Involving citizens in planning and implementation of government programs is crucial for any government to deliver inclusive growth. Giving citizens the opportunity to decide what should be done for them saves a lot of resources when governments are planning for the future of their countries. At the same time, going back to the citizens to consult them when anything goes wrong helps to build a strong bond and trust between the people and the their government.
It is against this background that EPRN and IPAR with support from ACBF organized the half-day High-Level Policy Dialogue on Citizen Participation with the focus on the upcoming third Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 3) which was held on Friday, May 26, 2017 at Lemigo Hotel and attracted over 100 participants.
The overall objective of the High-Level Policy Dialogue was to provide a platform to various stakeholders to discuss and make recommendations on how citizens’ participation in the EDPRS 3 can be enhanced after learning from the experience and practices from the EDPRS 2.
This dialogue was timely given the fact that elaboration of EDPRS 3 has begun and according to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN), a mass awareness is planned in June 2017 for all the categories of stakeholders including citizens. The High-Level Policy Dialogue was therefore a success from the fact that participation was very impressive in fact beyond our expectations and the feedback we received was genuine and useful.
From the assessment carried out on the 2016 results of Rwanda Governance Score Card and Citizen Report Card which are published by Rwanda Governance Board (RGB), we learnt that citizen participation in government programs was generally still low. For example, in planning and budgeting at district level, citizen participation remains quite low and there is need to aggressively involve the citizens in these processes in order to budget for the things that match the needs of the people. There was also low citizen participation in decision making at the district level which is also another area that needs attention.
The High-Level Policy Dialogue was organized under the theme: “Towards the 3rd Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy/Citizen participation and inclusive plans”. The Policy dialogue was further divided into two key presentations as follows:
The High-Level Policy Dialogue brought together 113 participants who included researchers, academics, government officials, representatives of development partners, local and international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Private Sector and media deliberating on issues related to strategic approaches to stir up citizen participation in the formulation and implementation of EDPRS3.
From EDPRS II to EDPRS III
Rwanda’s Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) stems from the country’s vision 2020 and guides medium term actions that will lead to the achievement of the vision’s goals.
Currently, Rwanda is implementing EDPRS2 (2013-2018) whose main goal is to speed up Rwanda’s progress towards becoming a middle-income status country and creating better quality of life for all Rwandans through sustained average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate of 11.5% and accelerated poverty reduction to less than 30% of the population.
The objectives of the EDPRS 2 are; to achieve a rapid economic growth to middle-income status, increased poverty reduction, more off-farm jobs, more urbanization, reduced external dependency and private sector as the engine of growth.
The EDPRS 2 will come to end in June 2018 and it will be succeed by EDPRS 3. As EDPRS 2 comes to an end while preparations for formulation of EDPRS 3 start, there is need to look back how EDPRS 2 was inclusive in terms of bringing on board citizen participation in its formulation and implementation process and also to enhance citizen participation in planning and implementation of EDPRS 3.
EDPRS 2 emphasizes citizen participation in accountable governance, one of its four thematic areas. The objective of this thematic area is to improve the overall level of services delivery and ensure citizen satisfaction above 80% during EDPRS 2. It also focuses on increased citizen participation as a way of ensuring ownership and feedback for efficiency and sustainability of the government programs.
The EPRN-IPAR High-Level Policy Dialogue aimed at discussing on how the forthcoming EDPRS 3 can be more inclusive and how citizen participation can be enhanced during the formulation and implementation.
The dialogue was therefore the right platform for participants to discuss strategically various ways through which the EDPRS 3 objectives can be achieved by involving citizens at the grassroots level in its formulation and implementation.
FIRST PRESENTATION: Citizen Participation and Inclusive Economic Growth
The essence of this presentation was to provide an assessment of citizen participation and inclusiveness in Rwanda with a particular target on the tools used to measure citizen participation and inclusiveness in government programs such as EDPRS 2.
The presenter, Dr. Félicien Usengumukiza, Head of Research and Monitoring at Rwanda Governance Board (RGB) went an extra mile and provided a relationship between economic growth, citizen participation and inclusiveness.
From this presentation, it was understood that economic growth doesn’t only address inequality but it also reduces or alleviates poverty by creating opportunities for the poor and the most vulnerable members of the society. This part, he said, is quite relevant for Rwanda because the assessment done by the government even in the EDPRS 2, shows that Rwanda has been ensuring inclusive economic growth which benefits the poor.
This presentation also provided an insight into the qualities of Government for Economic Growth and Democratic participation which include: Economic liberalism, Political pluralism, Social development and Administrative accountability.
Through this presentation, it was understood that citizen participation and inclusiveness in planning and implementing government programs is measured by two tools including Rwanda Governance Score Card and Citizen Report Card (CRC) which were developed by RGB. These two tools provide an insight into the level at which citizens participate in formulation and implementation of government programs. In Rwanda, citizens are also consulted on global programs such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) because they are also aligned with national programs to speed up economic development and social transformation.
SECOND PRESENTATION: EDPRS 3 elaboration process
The second presentation was made immediately after the coffee break by Alain Ngendahimana, Planning and Research Analyst at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MINECOFIN). The presentation was specifically on EDPRS 3 elaboration process and the role citizens are expected to play in it. It also covered the EDPRS 2.
From the discussions that ensued during the half-day EPRN/IPAR-Rwanda High Level Policy Dialogue, several recommendations were made. They include:
EDPRS 3 elaboration process
Citizen participation and Inclusive Economic Growth