Development Institutions

The political and economic relations between nations is regulated by international institutions created during the second half of the twentieth century. The most notable institutions include the United Nations (UN), The World Bank Group, The International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The charter for these institutions is based on a ‘peace through trade’ mission established by the Bretton-Woods Agreement in 1944.

National governments become a member of these institutions by signing charters and agreements, and the institutions provide boundaries, structures and rules of legitimation for international relations. The underlying idea set forth in the charters of international institutions is the assumption that nations that are politically and economically inter-dependent will not engage in war with one another, and that integration in the world economy will strengthen the national economy in poor countries. Political-economists have pointed out that contemporary policies and practices have deviated from the original mission set forth by these organizations, a process known as organizational slippage (Babb 2005).

Visit the websites of the following international institutions by clicking on their logo and review their mission statement.


millgoals2In 2000, United Nations signed the United Nations Millennium Declaration comprised of eight Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015 or 2020. This was the first attempt to establish a holistic strategy to meet the development needs of the world with measurable targets and defined indicators. Because the MDGs were agreed as global targets to be achieved by the global community, they are independent of, but by no means unrelated to, individual national interests. The goals imply that every state has a set of obligations to the world community to meet and that other states, who have achieved those goals, have an obligation to help those who have not. As such they may represent an extension of the concept of human rights. The first seven Millennium Development Goals present measurable goals, while the eighth lists a number of ‘stepping stone’ goals – ways in which progress towards the first seven goals could be made. Each goal uses indicators based on statistical series collected and maintained by respected organisations in each relevant field.



Thoroughly explore the website of one of the organizations listed above. Select a development program and analyze it: Which MDP is it aiming to achieve? From which development theory does it operate? Does the program consider social mechanisms and unique cultural conditions at the site location? How would you build upon this program?

In addition, now is the time to start thinking about your research project. To get started, submit Assignment #1: Site Selection and Problem Identification (visit the Assignments page for the complete description.)

After you complete the discussion and assignment, move on to Global Contexts.