Human settlements means the totality of the human community - whether city, town or village - with all the social, material, organizational, spiritual and cultural elements that sustain it. The fabric of human settlements consists of physical elements and services to which these elements provide the material support. The physical components comprise,
Shelter, i.e. the superstructures of different shapes, size, type and materials erected by mankind for security, privacy and protection from the elements and for his singularity within a community;
Infrastructure, i.e. the complex networks designed to deliver to or remove from the shelter people, goods, energy or information;
Services cover those required by a community for the fulfilment of its functions as a social body, such as education, health, culture, welfare, recreation and nutrition.
Human settlements are the spatial dimension as well as the physical expression of economic and social activity. No creative act takes place without being influenced by settlement conditions. In turn, the creation of workable human settlements inevitably becomes an objective of, an indicator of and a prerequisite for social and economic development.
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The first Human Development Report introduced a new way of measuring development by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index, the HDI. The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development.