Futures forecasting based on combining knowledge about present status and trends with assumptions about future developments.
The scenario approach emphasizes the if/then nature of the calculation rather than a best-guess prediction. Scenarios underscore the importance of assumptions in the underlying factors – the numbers behind the numbers. Given enough scenario combinations, it is also possible to do a sensitivity analysis of these factors.
UNESCO enables countries to design interdisciplinary development scenarios and link these with options for short-term sectoral decision-making and resource allocation. Prospective global and regional scenarios in human resources development guide governments in medium-term planning and in the choice of short-term management options. Such scenarios require the development of relevant indicators for the early identification, analysis and monitoring of world socio-cultural and environmental developments and for their integration into quantitative models. UNESCO places emphasis on scenarios which simulate the consequences of adjustment policies and debt-servicing on resource allocation for social and human development, and more particularly on the allocation of resources for improving the quality of life of the poor.
Future development scenarios have helped to alert governments to structural changes or major discontinuities in society as a result, for example, of modifications in technology and employment patterns or of the uncertainty inherent in any assumption about the future of development.
Lack of relevant knowledge about the cultural and human dimensions of development, the presence of competing theories and shortcomings in data have prevented adequate and complete representations of development processes as they occur in reality. The use of analytical methods in the long-term planning of human development has been particularly handicapped by the fact that quantitative models are still unable to deal reliably with human and cultural variables.