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United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

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Rwanda National Human Development Report

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


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After a long and difficult process of recovery from the genocide, one of the worst atrocities in Africa, Rwanda is now firmly on the path of resurgence and economic development. In recent years, all the key institutional and legal instruments have been put in place to facilitate Rwanda’s long-term development. Six years ago, Rwanda elaborated on its national development vision, Vision 2020, which translates its international development commitments, such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), into a comprehensive national development plan. In 2003, Rwanda adopted a new constitution that guarantees basic political freedom and human rights for all. In the same year, Rwanda held its first parliamentary and presidential elections. In May 2005, Rwanda successfully completed the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) process and became eligible for substantial debt relief. Shortly afterwards, the country initiated its Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy, which constitutes the way it plans to operationalise its development goals.

Today, Rwanda finds itself at a crossroads in its development process. After a successful transition from emergency to stabilisation and recovery, Rwanda now needs to find the path that will set the country on course for achieving the objectives laid out in Vision 2020. This transition will create new challenges for Rwanda and require the country to find new sources of growth for long-term human and economic development. Furthermore, it needs to establish mechanisms for managing the profound structural transformation of the economy and society that will be required in order to achieve Vision 2020. In this report, we review in depth some of the key challenges Rwanda will face over the coming years and we discuss possible solutions.

The main argument of this report is that achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Rwanda is possible, even with reasonable assumptions of economic growth and development assistance. Rwanda presents all the necessary fundamental attributes to showcase the potential of the new Post-Millennium Declaration. Rwanda’s experience shows that even war-ravaged leastdeveloped countries can make progress towards achieving sustainable long-term development. The country is sufficiently small to consider the option of scaling up aid to the levels required to achieve the MDGs. Despite the war, the country is strongly institutionalised and has a functioning central state. Finally, Rwanda has comparatively low levels of corruption and a fairly effective public administration.

Achieving the MDGs in Rwanda will require a fundamental rethink of the structure of development assistance. Rwanda already receives more foreign aid than most African countries, at US$55 per capita, yet the impact of this aid on poverty reduction and economic growth is limited. If Rwanda is to achieve the MDGs and Vision 2020, then “business as usual” must be replaced by a bold new partnership for development. This will involve donors committing to provide the necessary resources to Rwanda over a sufficiently long period. This will be necessary to enable the country to undertake the “Big Push” of investment that is required to break the cycle of poverty facing some of the more vulnerable groups. More importantly, the resources must be aligned with national priorities; and they must be predictable, coordinated and streamlined in order to enable the government to optimise their use for poverty reduction. On the other hand, the Government of Rwanda needs to make long-term commitments to adhere to the strategies set out in the EDPRS and to align its national policies with the MDGs. To ensure the sustainability of the Big Push, Rwanda must strengthen its institutional and legal framework and continue the progress made in the area of governance.

This second National Human Development Report for Rwanda examines some of the most pressing development concerns facing the country. This report is the result of a collaborative process involving a wide variety of stakeholders including the Government of Rwanda, the National University of Rwanda, donors, civil society groups, private sector representatives and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The report was independently prepared with the objective of being nationally owned and inclusive to a variety of stakeholders.

The NHDR is based on a human development approach. Human development refers to the expansion of choices and capabilities facing people to live the lives they choose. The strength of the human development approach is its ability to place people in the centre of analysis, and to move beyond focusing only on income or economic growth. A human development analysis gives us insight into understanding the uneven development process in Rwanda.

Rwanda has experienced substantial growth over the past decade, but this growth has achieved only modest progress towards poverty reduction and meeting the MDGs. A human development approach allows us to examine the important inter-linkages between economic progress and other aspects of social welfare that affect the quality of life and choices faced by the majority of the population. As we examine the future development path for Rwanda, it is vitally important that we move beyond merely examining long-term sources of growth and look towards promoting broad-based sustainable human development for all.

Before starting our analysis, we review some fundamental principles that are key to the study, by focusing on the importance of and interrelation between Vision 2020, the MDGs, the EDPRS and the HIPC Initiative.

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