Committee: United Nations Development Programme
Country: Republic of Rwanda
Topic: Eradication of Poverty
It was only 25 years ago that the country of Rwanda was devastated by genocide. After this period of tragedy the country introduced a number of policies to address the immediate challenges towards reducing poverty and improving people’s livelihoods. Since then, important changes have been observed in the economic, social, and governance (including justice) sectors.
Rwanda is now increasingly seen as a model for economic growth and a stable country in Africa. Real GDP has multiplied by more than 7 times in the last 20 years, the growth is coupled with high stability which makes the country as part of Africa Stable growers; a growth that is mainly explained by the service sector especially in the last decade. This growth and good trends in poverty reduction has incited a number of policy and research questions both nationally and worldwide. One important question is to demonstrate the extent to which on-going economic growth policies, programs and home-grown initiatives have translated into poverty reduction in Rwanda.
Rwanda from its independence to the genocide was under constant structural injustice from different governmental regimes that prevented further economic growth or allow the poor to make any sort of economic progress. From that, the country of Rwanda strongly believes that poverty originates in the structural injustices of a social order which incapacitates the poor from participating in the growth generating sectors of the economy and leaves them captives in the so called “informal sector”, characterized by low productivity and low earning capacity. In such a system the poor remain individualized and dis-empowered which compels them to interact with the market economy on highly inequitable terms which leaves them to the lowest tiers of society. The need for a macro-policy designed to eliminate poverty is premised on the argument that poverty originates in the structural features of society which can only be addressed at the macro-level. Policy interventions, to redesign the structural sources of poverty, bring into consideration issues of social, political as well as economic reform.
Before the global recession, many resource-rich African countries were recording unprecedented levels of growth due to a raw material price boom. However, the collapse in raw material prices and the ensuing severe economic difficulties have again exposed the vulnerability of these countries’ natural resource export-focused economic structures. Africa’s abundance of natural resources attracted disruptive and predatory foreign forces that have hindered innovation-based growth and economic diversification by delaying the accumulation of sufficient stocks of human capital. For Rwanda, as a resource-rich African country, the shift from natural to human resources and technological capabilities were needed to transform those natural resources into valuable goods and services to compete in the global market.
African countries are highly dependent on natural resources. Natural capital assets are thus critical to the economic activities and the livelihood of millions of people who depend on fertile soil, forests, fisheries, and other resources from nature. The exploitation of these resources has fostered rates of economic growth, which in recent years, have been among the strongest in the world. Notwithstanding such economic performance, African countries continue to face persistent poverty and unemployment and underemployment, particularly among the continent’s fast growing young population.
At the same time, the potential for future economic growth and development itself is put at risk, as a result of environmental degradation, climate change, desertification, and other environmental risks and resource scarcities, which are driven by internal and external factors. The natural capital that is an essential basis for wealth creation faces mounting pressure at a time when African countries need to meet the growing demand for water, food and health and to reduce poverty and stimulate economic activity to create employment and raise income levels.
With all of this said, this committee therefore, must consider the resounding effects of what are bound to be its most popular proposals. What are the pathways to industrial growth which can create greater employment, produce higher outputs with lower inputs, and enhance competitiveness for African economies? How can vulnerabilities created by climate change, desertification and external shocks in the world economy be tempered, if not eliminated? What are the most effective interventions for reducing the social gap in educational outcomes? How can policy incentivize the creation of high-quality jobs for people at risk of poverty? How can decision-makers and decision-making processes be made more responsive to the needs of people experiencing poverty?
This committee’s resolution must answer these questions and achieve three things if it is to accurately and wholly address the issue of eradicating poverty around the world. The first is simple and effortless: we must recognize the axiomatic principle that the world does not belong to a one size fits all approach to ending poverty. While there are many examples of success stories for the reduction of poverty, there is no guarantee it will work for everyone. The second is a shift in focus. Countries across the international community must assist one another in developing approaches to eradicating poverty that are sustainable on a country-by-country basis and not solely contingent upon defined guidelines that will lead to success. The third is for all countries to recognize their specific needs and goals that will work best in eliminating poverty in not only their own country but also their regions.
In this committee, there is a new opportunity to determine better ways to eradicate poverty in a manner that will work for nations all around the world. This is whether they are a developing nation with significant poverty or a developed nation continuing to work towards total eradication of poverty. This is a serious topic that has years of research on it, however has not yet found one single set of guidelines that works for all countries. Rwanda looks forward to working with the committee on creating approaches that will not limit countries to one single way of eliminating poverty.
- Tyler Cattini