The Nature of International Development Projects



By Bob Youker

Maryland, USA




International organizations like the World Bank and Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) plan and implement development projects with the aim of improving living conditions in developing countries.   These projects are different from other types of projects for a number of reasons and the approach to implementation must also be different.  This presentation will define those differences and specify approaches that are necessary for project success.  The paper is based on results of the evaluation processes of the World Bank and on the work of a committee of the PMI International Development Specific Interest Group (SIG) that is developing an International Development Body of Knowledge. (BOK). For a look at a model of how to define different types of projects see my paper presented at PMI Philadelphia in 1999. (Youker, 1999, October)

Definition: What are International Development (ID) Projects?

ID Projects are medium to large size public projects and/or programs in all sectors of developing countries financed by the following types of institutions:

  1. Multilateral Development Banks such as the World Bank and regional development banks (ADB, AfDB, IADB, CDB etc.)
  2. United Nations Associated Agencies (including UNDP, FAO, ILO, WHO, UNIDO etc.)
  3. Bilateral and multi-lateral government agencies (such as USAID, European Union or CDA)
  4. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (such as CARE, Catholic Relief Services or Save the Children)
  5. Government agencies in developing countries.

Thus, by definition, ID Projects involve a number of different actors including donor agencies, (often more than one), government organizations at several levels, consultants, contractors, trainers, evaluators, researchers, and local beneficiaries including local organizations.

Characteristics of ID Projects

  1. The objectives of ID projects are for economic and social development often involving poverty reduction and the usual profit motive is often missing. The financing agency often has motives and objectives of its own.


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 2003 PMI Global Congress in Baltimore, MD, USA.  It is republished here with the author’s permission.

How to cite this paper: Youker, R. (2003). The Nature of International Development Projects; originally presented at the PMI Global Congress: North America, Baltimore, Maryland, USA in September 2003; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue VI, July 2019.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/pmwj83-Jul2019-Youker-the-nature-of-international-development-projects.pdf



About the Author

Robert Youker

World Bank (retired)
Maryland, USA




Robert (Bob) Youker is an independent trainer and consultant in Project Management with more than forty years of experience in the field.  He is retired from the World Bank where he developed and presented six-week project management training courses for the managers of major projects in many different countries. He served as the technical author for the bank on the Instructors Resource Kit on CD ROM for a five-week training course on Managing the Implementation of Development Projects.  He has written and presented more than a dozen papers at the Project Management Institute and the International Project Management Association (Europe) conferences many of which have been reprinted in the Project Management Institute publications and the International Journal of Project Management (UK).

Mr. Youker is a graduate of Colgate University and the Harvard Business School and studied for a doctorate in behavioral science at George Washington University.  His project management experience includes new product development at Xerox Corporation and project management consulting for many companies as President of Planalog Management Systems from 1968 to 1975.  He has taught in Project Management Courses for AMA, AMR, AED, ILI, ILO, UCLA, University of Wisconsin, George Washington University, the Asian Development Bank and many other organizations. He developed and presented the first Project Management courses in Pakistan, Turkey, China and across Africa for the World Bank.

A few years ago Mr. Youker conducted Project Management training in Amman, Jordan financed by the European Union for 75 high level civil servants from Iraq who implemented the first four World Bank projects in Iraq. He is a former Director of PMI, IPMA and asapm, the USA member organization of IPMA. Most recently he has been consulting for the US Government Millennium Challenge Corporation on project management training in Africa.  Bob can be contacted at bobyouker@att.net


To view other works by Bob Youker, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/robert-bob-youker/