The Complexity of Aid: government strategies, donor agendas and the coordination of development assistance in Rwanda 1994-2004
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This thesis contributes to current debates on aid politics, policy and practice by exploring the dynamics of the new aid agenda which emerged in the 1990s and early 2000s, focused on poverty reduction and the Millennium Development Goals. Concerns with aid effectiveness have led to renewed interest in programme aid (particularly budget support), coordination of aid and harmonisation around developing country strategies, and ownership. Through an exploration of aid in Rwanda since 1994, I demonstrate the complexity of translating into practice a global consensus about the need for coherent, coordinated and effective aid. Different understandings and interests exist among donor agencies, within donor agencies, between donors and the developing country government, and within that government. On the one hand these reflect the specific Rwandan context, the recent history of the country, the nature of the Government and its development strategies, individual donor interests, donor domestic social and political issues, and personal agency. On the other hand, these differences relate to more general donor positions, including how donor policies tie in with international shifts in thinking on aid. I further analyze problems around the ownership of development policy and practice in aid-dependent environments. The thesis discusses the Government of Rwanda’s development strategy, its political and developmental priorities, and how these have been affected by its reliance on external assistance. It considers the relationship between the Government and donors and amongst donors by examining coordination and harmonisation mechanisms on the ground. It concentrates particularly on bilateral donors, and takes a deeper look at Belgium, a ‘traditional’ donor to Rwanda, and the UK, a ‘new’ donor, in order to compare and contrast donor positions. I conducted primary research over 18 months in Rwanda, the UK and Belgium, using semi-structured interviews with government officials, politicians and civil society representatives, observation of interactions between the Government and donors, as well as in-depth analysis of policy documents. Diversity among the positions of actors in the aid system is not a new phenomenon. However, given the increasing convergence at the international level around universal goals, my research indicates that a much deeper understanding, and acceptance, of the political and practical complexity of aid at the country level is essential if aid effectiveness debates are to be enhanced.