The Millennium Development Goals
The Millennium Development Goals were established after a series of world summits and global conferences with a view to laying out a comprehensive development agenda including quantitative goals, time-bound targets, and numerical indicators. Rwanda adopted the MDGs along with 191 other countries. The goals focus the efforts of the world community on achieving significant and measurable improvements in people's lives. They establish yardsticks for measuring results not just for developing countries but also for developed countries that help to fund development programmes and for the multilateral institutions that help countries implement them. The first seven goals are mutually reinforcing and are directed at reducing poverty in all its forms. The last goal on global partnership for development focuses on the means to achieve the first seven.
The Special Case of Rwanda in Achieving the MDGs
Rwanda presents a unique case in development and in the progress towards attaining the MDGs. Whereas many countries were on course to implement the MDGs during the 1990s, Rwanda has been recovering from the tragic and devastating civil war and genocide of 1994. The legacy and trauma of 1994 worsened pre-existing complex social and economic problems and destroyed many of them. The main challenge for Rwanda, therefore, has been to stabilize the country through unity and reconciliation, reintegration of the survivors and returnee refugees, and rebuilding the socio-economic structures. Rwanda therefore falls into the special category of countries emerging from conflict. All the MDG indicators in Rwanda were actually dramatically reversed during the 1994 genocide and fell way below 1990 levels. This means Rwanda is beginning from behind the “starting line” in trying to achieve the MDGs.
Despite these impediments, Rwanda has achieved impressive progress over the past nine years and has put in place crucial policies for pro-poor growth. Rwanda has posted real GDP growth of 6% to 10% over the past three years and tax revenue collection has improved and was 12.2% of GDP in 2002. Rwanda is also diversifying its exports from the traditional tea and coffee to other non-traditional exports such as pyrethrum, hides and skins, textiles, and specialty coffee. Rwanda is also aggressively pursuing a privatization policy and encouraging more investments (foreign and local) in the country through the Privatization Secretariat and the Rwanda Investment Promotion Authority (RIPA) respectively.
In the political arena, Rwanda has also made great strides. It recently conducted democratic and peaceful elections for the Presidency and the parliament as well as a referendum on a new constitution. This is the first time in the history of Rwanda that free and fair elections have been held. The new constitution guarantees a minimum of 30% of parliamentary seats and other leadership positions to women. This policy is demonstrated by the fact that the Rwandan parliament is now composed of 49% women, the highest proportion of women parliamentarians in the world.
At the international level, Rwanda is also making great progress. The President of Rwanda, H.E. Paul Kagame, was recently elected to be the Vice President of the African Union while the candidate elected to become Vice President of the African Union Secretariat is also Rwandan. Within a year, Rwanda is also set to join the East African Community.
Although the 1994 genocide was devastating for Rwanda and will make it very difficult to achieve the MDGs, the determination of Rwandans and the sound policies that have been adopted are laying the foundation for sustainable and reliable justice, democracy, and economic growth as preconditions for attaining many of the MDGs.