By Robin Van Auken on Volunteer Forever

Take your business degree to the next level and learn how the economy of a foreign country evolves with an internship in International Development. Or, focus on education policies, governance, conservation, science, health, gender equality, or more with a broader internship that allows you to explore ways to improve living conditions, alleviate poverty, and stimulate economic growth.

The concept of International Development is so broad that nearly any topic you study is relevant because what it measures is how a community or country changes through time. Hopefully, that change is positive globalization and the establishment of free trade policies between developed and underdeveloped nations.

As an international development intern abroad, your goal is to help people enjoy freedom from poverty, hunger, and insecurity.

An internship in international development would build upon both the Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations and the Sustainable Development Goals, a new agenda that calls upon all countries to act in solidarity to transform our world by the year 2030.

New goals focus on climate change, economic inequality, democracy, poverty, and peacebuilding.

To accomplish these goals, international aid is needed – not just disaster relief or humanitarian aid. The difference between these types of aid is the emphasis on long-term, internal solutions – ones that help a developing country devise solutions for its own problems.

“A truly sustainable development project is one which will be able to carry on indefinitely with no further international involvement or support, whether it be financial or otherwise.”


There are 17 interconnected goals that serve as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone. These global challenges that must be accomplished by 2030 are:

  1. NO POVERTY – Economic growth must be inclusive to provide sustainable jobs and promote equality.
  2. ZERO HUNGER – The food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development and is central for hunger and poverty eradication.
  3. GOOD HEALTH AND WELL-BEING – Ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all at all ages is essential to sustainable development.
  4. QUALITY EDUCATION – Obtaining a quality education is a foundation for improving people’s lives and sustainable development.
  5. GENDER EQUALITY – Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
  6. CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION – Clean, accessible water for all is an essential part of the world we want to live in.
  7. AFFORDABLE AND CLEAN ENERGY – Energy is central to nearly every major challenge and opportunity.
  8. DECENT WORK AND ECONOMIC GROWTH – Sustainable economic growth will require societies to create conditions that allow people to have quality jobs.
  9. INDUSTRY, INNOVATION, AND INFRASTRUCTURE – Investments in infrastructure are crucial to achieving sustainable development.
  10. REDUCED INEQUALITIES – To reduce inequalities, policies should be universal in principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations.
  11. SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES – There needs to be a future in which cities provide opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.
  12. RESPONSIBLE PRODUCTION AND CONSUMPTION – Sustainable consumption and production are about promoting resource and energy efficiency, sustainable infrastructure, and providing access to basic services, green and decent jobs and a better quality of life for all.
  13. CLIMATE ACTION – Climate change is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere.
  14. LIFE BELOW WATER – Careful management of this essential global resource is a key feature of a sustainable future.
  15. LIFE ON LAND – Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
  16. PEACE, JUSTICE AND STRONG INSTITUTIONS – Access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.
  17. PARTNERSHIPS FOR THE GOALS – Revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

How will the world know it has accomplished these goals, especially since we only have a decade to complete them? And who decides if an underdeveloped country is on its way to becoming developed, or if it’s even necessary or desirable to move in that direction? To help answer these questions, the United Nations has created a protocol for interpreting the “human development index.” A country scores a higher HDI when the lifespan is higher, the education level is higher, and GNI (PPP) per capita is higher. There are many different measures of human development, but some of them are:

  1. National GDP
  2. Literacy rates
  3. Life expectancy
  4. Human Development Index
  5. Gini coefficient
  6. Human Security Index
  7. Per capita income
  8. Maternal survival rate
  9. HIV infection rates
  10. Number of doctors per capita


If you’re a student or a recent graduate, and you’re seeking the hands-on professional experience that will launch your career, you can add an international development internship to your resume in as little as two weeks. Many volunteers ask what they can accomplish in such a short time, but the fact is your contribution adds to the ongoing work of thousands of other like-minded people who are helping to improve the world each day.

International development internships include placements in medicine and health care, childcare and education, wildlife and marine conservation, micro business, agriculture, engineering, science and technology, law and public relations, media and journalism, government and politics, and hospitality and tourism.

The partners featured in this article work with NGOs and grassroots community development organizations to address important sustainability issues such as access to clean water, education, gender equity, health care, agriculture, and more. Explore the possibilities!


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