Post-conflict reconstruction--a case study in Kosovo
the complexity of planning and implementing infrastructure projects
Background: Rehabilitation and reconstruction of social and economic infrastructure in a post-conflict environment are complex, long-debated issues in development cooperation. In addition to war creating large-scale human suffering, generating refugees, displacing populations, engendering psychological distress, obliterating infrastructure and transforming the economy, in post-conflict situations, deepening chaos and disorder can be found at the highest social, economic and political levels; serious developmental challenges remain insufficiently addressed. Repairing war-damaged infrastructure in order to reactivate the local economy is a challenge for all post-conflict countries.
Methods: The study was designed to examine planning and execution of post-conflict reconstruction (PCR). The use of a mixed-method research approach combining both quantitative and qualitative data collection was used to explore planning and implementation of PCR infrastructure projects in Kosovo. The data collection in the field was undertaken for a period of eight weeks, from July to September 2008. A total of 420 respondents were involved in the study process, as follows: key informants (4), pilot test (12), semi-structured interviews (36), Project Manager/Engineers Survey (231), Chief of Mission/Country Director survey (117), and focus group (20). To meet the needs of society and recognise the required functional components of project management, the overall contexts of managing projects in a post-conflict environment have been discussed in the study.
Results: Planning and implementing reconstruction projects in areas affected by conflict have proven to be far more challenging than expected and responses by practitioners, aid agencies, and government regarded as inadequate. The changing political, economic, and social factors in Kosovo have had a significant influence on the limited adoption of a project management methodology in development and reconstruction projects. The findings from the exploratory study were aimed at improving understanding of the planning, pre-designing, and implementation of infrastructure projects. The findings indicated a need to promote a better understanding of how projects are undertaken at all levels of the organization, and to describe processes, procedures, and tools used for the actual application of projects. The findings of the study identified a poor quality of planning and implementation of reconstruction projects in an environment of complexity, change, and uncertainty. The study also raised some very significant findings for a broader approach to community involvement in project identification, planning, and implementation. Infrastructure projects implemented in Kosovo were used to develop a conceptual framework for designing projects and programs more likely to yield positive outcomes for society
Conclusion: The concept of managing post-conflict reconstruction and development projects according to internationally-accepted project management processes is a relatively new and developing field. The findings demonstrated that success in PCR depends on the ability to understand the complexities of the political environment, to coordinate projects in an effective manner, and involve a wide range of community stakeholders. Consultations among key stakeholders with a direct relationship to the project are critical to ascertain what they perceive as essential components of project planning systems and processes to achieve beneficial social and economic change.
Policymakers, practitioners, academic researchers, and non-government organisation (NGO) representatives have realised that peace building is a complex and multi-dimensional exercise that cannot begin in earnest unless minimal conditions for peace are present (Knight, 2003). According to Berdal (1996), the challenges in consolidating peace-building research have focused on finding processes to stabilise the conflict and curtail the spread of violence; a systematic and sustained national effort is required to end violence. Immediate humanitarian issues need attention as a means to create politically and economically stable societies for post-conflict peace-building and reconstruction (Berdal, 1996). Despite there being much research on peace-building and peace-keeping by scholars, policy makers, and field practitioners (Baranyi, 2005; Knight, 2003), there has been considerable debate by the international peace-keeping researchers regarding the need to go beyond current paradigms and develop strategies and long-term processes to achieve durable peace, good governance, and promote sustainable development through local community participation in post-conflict societies (Chopra & Hohe, 2004; Knight, 2003).
No single professional group can meet the practical complexities of transiting from war to peace, and no current theoretical models have the potential to effectively address the complexities of post-war reconstruction and recovery (Dursun-Ozkanca, 2009; Hasic, 2004). Notable research on civil wars has analysed the causes, consequences, and duration of each conflict, and there is active research being done on the prevention and economic dimensions of civil war (Ackermann, 2003; Blattman & Miguel, 2010; Kang & Meernik, 2005). Recently, academics, professional organisation bodies, such as Project Management Institute (PMI), and fellow practitioners have been researching project management practices in post-disaster environments; for example, after the Asian Tsunami in 2004 (Von Meding, Oyedele, & Cleland, 2009). Although there is a growing body of both theoretical and empirical research in the field of project management in the IT, manufacturing, and construction industries, there has been a lack of research done to support the effectiveness of post-conflict project management, which has the capacity to improve practices from planning to implementation of reconstruction development programs (Ahsan & Gunawan, 2010).
Each post-conflict country represents a unique situation (Kreimer, Muscat, Elwan, & Arnold, 2000; Waters, Garrett, & Burnham, 2007), and during the past few decades, Kosovo, as the southern province of Serbia and central to Serbian identity, experienced upheaval and instability. Thus, peace, democracy, and stability are critical for the impoverished Kosovo as it undergoes a transformation of its domestic political, social, and economic systems after the NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) comprising of Montenegro and Serbia in March 1999. Unilaterally, the Provincial Institutions of the Self-Government (PISG) of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008 (Tansey & Zuam, 2009) and in supporting peace processes, the donors and international partners, through the United Nations (UN), have played a valuable role in helping local communities fulfill their agenda of reconstruction and development, thereby shaping the future of the Republic of Kosovo.
Challenges of Reconstruction and Development
As the war ended, it became apparent that there had been a substantial level of destruction to life, property, and business; to a large extent, key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water supply systems, health centres, schools, and telecommunications was severely damaged or destroyed, resulting in an urgent need to address the problems of the humanitarian crisis involving a large number of internally displaced persons and returning refugees (Tarnoff, 2001). The stagnant economic growth and a decade of inchoate governance had decimated the public sector, especially in the health and education service provisions for the country. The agriculture sector, which played a vital role in supporting the rural economy, was heavily disrupted and unemployment was widespread. Business enterprise was insufficient and there was a substantial disruption of public utility services, leading to intermittent supplies of water and electricity (Balaj & Wallich, 1999; Williams, 2005). Mustafa (1999) summarised the dynamic complexity of reconstruction and project development for Kosovo, arguing that international agencies were working in parallel on the same issues and at the same time working in different areas without involving the local community. Mustafa also stressed the need for coordination in the reconstruction processes to develop local capacities. The World Bank and European Union (EU) approved assistance for the reconstruction of Kosovo at an approximate value of US$2.5 billion over a period of four to five years.
Rondinelli and Montgomery (2005) recommended that achieving a good outcome in a post-civil war situation required making informed decisions, promoting good governance, and better allocating of scarce resources. These tasks involve a clear focus and understanding of the planning and implementation processes of post-war reconstruction projects and programs, which lead to nation-building. The challenges facing post-conflict countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, East Timor, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cambodia, Lebanon, Mozambique, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Kosovo, and Rwanda lack the institutional capacity to carry out reconstruction and development programs (Rondinelli & Montgomery, 2005), and they often depend on a multitude of players and international development agencies to design, develop and implement projects, programs, and policies (Smojlan, 2003).
Given the widespread, unsettling nature of uncertainty after a conflict, there can be strong indications that peaceful resolutions may not be imminent, and the international community must put greater emphasis on economic recovery and social reforms to prevent an outbreak of further violence (Baly, 2004). Additionally, in post-conflict society, physical infrastructure includes rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools, airports, markets and hospitals; building homes, roads, and bridges; restoring water, telecommunications, fuel, and electricity supplies; recruiting committed personnel; and providing all the necessary training for operations and maintenance (Anderlini & El-Bushra, 2004). The reconstruction of infrastructure projects in a post-conflict society commences after the emergency and recovery phase, which in most cases is three to four years, but can be even longer after the conflict ends. Thus, even with a relatively secured environment in which to implement long-term projects, PCR is deemed to be a development challenge (Barakat & Chard, 2002).
PCR Project Lessons Identified but not Learned
Ineffective Project Planning and Preparation
Rathmell (2005) asserted that in a post-conflict multi-faceted society, the management, planning and reporting structures were often cobbled together in an ad-hoc manner. Experience from Iraq and Afghanistan indicates that there is a lot of criticism of reconstruction processes because of the perceived lack of adequate planning, lack of resources, too little funding, and lack of an exit strategy (Coyne, 2006). Moreover, agencies tend to bring with them their own crafted organisational policies, and planning, project implementation, and operating procedures (Rathmell, 2005).
To strengthen and ensure community ownership, it is important for the local population to be involved in planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating PCR projects; particularly, as there may be continuing violence and insecurity for a considerable period of time, and ethnic communities may not agree on the implementation of certain development projects for various reasons peculiar to them. Therefore, continued involvement in a complex and fragile environment requires organisations to ensure that there is flexibility in project planning and implementation (Natsios, 2005).
Accountability and Budgets
Corruption is endemic and pervasive in most post-conflict societies; as a result, contractors and international organisations endeavouring to implement peace find it difficult to construct major infrastructure projects effectively (Grey-Johnson, 2006). With corruption being ubiquitous in most post-conflict and post-disaster situations, governments and aid agencies establish anticorruption monitoring systems to ensure transparency. This has been the experience in Iraq, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone (Grey-Johnson, 2006); however, to help prevent fraud and corruption in infrastructure projects, building accountability is an important and complex issue in PCR (Anand, 2005).
Lack of Communication and Community Participation
Members of post-conflict, civil society are seldom included in the decision-making processes, although they are seen more often as partners in the implementation of development projects. To achieve sustained growth and development, beneficiaries must be engaged systematically in the planning, and decision-making processes throughout the life cycle of the project (Gennip, 2005; World Bank, 2006).
In post-conflict situations, there is an apparent lack of funds to support local institutions to meet their objectives, fulfill their external obligations, and discharge their responsibilities to the community. Donors are reluctant to entrust the management of funds to government institutions that have lost the capacity to manage economic and financial resources (Grey-Johnson, 2006). More often in an environment of scarce funding, the projects operate according to the priorities of the donors rather than the development needs of the local community (Evans-Kent & Bleiker, 2003).
Lack of Resources
Human resource capacities also may be major institutional constraints in implementing reconstruction projects in a post-conflict society. Strengthening local institutions not only will be beneficial to the community, but will maximise the long-term benefits of humanitarian aid. Thus, enhancing local institutional capacity makes better use of the available donor resources and will assist in mitigating risks and expectations (Collier et al., 2003). With multiple projects to administer, skilled people are scarce and agencies usually have difficulty meeting the resource requirements necessary to execute project planning and implementation (Brautigam & Knack, 2004; Youker, 1999).
Poor Procurement Practice
In a PCR environment, scarcity of resources necessitates a large percentage of material being imported for the execution of reconstruction projects; the traditional practice is to procure goods by a tendering process, where the lowest bidder is usually awarded the contract. Tenders can be either for procurement of goods only for the project, or to procure for and implement the total project (Quartey, 1996). Often, international donors choose to be involved in the procurement process and exert pressure on the implementing agencies to procure goods from stipulated firms in the donor country even when they do not match the local requirements (Youker, 2003).
Lack of Management and Public Service Infrastructures
Due to the absence of state institutions in a post-conflict society there is limited management capacity, poor emphasis on manpower development and training, and a lack of established management or technical standards. The situation is made more complicated by bureaucratic systems that cause delay in implementing projects and programs (Brown, 2005). Due to a lack of coordination and information exchange between agencies, very often projects are duplicated. Furthermore, organisations take over projects when they do not have adequate competencies or adequate training (Evans-Kent & Bleiker, 2003).
Inappropriate Design and Implementation Methods
To a great extent, much of the infrastructure in PCR regions suffers from low quality design or sub-standard construction (Barrett, 2008). Often, project designs are implemented without taking into account the local conditions, needs, and capacities. Many projects have failed before completion due to the non-involvement of the stakeholders or, when implemented, they were inappropriate to addressing community needs. Civil participation in the initial stages of planning and design of the project is usually quite minimal, which makes the project output less relevant to intended beneficiaries. Selecting the proper process is critical for success if beneficiaries are to make effective use of the project outcome. Participation in the selection process by locals minimises negative sociological impacts among the vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of communities (Cliffe et al., 2003; Sonuga, Aliboh, & Oloke, 2002).
Project ‘Development’ Application through Project Life Cycle
Projects are key building blocks in the design and implementations of policies and strategies in PCR efforts (Hasic, 2004; Rondinelli, 1976). Gittinger (1972) argued that projects were the ‘cutting edge’ of development. Hirschman (1967, p. 72) professed them to be “privileged particles of the development process.” Turner and Muller (2003, p. 7) defined a project “as a temporary organisation to which resources are assigned to undertake a unique, novel and transient endeavour managing the inherent uncertainty and need for integration in order to deliver beneficial objectives of change.” “Defining a programme or project as peace building implies that it promotes positive peace in three dimensions: the activities undertaken, the process of implementation, and the impact or outcomes” (Llamazares & Levy, 2003, p. 11).
In effect, a project life cycle is not just about the start and finish dates; rather, it is a defined and logical approach to planning and managing the development across the life of the process. According to Project Management Institute (PMI), processes are guided through five Process Groups: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Monitoring & Controlling, and Closing. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) (PMI, 2008) emphasises that, although the project management processes are generally acknowledged and applied, this does not imply that the practices should be broadly applied on all projects. In a post-conflict environment, the project management team, in collaboration and partnership with the wider project steering committee and the participating community, should be responsible for determining what knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques are appropriate in the given situation.
The project cycle consists of a number of progressive phases that, broadly speaking, lead from the identification of needs and objectives through to the planning and implementation of activities to address pre-determined needs and objectives, and onto the assessment of the outcomes; it serves to provide structure and direction to development activities while, at the same time, allowing for key objectives and issues to remain in focus. Although the exact number of stages varies somewhat according to each organisation and each project, as do the names given to each stage, it is possible to identify certain generic phases that are present in almost all project cycles (Biggs & Smith, 2003).
Conceptual Framework for Reconstruction of Post-conflict Societies
Addison and McGillivray (2004, p. 353) drew the conclusion that “if projects are well designed, well targeted, and well implemented … they can restore badly needed infrastructure, and can win broad-based local support for peace and reconstruction processes.” Managing post-conflict projects in Kosovo has proven challenging to international organisations and local communities alike. Project planning and design must be informed by the accurate analysis of the post-conflict environment driven by local conditions. Sound preparation, execution, and monitoring are vital for efficient and effective use of donor funds to help ensure that resources are utilised for the intended purpose and, more importantly, to achieve long-term goals. There is still a wide gap between theoretical and practical knowledge, as well as a lack of research-based applications, of systematic methods of project management in PCR development. This gap is evident in the dearth of literature and empirical research involving the practical application of management tools deployed in the international development aid sector (Diallo & Thuiller, 2005; Elonen & Artto, 2003; Khang & Moe, 2008; Themistocleous & Wearne, 2000). The objective of the study, therefore, was to develop an integrated framework for managing projects in a post-conflict society by critically examining the challenges in planning and by identifying deficiencies in the implementation of PCR projects in Kosovo.
Notably, there are post-conflict states undergoing reconstruction and development; in order to improve the development and governance in those countries, it is time for international development experts, researchers, and practitioners to address the question of how a ‘project management approach’ to reconstruction processes in post-conflict societies differs from project management in peaceful countries. Consideration also needs to be given to what tools and techniques work best for the prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of conflict when executing projects in PCR countries (Voetsch & Myers, 2005). In an increasingly precarious and unpredictable environment, the functionality of post-conflict societies needs to be improved so as to increase the physical and economic status of recipient communities; this requires a management approach that is highly responsive and flexible so as to challenge the existing socio-economic status quo (Fielding, 2006).
Research Study Model
By examining the existing Kosovo planning processes and complex operational experiences of PCR development projects in a more systematic way, a hypothetical model (Figure 1) for planning and implementing projects in post-conflict settings using ‘Project-based management’ was developed from the research. The model uses the nine Knowledge Areas of the PMBOK® Guide: Project Integration Management, Project Scope Management, Project Time Management, Project Cost Management, Project Quality Management, Project Human Resource Management, Project Communication Management, Project Risk Management, and Project Procurement Management.
Figure 1: Post-conflict reconstruction project management hypothetical model.
Methodological Framework of the Study
No clear paradigm has emerged with standard strategies to underpin the research and conceptualisation of project management processes required for successful operations in PCR (Lukic, 2010). In the current study, the complex challenges of planning and implementing post-conflict reconstruction projects in Kosovo were examined from a number of perspectives, which included the historical aspect and current political, social, and economic factors that contributed greatly to development effectiveness. A mixed method research tool combining both qualitative and quantitative data collection, together with a case study strategy, was used to describe post-conflict infrastructure reconstruction project processes. Case studies have been used widely in management research to review processes that are uncertain and events that are often unknown and/or entail change. Multiple case studies also can be used to examine the organisation's processes and practices in extreme situations where changes occur over time (Druckman, 2005; McCutcheon & Meredith, 1993). Hartley (2004) suggested that a case study often focuses on the processes of change and is suitable to analyse complex organisational processes. Similarly, a case study gives the researcher an opportunity to explore social processes in depth and to develop a better understanding of research questions as they unfold in complex social settings.
In the case of Kosovo's socio-economic development, many organisations tend to use their own crafted, albeit extraordinary processes to implement projects. In order to investigate this dynamic practice, a case study approach was determined to be most appropriate. As an exploratory case study, a mixed methods approach was used. Generally, it is assumed that combining both qualitative and quantitative methods can provide a better analysis of the research problem and questions than can be achieved by using either method alone (Brewer & Hunter, 1989). Patton (2002) emphatically argued that the results from different methods could produce quite different interpretations. By focusing on the infrastructure projects' reconstruction development in one of the newest nations in the world (Kosovo), use of the case study reveals certain challenges inherent in project design and management so that new design elements can be developed and tested in other post-conflict societies. Although ‘project-based management’ processes have not been tested in a post-conflict environment, Druckman (2005) and Veal (2005) highlighted that the case study method can be used to confirm whether or not the theory was suited for adapting to a complex setting.
Druckman (2005) argued that the finest surveys were designed using the key doctrine and forms of qualitative work and could be reliable due to the volume of cases in a typical survey. However, there was no evidence of any similar survey having been conducted previously. Since there were no existing questionnaires from which to extrapolate, the survey questionnaire was designed from the review of literature on development projects and by conducting telephone interviews with highly experienced humanitarian aid practitioners who had worked in Kosovo.
A pilot survey was undertaken to determine the comprehensiveness of the questionnaire, to test the wording, sequencing, layout, survey completion time, and analysis procedures (Ary, Jacob, & Razavieh, 2002; Ticehurst & Veal, 1999; Veal, 2005) and to make meaningful changes based on the feedback from the pilot group respondents (Creswell, 2008). Wittes and Brittain (1990) urged that in order to collect meaningful data, participants should be familiar with the context and be representative of the target population in the larger study. In order to test the content validity of the questionnaire, the pilot survey was sent to 20 senior program coordinators and project managers who had worked closely with project teams in Kosovo and who had participated in projects long enough to have experience in post-conflict reconstruction. On the basis of the feedback obtained from the pilot test, responses were used to revise and improve the questionnaire. Some questions contained errors, were considered irrelevant to the context or were repeated, whereas others were unclear and had to be reformulated or deleted and the questionnaire refined (Collins, 2003; Creswell, 2008).
Commonly used in management research (Moorman & Podsakoff, 2011), questionnaires can be an effective means of gathering comparable information and making decisions when dealing with a wide range of complex information from organisations and individuals. Though objectivity is not always possible, it does provide information in a transparent, succinct, and easily understood form (Ticehurst & Veal, 1999). The quantitative questionnaire and the qualitative semi-structured interview schedule design process (Figure 2) were the culmination of careful thought and discussions with key respondents on various issues of project planning and implementation, along with a review of literature on post-conflict reconstruction and development projects.
Figure 2: Questionnaire design process.
(Source: Adapted from Ticehurst & Veal (1999).
Fieldwork took place over a period of eight weeks in Kosovo, from August to October 2008. During this period, Kosovo was emerging from half a century of communist rule, and undergoing a slow process of privatization; it had moved beyond the immediate support of post-war emergency recovery and reconstruction, and was bridging the gap from neglect and underdevelopment to long-term development (ARD/USAID, 2004). Neuman (2003) posited that a cross-functional study involved the collection of data at the same point in time. Depending on the specific needs of the research subject and project goals, the timing of a study is very critical to the validity of the inferences sought from the data (Druckman, 2005).
During the data collection period, Kosovo unilaterally declared independence from Serbia. Following the proclamation of sovereignty, Kosovo underwent a period of transition of civil administration from UNMIK to European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) (Delahunty & Perez, 2009). In March 2002, the functional ministries were formed in Kosovo and in the ensuing period Kosovo had already moved from a transition phase to the reconstruction process by shifting the focus from short-term relief to long-term economic recovery and development (Llamazares & Levy, 2003). Conversely, six years later, in assessing the post-conflict reconstruction mission of Kosovo prior to the donor conference in Brussels, held on July 2008 by the International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES), Bostic (2008) argued that effective economic reconstruction of the country as a means of securing lasting peace was needed more than ever. Collecting empirical data and information for the study during this critical period of economic uncertainty provided the researcher with timely information on how reconstruction projects were planned and implemented.
A total of 420 respondents were involved in the study process, as follows: key informants (4), pilot test (12), semi-structured interviews (36), PM Survey (231), CoM survey (117), and focus group (20); both Albanian and Serbian ethnic groups were represented in the sample for the study. Not surprisingly, local participants were mainly from the ethnic Albanian community, although there were Serbians who participated in the study and were cautious about mentioning their ethnic identity. Most participants were well educated and the questionnaire addressed numerous aspects of project management development practices. However, the case study method provided a systematic way to investigate the current systems in a practical manner and offered the researcher meaningful and applicable characteristics of the situation, a method proposed by Yin (2003). Pragmatically, combining both quantitative and qualitative data collection and analytical approaches was useful in establishing the Research Outcome Model (ROM) for the application of post-conflict development projects.
Qualitative data about the experiences of those implementing projects were obtained through semi-structured interviews and a focus group discussion conducted with key project personnel during the field trip from August to early October 2008. The qualitative data from both the focus group discussion and the staff interviews were collated and interrogated for patterns and insights with respect to the key research questions. Marshall (1996) considered a suitable sample size for a qualitative study was one that adequately provided the information needed. Creswell (1998) recommended that for a phenomenological study the participants' sample size should be between 5 and 25 interviews. The study sample involved considerable examinations of infrastructure projects with a variety of agencies.
Primarily quantitative data were collected through two sets of questionnaires developed from information in literature reviews and from interviews with key informants. In the survey questionnaire, the focus of items was to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of managing projects in the post-war reconstruction of Kosovo; the objective was to determine whether project management principles and processes could be suitably applied in post-conflict societies. Austin (2000), in his address to a Global Project Management Forum, emphatically argued that there were no specialised standards or tailor-made programs for professionals in the field of International Development Project Management. In Survey 2, the focus of items was to gain a deeper understanding of the dynamics of development project management processes in post-conflict physical reconstruction in war-torn Kosovo.
Quantitative Data Analysis
SPSS statistics version 17.0 was used to analyse and interpret the basic research data, with frequency distributions executed on all variables. A Chi-square analysis was used to determine if there were any significant differences between responses based on demographic variables. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used on each section of questions that focused on the planning, execution, and management of the projects to determine the internal structure of the scales. The cut-off point used was an eigenvalue of at least 1.0 and it provided a meaningful lower bound for determination of factors (Hattie, 1985; Kaiser, 1960). Total scale scores were calculated and ANOVAs or Mann-Whitney tests used to determine if differences existed between the total scale scores and demographic variables. A reliability analysis was used on each of the scales to determine the internal consistency. Items that were redundant or could be excluded in order to increase the reliability have been highlighted. Correlations between items, as well as item-to-total correlations have been calculated to determine which items may be redundant.
Qualitative Data Analysis
Miles and Huberman (1994) posited that the coding or categorising process can be done after the data collection or during the field work by creating a provisional list of key variables. The coding process to find commonalities and patterns (Seidel & Kelle, 1995) involved subdividing the data and categorising it into a number of themes for the topic (Dey, 1993). According to Farber (2006), a theme may be evident by searching for a word within a sentence or paragraph in an interview transcript. The goal of the researcher was to examine the data thoroughly in order to observe and categorise similar phenomena. In order to answer the research questions, the findings of semi-structured questions were coded as summarised by Basit (2003). Several analytical techniques were used: listening to the interview tapes, transcribing the interviews, reading and summarising the transcripts, and choosing categories and linking them to themes. During the processes, key quotations were highlighted and sorted in a coherent fashion. The emergent process was contemplated again and further condensed, culminating in decisive subheadings being identified.
Managing the Project Scope
Moderate scores indicate a sound consensus by the respondents (Table 1) (i.e., for the establishment of a project, the goals and objectives are well defined by the organisation prior to implementing the project). However, there was lack of community participation in the selection of the project, and gaining consensus is an all-important process to get honest buy-in from the people involved so that all aspects of the project are understood and agreed upon. Organisations did not have alternative approaches planned in case of any uncertainty during the implementation process. The scope established for each project should clarify alternative responsibilities among project stakeholders. The gaining of consensus by the project team and the community to determine priorities is critical in such an environment. Achieving consensus implies that a project chosen by the community will be accepted by the beneficiaries.
Table 1: Project scope management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Scope Management||Mean|
|The project goals and objectives were clearly defined||4.01|
|The organisation had people with the abilities to plan and implement projects realistically||3.80|
|The project team members actively participated in project decision-making||3.79|
|The project had a workable plan in the form of network schedules (milestones)||3.76|
|The stakeholders were committed to the achievement of project outcomes||3.70|
|The project changes were effectively controlled throughout the project life cycle||3.70|
|The project team facilitated discussions to assist in determining the priorities that fit the community||3.66|
|The projects team members took ownership of the project||3.50|
|In the project planning, alternative approaches were included to achieve project objectives||3.51|
|For the selection of projects, the community was involved||3.28|
Managing the Project Cost
In a post-conflict environment, it is difficult to estimate accurately the total cost and have the resources to deliver projects within approved budgets. In Table 2, the main object of project cost management was for the organisation to have the ability to estimate and understand how to control the project cost in consultation with the stakeholders. In practice, despite the inherent uncertainties faced by many infrastructure projects, agencies do not have reserve operational funding to account for emergencies and, very often, have continuing budget constraints. In an ever-changing environment, project cost reviews and trend analysis should be carried out periodically and should be factored into the project plan.
Table 2: Project cost management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Cost Management||Mean|
|The organisation had people with the ability to estimate its project cost.||4.01|
|Adequate provision was made for the estimated cost of the project.||3.92|
|Agreed financial management processes were implemented to monitor actual expenditure.||3.90|
|For the project, cost control was an essential factor for the successful delivery of the project.||3.87|
|When the project was estimated, the resources were accounted for effectively.||3.80|
|The project estimates were developed in consultation with appropriate stakeholders allocated to the task||3.78|
|The project outcomes were reviewed to determine the effectiveness of cost management systems.||3.72|
|The project had standard method (graphical tools) for communicating the project cost and variance.||3.71|
|Cost analyses were conducted and variations were implemented to meet complex changing circumstances.||3.56|
|The project had a policy for cost contingency to allow for risks and uncertainty.||3.40|
Managing the Project Time
Delays in infrastructure projects can frustrate a divided community, increase complexity, and make it far more difficult to maintain peace-building milestones. As reflected in Table 3, in a post-conflict setting, completing the project within the determined time is essential for economic progress and stabilisation of the community. Despite having limited capacity, it is important that project managers allocate and prioritise critical resources available within the project. The implementing organisation should communicate with, and get endorsement from, all stakeholders on the project time schedules and ensure that the required outcomes have been achieved as planned. The project team should monitor the progress of the project against the planned schedule at some point in each phase of the life cycle. The organisation should have simple scheduled techniques (bar charts, Gantt charts) for measuring project progress and provide meaningful assessments of growth in relation to the desired outcome.
Table 3: Project time management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Time Management||Mean|
|For every planned and approved project, each activity had an estimated duration.||3.96|
|The organisation obtained team ownership of schedules.||3.76|
|Progress was monitored against schedule.||3.76|
|By scheduling time for projects, the project organisation could assign priority for resources between projects.||3.72|
|The project outcomes were reviewed to determine if expected outcomes were attained as planned (per schedule).||3.69|
|Scheduling techniques (bar charts, Gantt charts) were used to establishtime schedules for project activities.||3.68|
|Appropriate stakeholders complied with established time schedules when implementing projects.||3.64|
|The time it took to approve project funding was satisfactory.||3.59|
|The organisation had set time and cost estimates too low to secure project funding.||3.54|
|For every planned and approved project, each activity had an estimated duration.||3.96|
Managing the Project Human Resources
The ability of the project team to work collectively in a dynamic environment and to achieve the project goals and objectives within tight budgetary and time constraints presents daunting challenges to project managers and the organisation. The project managers indicated (Table 4) the need to identify detailed training requirements at various levels of the project to increase the skills of the development team. The project manager should optimise the utilisation of scarce resources by scheduling activities collectively as a team rather than individually. The project team also should be encouraged to develop, practice, and actively participate in community problem-solving exercises and respond to discussions in a timely manner. To achieve the desired goals, the team should be encouraged to consult with project team members to analyse issues and operational process improvements.
Table 4: Project human resources management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Human Resources Management||Mean|
|The project had a steering group to resolve issues.||3.86|
|The organisation ensures that resources are appropriately allocated to manage projects.||3.85|
|Project team members actively participated and consulted with others to achieve project goals.||3.82|
|Project team members had the capacity to work independently and handle multiple project tasks.||3.79|
|Project team members could lead, influence, and coach others to achieve desired results.||3.73|
|People participating in projects were competent in their relevant field of expertise.||3.71|
|Project team members had adequate knowledge, information, and understanding of project management skills.||3.79|
|Project team members had the knowledge of conflict resolution and problem-solving abilities.||3.67|
|The availability of scarce resources was taken into account when deciding on projects.||3.58|
|The project team could develop and manage training and development needs.||3.43|
Managing the Project Quality
In general, the requirements for skills training for the implementation team and technical specifications for the project (Table 5) should be outlined in the planning phase and have detailed and measurable goals to facilitate ascertaining progress. Emphasis should be placed on documenting project records and reporting progress and project findings. The project manager should document the progress on project activities and compare them with the planned schedule. Formal reviews must be conducted and periodic progress reports should specifically address areas of non-conformance operating within the framework. These reports may result in operational changes being identified in the plan and the organisation should share lessons of operational practices and procedures with other agencies operating in the area to avoid future non-conformance.
Table 5: Project quality management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Quality Management||Mean|
|Project progress was monitored and the delivery process and project outcomes were evaluated.||3.86|
|The organisation had procedures for maintaining the quality records at each project phase.||3.79|
|The projects consistently met the technical performance specifications.||3.78|
|The organisation had a procedure for taking corrective actions for problems encountered during the project cycle.||3.73|
|The organisation reported to other agencies the results of inspections that addressed any area of non-conformance.||3.68|
|The project team identified what quality standards were relevant to the project.||3.59|
|There were standardised checklists to ensure consistency in frequently performed activities.||3.54|
|Planned project practices were compared with other projects in order to generate ideas for improvement.||3.47|
|There were procedures for formal reviews to learn from project failures and/or successes.||3.39|
|The organisation specified skills training with economic development initiative for the project team.||3.45|
Managing Project Procurement
In a post-conflict procurement environment (Table 6), contractors employed to do the task frequently are selected from the international market. In the interests of the contractors and their intended beneficiaries, they should assess the capacity to operate in challenging field conditions and must understand the local dynamics and the perception of critical local issues. While acknowledging the difficult environment and procurement activities that are criticised as slow and excessively complex, to mitigate the risk the organisation and its stakeholders should plan and coordinate procurement activities early in the project life cycle. The project procurement process must also establish proper selection criteria for the suppliers and explicitly define the requirements and obligations of the contractors aligned with the project needs.
Table 6: Project procurement management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Procurement Management||Mean|
|Contract deliverables met contractual and project requirements.||3.93|
|Agreed proposals were communicated to prospective contractors to ensure clarity of project objectives.||3.73|
|Procurement progress was reviewed to ensure project objectives were met||3.72|
|Procurement activities were planned early and refined throughout the project life cycle.||3.71|
|Preferred contractors were selected in accordance with agreed on selection processes||3.69|
|Contractual conflicts were identified and remedial actions were implemented.||3.62|
|Procurement requirements were identified in consultation with appropriate stakeholders||3.61|
|Established selection criteria were determined in consultation with stakeholders||3.59|
|Procurement process was often criticised as slow, costly, and complex in a post-conflict environment.||3.56|
|Contractors critically assessed their capacity to operate in a challenging post-conflict environment.||3.46|
Managing Project Communication
In essence, before an organisation proceeds with the execution of the project, it is important that all key stakeholders are rightly identified (Table 7) and that they have a common understanding and acceptance of deliverables associated with milestones. The project team must ensure that there is clear and regular communication with the local community, they have interagency interaction, and keep stakeholders updated on the implementation process. There are project issues that arise during planning and implementation processes and project managers, in consultation with the community and stakeholders, should address grievances and resolve conflict before they escalate. Finally, the project organisation should establish supportive mechanisms for the field staff to report, document activities, and encourage discussion of conflicting views on issues important to the community.
Table 7: Project communication management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Communication Management||Mean|
|The project is committed to keeping all stakeholders informed about the project' s progress.||3.98|
|Project team members often informally discussed project matters.||3.98|
|The project meetings provided helpful and accurate project information.||3.96|
|The communication channels for reporting project problems are clear.||3.86|
|The organisation had detailed information tracked for the project||3.83|
|The organisation could resolve conflict when it arose.||3.80|
|Project stakeholders review information on the project and seek to address any issues raised.||3.79|
|The key stakeholders were correctly identified.||3.77|
|The communication channels are clear between the organization and the community.||3.77|
|There was a common understanding requirements.||3.76|
Managing Project Risk
A post-conflict country is usually a divided society and to determine if the project should continue to operate, the significant groups within the community should be fully involved in identifying, prioritising and contributing to risk assessment processes that affect them. In addition, in order to make informed decisions (Table 8), the team should lay out guidelines for interactions with other agencies operating in the same location to provide for risk assessment and to eliminate conflicting practices. The reality is that most agencies do not handle unforeseen circumstances well and, by having a contingency plan, the project team can deal with its possible consequences. The project manager should encourage auditing to evaluate whether the project meets cost, schedule, and performance targets. Finally, the optimal delegation of risk responsibilities shared with local communities and groups minimises the beneficiaries' attempt to criticise and blame aid agencies, donors, and the local government when there are significant delays in implementation of the project.
Table 8: Project risk management variables in rank order of means.
|Project Risk Management||Mean|
|The organisation concentrated on ensuring that the highest priority risks were attended to first.||3.74|
|The organisation communicated risk reduction activities with other agencies.||3.71|
|Responsibilities for the risk activities identified were delegated throughout the project organisation to individuals and groups.||3.69|
|The project team continually addressed potential risk and continued to control risks throughout the project's life cycle||3.67|
|The project teams were capable of monitoring risk response strategies and to deal with worst-case scenarios||3.66|
|Audit reports were used to monitor the progress and evaluate performance.||3.65|
|The organisation developed a risk management plan to make informed decisions.||3.60|
|The organisation had a contingency plan to recover from each identified risk.||3.55|
|The project team interacted with other project organisations to carry out risk analysis||3.46|
|The communities were involved in managing risk through the practice of identifying the risk early in the life of the project.||3.28|
In summarising the general qualitative findings on project management issues about undertaking reconstruction projects, planning and implementation were key themes that emerged from the interviews. Respondents argued that organisations did not have any strategic plans or standards during the transition phase of reconstruction and development. The coordination with donors and the aid agencies in shared planning and implementation was considered very critical but, too often, was poorly executed. The respondents indicated that many organisations were implementing several programs simultaneously and there was duplication of projects by different agencies, which added to the lack of coordination. Project managers were asked to implement projects in the field prior to local community consultation and without conducting any feasibility studies. Consequently, respondents identified that there was a need for standards and guidelines to plan and implement programs and projects. A program coordinator working for a school infrastructure project in Pristina had this to say about community participation:
If there is no participation by the local people to know what infrastructure the community requires, then the organisation is reigniting the economic and social tension.
The second common theme was project cost management; almost all participants noted that project cost estimation and control were key issues for every organisation. The respondents stated that there was no doubt Kosovo had substantial pledged donor contributions, but the donors also retained full control of the cost disbursements and they dictated which projects were to be implemented in different municipalities. As a result, several respondents reported that, in most cases, they felt the project either was underfunded or had budget-related problems. Not surprisingly, respondents reported that implementing aid agencies compete for donor funding without doing a feasibility study or cost estimation and, in most cases, accepted projects in the field that ended up being underfunded. A respondent who works for a funding agency stated that:
Agencies could use simple but effective mechanisms to track and control cost – this could be a monthly meeting where you examine budget versus actual expenditure, procurement and logistical issues, performance against targets etc.
Participants also reported on extended implementation schedule constraints due to poor planning and shortages of skilled human and material resources. In some cases, donors did not support the extended schedules, and the implementing agency had to deal with the beneficiaries within the overall context of those impediments. Respondents reported that, given the complex and fragile environment, there were bound to be issues and setbacks in implementation; these lead to increasing costs that may not be fully funded by donors. As a result, organisations tend to compromise on quality to achieve cost minimisation. Respondents commented on how the local community became frustrated and lost credibility when international agencies delay reconstruction projects, which are supposed to help build the damaged economy and be a source of livelihood for the community. The quote below largely reflects the approach taken by the participants:
Here you have a donor imposed project schedule, which was not so well defined.
Poor ‘procurement’ planning and the need for standardisation for tendering of essential goods and services were widely acknowledged by respondents. They mentioned that many organisations do have their own standards but most staff members were not familiar with the processes and, given the limited time frame, the procurement process was compromised. One key issue mentioned by respondents was that, in post-conflict society, corrupt practices inflate the prices of goods and services and, in turn, this increases transaction costs. The respondents also considered procurement of goods for the projects to be an important and sensitive issue due to the corruption and lack of transparency within agencies. A local consultant educated and with overseas experience, had implemented training programs in project management processes to government and local NGOs and had this to say regarding imposed standards:
Programs must be cognisant of corruption and power dynamics in post-conflict societies but there are ways to mitigating these. Certainly, any program should make an effort to reach out to every influential stakeholder group and bring them on board through dialogue and consultation.
Respondents also mentioned projects being implemented in an environment characterised by weak governance institutions and poor planning practices, which compromised the final ‘quality’ of the product. One respondent mentioned it would be good to define quality audit standards along with the project proposals presented to the donor for review and that they should be within strict cost limits. This would help monitor and identify project changes and put controls in place to administer quality. A local government official working for a health project had this to say:
What has been spent is not necessarily the most efficient way of gauging the development process.
Participants also commented about adopting a coherent communication strategy to be factored into the planning process on how reporting would be carried out with stakeholders to ensure the exchange of all relevant information; they emphasised that not all those engaged in the process were aware of the project status and, as a result, there was a long-term development impact on a project. Last, and most importantly, potential beneficiaries themselves felt they were left out of the whole process when they had to use the project's resultant product and services. The following quote describes the impressions from many of the respondents:
I think communication is the heart of the problems in projects that we have implemented.
Respondents mentioned that risk management had been introduced by agencies only very recently, so organisations now prepare risk analysis for projects; however, detailed planning and mitigation of risk involved in implementing reconstruction projects are still limited. A university professor and education consultant in Kosovo had stated:
You have to take into account that in these post-conflict zones there is a huge need for any project, any infrastructure really … so the community is not always analysing risk.
It was clear from all respondents that implementing projects in a post-conflict environment is very complex. Agencies should introduce projects and program them with components of good governance and planning jointly by the organisation and the community. All respondents had extensive field experience and were very senior in their organisation hierarchy; they mentioned the knowledge areas of project management in a different context and had been using them only randomly based on specific situations. They were not aware of standard processes and tools used in a project-based approach. The university professor also had this to say:
Programs still too often neglect capacity for all aspects of governance – including project management within government structure, and focus too much on civil society and community groups. It all needs to be done in partnership, and civil society and government need to be brought together if possible.
Conclusion and Discussion
Data presented by practitioners point to both advantages and challenges in relation to the overall approach for setting up and managing projects. In particular, current management approaches are noted to be inadequate and have severe methodological limitations in respect to measuring the socio-economic impact of such projects.
Even after implementing projects between 2000 and 2008, Kosovo project teams do not have a thorough understanding of project implementation processes. The concepts developed through practical application and experience often consist of a set of collaborative activities and can be predictable, repeatable, and dependable. However, the implementing agencies have not documented formalised lessons learned to help guide future implementations.
As recommended by Partridge (1989), it is important in this context that donors, in association with aid agencies, undertake a feasibility study before authorising construction for any given project. In addition to ascertaining its feasibility, the key stakeholders should define and understand its scope before a project is executed. Agencies and donors should ensure that project objectives and goals have measureable benchmarks by which to evaluate project milestones, and beneficiaries should participate in the selection and decision-making processes (Mefalopulos, 2005).
While international donors pledge to reconstruction and stabilisation efforts, it is important to recognise that financial risks faced by many organisations contribute to delays in project implementation. Post-conflict projects require very close monitoring and control (Natsios, 2005), which may also necessitate numerous changes; controlling overall project cost changes to the budget requires appropriate techniques and cost models for documenting and monitoring project plans.
The project team and the organisation should make information accessible in a transparent and timely manner to key stakeholders at key project stages. It is essential to establish formal channels of communication standards within the project plan (Locurcio, 2005).
Reference participants referred to a number of quality issues within the design element of the process, especially as decisions are made more complex by involving a number of stakeholders. In Kosovo, no project managers had drawn up a quality plan for the construction operations' product or services, nor were any provisions made for unexpected problems with a design element or the process.
The validity of current procurement practices in post-conflict societies needs to be examined, particularly because requirements are complex and there is a general scarcity of goods in the country. Speed and timely delivery of goods and services are critical; however, lengthy bureaucratic practices cause delays in delivering services and exacerbate the situation. The current study identified the need for a procurement strategy to build on lessons learned and best practices that can contribute to support aid agencies.
Despite acute capacity limitations and urgent acquisition of goods and services in post-conflict situations (UNDP/IAPSO, 2005), due consideration is rarely given to this aspect of reconstruction in planning project risks. The current study demonstrated that the risk of diversion or misappropriation of resources is high at a time when it is essential for existing resources to be used as efficiently as possible. In addition, the planning for contingencies imposes additional investment pressure on the donors' earmarked grants. Donors and aid agencies, before approving project grants, should encourage organisations to prepare a high-level risk management plan, to ensure efficient and effective mobilization of scarce resources in the midst of competing priorities.
In post-conflict situations, agencies are limited in scope and time, and the provision of skills training to the project team is reduced. Though most respondents were qualified, based on the demographic characteristics of the respondents, training and guidelines should be made more available to the project field team on issues such as conflict resolution, project management practices, and team-building skills; there should be inter-agency coordination of humanitarian, post-conflict and development ‘strategic planning,’ and ‘funding processes’ in post-conflict societies. It is the responsibility of the organisations/donors to include technical experts while enhancing interaction with relevant stakeholders.
As a result of this study, the findings suggest that detailed PMBOK® Guide strategies need to be included in a research outcome model (ROM). The PMBOK® Guide framework in Appendix 1, therefore, is divided into four major life cycle processes: Initiation, Planning, Controlling (Executing), and Closing.
Ahsan and Gunawan (2010) stressed the importance of developing an international development framework, and the research outcome model (ROM) outlined in Figure 3 has confirmed and extended the original hypothetic model used in the study. It is an up-to-date representation of how project managers can use identified tools, factors, and techniques to facilitate, construct, and complete more successful post-conflict development programs.
Figure 3: Post-conflict reconstruction project management.
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