 'There is a Better Way,' will expose many additional people involved in development work today and in the future to an alternative economic paradigm to that taught at the universities and entrenched within development agencies."

The project was conceived, designed and produced Dr. Anantha Kumar Duraiappah, IISD's Director of Economic Policy and Senior Economist directed the project. He and Dr. Flavio Comim of Cambridge University provided intellectual guidance for the project while Terry Hirst from the Mazingira Institute fashioned the work into its illustrated form. Davinder Lamba, Director of the Mazingira Institute, provided logistical and other support in Kenya.

"Drafting a simple, fast-paced dialogue that does justice to the insights espoused so eloquently in Prof. Sen's book was a painstaking challenge met most admirably by artist Terry Hirst," said Dr. Duraiappah.

"This new product provides a unique way to broaden young mindsets and evoke change," he added. "Professor Sen's work offers the impoverished everywhere a new framework within which to influence NEPAD and other such international development strategies, and to reduce poverty and achieve well being as defined by them."

About IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an award-winning independent think tank working to accelerate solutions for a stable climate, sustainable resource management, and fair economies. Our work inspires better decisions and sparks meaningful action to help people and the planet thrive. We shine a light on what can be achieved when governments, businesses, non-profits, and communities come together. IISD’s staff of more than 250 experts come from across the globe and from many disciplines. With offices in Winnipeg, Geneva, Ottawa, and Toronto, our work affects lives in nearly 100 countries.