On the 22nd Anniversary of the Genocide, Rwanda is defying both global expectations and wishes

By Claire Leigh – Consultant at UNDP, 2015 Labour Parliamentary Candidate and former Chair of LCID – @ClaireLeighLab  

Reconciliation village, Nyamata, 2016

Reconciliation village, Nyamata, 2016

It is almost frustrating to start every discussion on Rwanda by referencing the infamous genocide that took place there twenty two years ago. The country today is almost unrecognisable from the place that tore itself apart in 1994 at the cost of some 800 thousand lives, and its grim reputation abroad is starkly out of step with the feisty, controversial and modernising nation’s reality. Ask anyone what they know about Rwanda, and they will say the genocide. When pushed, they might mention gorillas. Pushed further they might have read a newspaper in which President Paul Kagame was slated as ‘another typical African dictator’.

But its government is faced with a dilemma when it comes to not allowing genocide to define it. Within Rwanda itself, the state has pursued a distinctive approach to reconciliation that makes ‘never forget’ more of an order than an entreaty. Constant and visible reminders of the genocide are everywhere; Memorials – often gruesome – appear in every town, while Reconciliation Villages bring perpetrators and victims together to give regular talks to Rwandans and visitors about the terrible events of April 1994. And the genocide is central to the governing regime’s domestic political narrative.

Skyscrapers in downtown KigaliAt the same time the country is attempting the unthinkable: to become a ‘hub’ for African business and a middle-income economy  within a generation. Already, the country seems to be making this vision seem less hallucinogenic, with GDP growth regularly in the double digits, and new sky-scrapers crowding the capital Kigali. But the PR issue remains very real; How to both ‘never forget’ at home while moving perceptions on abroad.

The result is that, despite its startling successes in maintaining the peace (against all expectations, the return to conflict being a miraculous non-event that the state fails to get credit for) and improving citizens’ prosperity, foreigners remain for the most part ignorant of the pretty astonishing changes taking place in Rwanda.

Observers who know more about its transformation are often deeply sceptical of the means by which it is being achieved. Part of the reason for this is Kagame himself, who is anything but a ‘typical African dictator’, but who is dictatorial nevertheless. Political space has been tightly controlled since the genocide, and democracy is simply not a priority of the Regime. As Harvard MBA students learn, Kagame runs Rwanda like the CEO of a large corporation. The government is ruthlessly performance-focused, and if it were judged by one of its own famous performance cards, it would get an A* for things like reducing maternal mortality, increasing incomes, and keeping kids in school. But the international community have in recent years awarded it a D- for democracy, with many withdrawing aid money in protest.

I lived in Rwanda six years ago (full disclosure, I worked for a charity and was based in the President’s Office) at a time when the international community was still in love with Kagame. And it is easy to see why; One of the safest countries in Africa, Rwanda is also the second least corrupt, and spends aid money incredibly effectively. And it was clear to anyone living there that the lives of ordinary Rwandans were being changed dramatically. Fast forward six years and the international romance is over (even ending in divorce for countries like the UK), with donors citing political repression as a growing concern. But Kagame, among the vast majority of Rwandans, remains wildly popular. Most Rwandans I talk to genuinely don’t seem to regard democratisation as either a priority or even desirable in the immediate future. After all, Rwandans have seen what majority rule can do in a country with a large ethnic minority. The government looks to Singapore – only recently democratising after decades of state-led development – as its role model, and surrounded as it is by weak democracies with even weaker development records, who are we to argue?

Twenty two years on from one of the greatest human tragedies of the modern era, Rwanda finds itself famous for all the wrong reasons, and criticised for achieving  all the right things in all the wrong ways. The defiantly unorthodox path being taken by Rwanda raises uncomfortable questions for the international community. We must continue to criticise where human rights abuses are apparent. And clearly Rwanda, like Singapore, needs an exit strategy from authoritarianism. But we must also be humble enough to admit that we might not have all the answers when it comes to Rwanda’s broader exit strategy from the tragic events of 1994.

David Morrissey says ‘Keep the Promise’

At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, the G8 countries made a promise: their aid budgets would be increased to 0.7% of their national income. Now, just 6 years later, there are already signs that some of those countries are failing to live up to their word. The Labour Party, with Harriet Harman at the helm as Shadow International Development Secretary, is demanding that the UK is not added to this list.

Speaking out today, actor David Morrissey has spoken out today, saying “there is much to be proud of, but there’s also much to be done. You can watch the video here

Visit the Keep the Promise website to find out more about Labour’s work, both in Government and in opposition, on increasing aid for the world’s poorest.

Harriet Harman to discuss the aid budget at LSE

On Thursday 3rd February, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary will be speaking at the London School of Economics. The talk will focus on the aid budget and how, and why, the UK should honour its pledge to increase aid to 0.7 of national income in a time of economic downturn.

The event is free and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Date: Thursday 3 February 2011
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House

 

Don’t forget that LCID is hosting an event in Parliament with Harriet Harman on 16 February. If you would like to come along to the LCID event, please RSVP to eilidh@lcid.org.uk

Read Harriet Harman’s letter to LCID’s members

When she was appointed Shadow International Development Secretary, we wrote to Harriet Harman, congratulating her on her new brief and telling her about our work. Harriet’s been back in touch with a letter addressed to all LCID’s members, making it her passion for development clear.

We are really excited about building on the great foundations that we made with the Labour Party over the last 9 months and we’re glad Harriet is as keen to work with us too.

Here’s her letter:

Dear LCID Member

I wanted to get in touch in my role as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development,  firstly to thank you for all your hard work to date and secondly to outline some of the areas we will be focusing ahead on going ahead.

As you know Labour has much to be proud of when it comes to international development. From tripling the international aid budget to our leadership at Gleneagles we put the UK at the forefront of the fight against global poverty and I am immensely proud of that.

In these difficult economic times and faced with this Government’s deep cuts to public spending it is more important than ever that we make the argument for international development. We cannot turn our backs on the world’s poorest – not only is it morally right to ensure everybody, no matter where they are born, can grow up free of poverty but it is in our national interest. I hope you as an organisation will continue to work to communicate that message.

Moving ahead we will be working to hold the government to account for their promises. We welcome the commitment they made in the Spending Review to reach the target of 0.7% of our GNI on Aid from 2013 but we are worried about how they will get there. That is why we will be calling on them to introduce legislation as soon as possible so there can be no doubt about their commitment.  We will also be urging them to make sure that poverty reduction remains at the heart of our development policy – that is the best way to ensure it is truly effective.

Finally, with the new United Nation’s Women’s agency we, as a party, have a real opportunity to support efforts towards greater gender equality. Of course there are many more areas of international development policy that we will be discussing in the months ahead and I look forward to engaging with you in those conversations.

Labour has a strong International Development team working in parliament. Mark Lazarowicz MP is our Shadow Minister of State, and Rushanara Ali MP is Shadow Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. We all greatly look forward to working closely together with the Labour Campaign for International Development  in the future.

Regards

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Labour’s Manifesto on International Development

Extract from Labour’s manifesto

The global poverty emergency: our moral duty, our common interest

Labour’s international leadership on development has helped transform the lives of millions across the world. Yet too many people still live in extreme poverty, die from treatable diseases, or are denied the chance to go to school.

We will lead an international campaign to get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. We remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid from 2013, and we will enshrine this commitment in law early in the next Parliament. Our aid will target the poorest and most excluded – spent transparently and evaluated independently. We will fight corruption, investing more to track, freeze, and recover assets stolen from developing countries. Further action will be taken to strengthen developing countries’ tax systems, reduce tax evasion, improve reporting, and crack down on tax havens. To increase accountability, we will allocate at least five per cent of all funding developing country budgets for the purpose of strengthening the role of Parliaments and civil society.

Our leadership on debt cancellation has freed 28 countries from the shackles of debt. We will continue to drive this agenda, building on legislation to clampdown on vulture funds.

Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights. We will spend £8.5 billion over eight years to help more children go to school; maintain our pledge to spend £6 billion on health between 2008 and 2015 and £1 billion through the Global Fund to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; fight for universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS by 2010; and deliver at least 30 million additional anti-malarial bed-nets over the next three years.

We will provide £1 billion for water and sanitation by 2013, driving this issue up the international agenda, and over £1 billion on food security and agriculture. We will push for the establishment of a Global Council on Child Hunger. We will help save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015 and, because international focus on the needs of women and girls is vital, we will double core funding to the new UN Women’s agency. While the Tories would favour private schemes, we will work closely with NGOs and developing countries to eliminate user fees and promote healthcare and education free at the point of access. We will encourage other countries to ratify the ILO conventions on labour standards, as we have done.

Trade can lift millions out of poverty. We will work with the private sector, trade unions and co-operatives to promote sustainable development, quadruple our funding for fair and ethical trade, and press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access.

What has Labour done for Fairtrade?

Today is the first day of the Fairtrade Fortnight, which runs from 22 February to 7 March. Around the world, millions of lives have been touched, changed and improved by Fairtrade: providing decent earnings to producers in developing countries. This year, the theme of the Fairtrade Fortnight is “The Big Swap”. Think about the products you use, could you swap to a Fairtrade equivalent? The aim is to get 1,000,001 swaps by the end of the fortnight.

But what, exactly, has the Labour Government done for Fairtrade?

Since 1997, the Labour Government has supported Fairtrade with DfID funding and from this year, even during the recession, funding will be quadrupled to £12m over the period 2010-13 as part of a joint effort with donors and Fairtrade Labeling Organisations International. This will help bring 1 million more producers into the movement, which in turn means higher wages and better lives for 7 million people across the globe.

Additionally, through “Fairtrade Premiums”, twice as much money will be invested directly into local organisations. These can provide improved irrigation, or medical clinics, which will make a profound differnce the lives of people in developing countries.

The Fairtrade movement is vital because no country has managed to tackle poverty in the last 30 years without also increasing trade. Trade can be the great leveller of the world and help millions out of poverty, raise living standards and increase global prosperity: if it is done right. Fairtrade ensures that producers get the returns they deserve for their products. What we need is fairer, more equitable international trade rules. The Labour Government has been pushing for this for the last 13 years and is providing at least £1b every year for the next 3 years in aid for trade and growth, as well as seeking to enshrine a promise to provide 0.7% of national income in aid every year.

Labour believes in the values of the core of Fairtrade: that everyone across the globe should receive a fair price for their goods and a fair wage for their work. This belief in equity and fairness is shared by countless millions of people: over the last decade, every year we have doubled the amount of Fairtrade produce we buy. Already, 7.5 million people benefit from Fairtrade, which is crucial to development. With continued support from the public and the Labour Government, this can only increase.

Please visit the Fairtrade Fortnight website choose what you will swap for Fairtrade.

By Tim Nicholls

We will not turn our back on the world’s poor – Gordon Brown

Posted on Global Poverty Promise.com

Gordon Brown

Five years ago, millions of us took part in the Make Poverty History Campaign. Everyone from rock stars, to church leaders, to members of the public mobilised to make 2005 a turning point in the fight against global poverty.

Despite the horror of the 7/7 attacks on London, the G8 was determined not to allow terrorists to derail the talks. And under Britain’s Presidency, the G8 agreed the most significant outcome in its history,  hammering out a 50 billion dollar aid package, with 25 billion dollars for the world’s poorest countries in Africa and debt relief for those countries most in need.

Of course, we knew this would never be enough to Make Poverty History. But we also knew that if implemented, it could become a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point in the fight against poverty.

Five years on, the figures are in and the reckoning is due.

First, we should acknowledge how much has been achieved.

On debt relief the progress has been immense with 45 billion dollars delivered to the world’s poorest countries freeing up resources for health and education. In Burundi for example, the government was able to build 1,000 extra classrooms and provide free health services for every child under five.

And on Aid too, the G8 has delivered real improvements. According to the OECD – the custodians of the figures – 2010 will see the total amount of aid given to poor countries reach a new record, this at a period that has seen an unprecedented global financial crisis.

Indeed since 2005 total aid has grown by almost 28 billon dollar and that aid has had tangible benefits on the ground.  More than four million people now receive treatment for HIV and AIDS – a tenfold increase over five years – and deaths among the under fives has fallen below ten million for the first time since records began. Through the UK led immunisation initiative, 500 million children will be vaccinated and 10 million lives will be saved by 2015. And the aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 47 million more children into school over the last ten years. This is impressive progress.

The UK has delivered on our own target too. In 2005 we promised we would spend 0.56% of our national income on aid; the OECD confirmed today that the UK will honour that promise.

There is no way that all of this would have happened without the Make Poverty History campaign and the landmark Gleneagles summit. Those involved should rightly feel proud of their contribution and the real changes this has made possible.

But let us be equally clear that the 50 billion dollar agreement made at Gleneagles has not been met.

Some of the shortfall is due to reduced growth during the global recession. But I do not believe there can be any excuse for denying money promised to the poorest people on our planet.

So where next? Do we accept that the international community cannot keep its promises and give up? Or do we seize the progress that has been made and push for more in the future? We act.

For this government there will be no giving up. 2010 is going to be a watershed year for the Millennium Development Goals and the UK is pushing hard for a Global Poverty summit in New York this year, to set out an action plan for the next five years to get us into a position to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We will also work with the EU and the Canadian G8 Presidency to put in place a new system of accountability to make it much harder for countries to break their promises in the future. And we will work to find new innovative sources of sustainable finance for future development.

Internationally we will drive further progress on education, health and the economic growth that are essential for progress. We will support the efforts of President Zuma, FIFA and the 1Goal campaign to make the legacy of the first World Cup in Africa, education for every African child. We will support all countries trying to end the outrage of women and children dying because they can’t afford basic healthcare. And through the G20 we will make sure the poorest countries benefit from our efforts to boost global growth in the crisis.

In the UK too we will strengthen our own accountability. We have already kept our G8 promises but we will go further and enshrine our commitment in law.

We have sought all party agreement on this, but sadly the Conservatives say a law isn’t necessary and refuse to match our commitment to introduce a Bill on this issue. I ask them to reconsider their position today.

The world came together in 2005 to make poverty history. In 2010 I call on the international community and campaigners to reinvigorate this mission; to renew their commitment – not to turn away from it.

Sign up to the campaign to make 0.7% spending on aid UK law at Global Poverty Promise.com