Rwanda – A Developmental State and/or Donor Darling
Bonn, 06.10.2016 until 07.10.2016
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), Radboud University, Nijmegen, École de développement international et mondialisation (EDIM) / School of International Development and Global Studies (SIDGS), University of Ottawa, Ottawa
The goal of this workshop is to provide a space to reflect on the current state of discussions regarding socio-economic development and the role of internal and external actors in the specific case of Rwanda. Questions to be addressed at the workshop include: What is Rwanda’s brand of development? What tools are behind Rwanda’s development? Should we consider Rwanda a success, or as a source of concern? How does Rwanda navigate its relations with donors? Given recent controversies, are we entering a new phase of donor-government relations in Rwanda?
In international debates, Rwanda is a unique country for several reasons. To start, Rwanda serves as an interesting case for development and governance debates (i.e., "developmental states", "political settlement", "home-grown solutions" etc.). It is regularly hailed—by both policymakers and scholars—as a model of development and a success story in terms of carving out its own development and governance approach, often receiving praise for innovative modalities, such as Vision 2020, the Vision 2020 Umurenge program (VUP), and the Imihigo performance contracts.
However, growing voices also raise important concerns about development and governance trends in Rwanda, especially amidst the current controversy surrounding the decision of the President to run for a third term despite constitutional limits. Many question the form and speed of key development programs, raising important issues regarding how they benefit – or punish – local populations. In addition, a growing number of scholars and international non-governmental organizations working in the field of governance are increasingly critical of the quality of democracy in Rwanda, as well as Rwanda’s broader role in the region (especially regarding the conflict situation in Eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC). According to some scholars, even instruments previously hailed by external actors, such as the Imihigo contracts, are being used to strengthen control in the country.
In addition to raising a number of interesting questions regarding Rwanda’s developmental path, these debates also suggest that we maybe entering a new phase of donor-government relations in Rwanda. Many scholars hold Rwanda to be unique in terms of the relations it has built with key donors, often labeling it as a ‘donor darling’ – both before and after the genocide. These relations are the result, many believe, of clear efforts on the part of Rwandan authorities to hold the international community accountable for its inaction during the 1994 genocide. But are these relations changing? Amidst growing international criticism over Rwanda’s involvement in DRC and the controversial mandates, key international allies have sent strong signals to Rwanda, possibly pointing to an important change in terms of aid relations.