The Power of International Development Projects....... By Dr HW Bernhardt, PhD Eng, PrEng - FOW 24 NEWS

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The Power of International Development Projects....... By Dr HW Bernhardt, PhD Eng, PrEng


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need, and power,of focused international co-operation......

The lessons learnt give  us an insight  into the kind of action that is required to address many of our global challenges, such as the threat of climate change,poverty,air, land and sea pollution and other diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.


International co-operation is nothing new. There are numerous examples of treaties, agreements and memoranda of understanding that have had huge benefits for the participating nations.Few of these modes of co-operation, however,can compare, in terms of efficiency and delivery of outcomes,with the Project that has a clearly articulated set of objectives, budgets and action plans.


The  aim of International Development Projects is  to benefit society,irrespective  of socioeconomic status.This justifies the commitment of large sums of public funds required for the execution of such projects. With the continuing growth of our global population such projects inevitably will increase in number,scope,as well as urgency.

A few examples of projects that fall in this category are:

•Developing a vaccine to immunize people so that their bodies can neutralist the pathological consequences of COVID-19 infection.

•Use of particular renewable energy sources and technologies to generate electricity so as the reverse  the  threat  of  global  warming  brought  about  by widespread use  of  fossil  fuels  as  a source of energy.

•Re-cycling and re-use of plastics so as to reduce the environmental pollution brought about by dumping these materials after use.

•Developing technologies to make building materials from waste products such as alien weeds (that threaten ecosystems),bricks and concrete waste obtained from demolished buildings, and other solid waste materials that are often disposed of in landfill sites.


What is common to such development projects is that they all require:

1.Significant funding to make them successful.

2.High  level knowledge and expertise to  use appropriate  technologies  to realize  the project objectives.

3.Good co-operation between the different project operators to not only complete individual activities  correctly,  but also to co-ordinate  and  integrate  the  contributions  of individual project participants.


Apart  from  the  above  fundamental  resources(money  and  manpower),  to  convert  a  development dream into reality, the following are needed:

a)Very good project management.

b)Agreement on values, i.e. the integrity involved in utilizing responsibly the allocated budget resources.

c)Dedication to the intended outcome. Invariably, many of the participants are also working on other urgent and time-consuming projects.

d)Commitment to achieving the agreed milestones.

e)Exceptional communication ability, because it is necessary to inform stakeholders continually on  progress, as  well  as highlighting  unanticipated problems  which  may  require  additional funding.


Many  international  development  projects  are administered  by  agencies  which  are  attached to government entities that have their own reporting requirements and deliverables. The fact that there are  multiple  stakeholders,who  all  have  an  interest  in  the  outcome  of  the  project,  automatically discourages personal or group interests from hijacking the project, as is often the case with projects undertaken by national governments where the party in power makes the rules.


The key for success is to have a capable, decisive and principled project manager.The project manager needs to be fully conversant  with all the reporting requirements of all the stakeholders and ensure these are met.A good rapport needs to be established with all these  agencies. This is necessary to develop  trust  between  the  funding  agencies and  the  executing  project  team.Some  agencies  have specific notice periods for drawing of funds, which need to be taking into account when disbursements are required.

More  importantly,  the  project manager  needs to  spell  out  the criteria including individual  and  sub-group transparency,  responsibility  and  accountability,  and  emphasis right  from  the  start that  NO QUESTIONABLE BUSINESS PRACTICE will be tolerated, and when the manager becomes aware of the slightest deviation from these,he/she will exercise his/her authority to remove the offending person from the project.

The project manager needs to have his/her finger on the pulse, as it were, and know exactly  what  each  member of the  project  team  is  doing  at  every  stage  of  the  project.All  project participants need to understand that no lengthy negotiations or investigations will be entered into. To do this, it is necessary that the project manager has the necessary authority. 


Other important considerations which are often overlooked include the following:


i.Many  development  projects  involve  the  generation  of  intellectual property (IP) during  the execution  of  the  project.  The  question  of  ownership  of  intellectual  property  needs  to  be discussed up front. It is wise to avoid lengthy negotiations around IP because this can delay the project significantly.Agreement in principle needs to be reached that the IP issues will be sorted out fairly on completion of the project. This attitude fosters a spirit of co-operation and acknowledgement of co-dependence.


ii.The project manager needs to have the respect of ALL collaborators. Professional people often have divergent views on procedures, protocols or methodologies, and these can lead to sharp disagreements.  Other challenges  include financial  constraints as  well  as interference  by entities  with  political  motives,  and  more. Sometimes  the project manager  needs  to  make decisions which are not popular with some members or the whole team, and if there is a lack of respect, this can derail the project.


iii.The  role  of the project  manager  of such  high  profile  projects  comes with considerable prestige, but also has a burden of great responsibility and the incumbent needs exceptional wisdom to overcome these and other challenges. When difficulties arise which can threaten to  destroy  the project,ALL participants  need  to  recommit  to  the  original  objectives of  the project  and  put  aside  personal  preferences.Often  the  tact  and  ingenuity  of  the  project manager is tested to the limit.


Participation  in  international  projects is  often a huge learning  experience,  but  the benefits  of a successfully completed project of this magnitude frequently exceed the financial investment and pale into insignificance in comparison with the inconvenience  of having to suspend individual plans that the participants have,of necessity,had to do.


Engagement with clearly defined collaborative projects is often a far more effective way of bringing about  change,as compared to signing a memorandum of  collaboration, or  a  collaboration  treaty, because  the latter examples  are often  too vague  to result  in specific intervention.In the  author’s opinion a well-structured  international  project with clear  objectives  is  the  most  effective  way  of addressing a problem that plagues us in our complex world.

The Power of International Development Projects....... By Dr HW Bernhardt, PhD Eng, PrEng Reviewed by FOW 24 News on September 11, 2020 Rating: 5   The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need, and power,of focused international co-operation......

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