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Turning the tables on the donors in Rwanda

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Africa, Other

Who has the main say - donors or recipient countries? Isn't it obvious? Don't donors have all the resources and so control the show?

No, it isn’t always like that, and in the last few years there has been a shift towards a more equal partnership, with a real desire growing to make aid have even more impact. On the 4th September last year donors and Partner Countries signed up to the Accra Agenda for Action to improve aid effectiveness, and that’s had real impact here in Rwanda. This year it felt like the tables were turned on the donors.

The UK's 2008 Rwanda aid effectiveness scores
Click for the UK's 2008 Rwanda aid effectiveness scores

At the Development Partners meeting a few months back, all donors were held to account by the Ministry of Finance for the promises they had made, using a list of 18 commitments we had all signed up to – such as delivering the money we had pledged, recording our aid in the Government budget, and giving clear indications of our future financial plans. Every donor’s score was put up on the screen for everyone to see, and there were some red faces round the room - the lowest score was 2/18. The UK was near the top, I’m pleased to say, but we still need to improve, as we only scored 12/18.

So at the end of last month, when Douglas Alexander agreed to £107 million of budget support for Rwanda, I wrote a short article in the local English language paper explaining why and how Britain gives aid, emphasising our desire for a relationship which helps create sustainable development, and making our work really effective, impacting on the lives of poor Rwandans.

Signing the Agreement for the Land Programme with the Rwandan Minister of Finance
Signing the Agreement for the Land Programme with the Rwandan Minister of Finance. Credit: New Times

And that is important to me. I am only in Rwanda for six months and finish here soon. But I am lucky enough to have been able to get some great work going that will benefit the Rwandan people, such as our new support to roll out the land tenure programme all across the country: a programme which has got lots of international press coverage. How will it work? Following the approach of the Accra Agenda, we are combining with several other donors in a 'basket fund' where we pool our money - so only one set of reports and accounts is needed, making life easier for the Rwanda Land Tenure Centre.  We are also sticking to the Accra principles by working jointly with the World Bank and the Land Tenure Centre to monitor the programme's impact - ensuring every landowner in Rwanda can receive land title to their plot.

Have you heard of the Golden Rule?  'He who owns the Gold, makes the Rules'.  I reckon the Golden Rule is now well and truly broken in Rwanda.

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  1. Comment by Joe posted on

    V interesting - another example of Rwandan innovation in development. Good to see donors held to account as we would expect beneficiaries to be...

  2. Comment by cynan posted on

    Very interesting. Thanks for sharing Martin.

  3. Comment by Lucy posted on

    Interesting to see the Eurodad report I worked on last year - or at least its title - Turning the Tables: aid and accountability under the Paris Framework ( ) getting used here!
    We argued in that report (based on 7 case studies, which didnt include Rwanda) that there still needed to be much more accountability from donors to the people as well as the governments in developing countries.

    Seems like Rwanda is adopting a mutual accountability framework similar to the one that has been used in Mozambique.

  4. Comment by Alex Wilks posted on

    Interesting post. Further to Lucy, we've published a blog piece in response to yours giving some of our views on aid, accountability and transparency of donor information.

    Great that you posted that chart of DFID's scoring by the Rwandan government, but where do you get 12 out of 18 from (the chart you posted, and the original Rwandan government document have 10 out of 18)? And will DFID make a habit of disseminating numbers like these?

    For our article click my name in the above or go to:

    Keen to have DFID's and others' comments there also.

  5. Comment by sam posted on

    analysing donor performance is a step in the right direction. But in my experience it is farrr from perfect.

    For example, in my experience DfID tend to come near the top of the donor performane table, because they have a large input into how the performance is to be measured.

  6. Comment by Martin Leach posted on


    Thanks for your comments on the post.

    On publication of data, I checked with my colleagues in the relevant bit of DFID and was told 'DFID is committed to improving the transparency of information on aid flows and aid effectiveness. This is in line with our obligations under the International Development (Transparency and Reporting) Act (2006). We already report progress to the UK public and parliament every year through our annual report, performance reports, evaluations and publications such as Statistics in Development.'

    In addition, I know that DFID leads the International Aid Transparency Initiative and is trying to get international agreement to common standards for sharing information by December 2009.

    Also on information transparency, we have recently launched a new, searchable online database in which users can search for key information on our projects. The first phase publishing high level information for approx 2,500 operational project components went live on Aug 13th.

    You queried the DFID Rwanda score: I am trying to fish out the final donor scores (the chart on the web was only the draft), and will comment later.


  7. Comment by The Better Aid Blog » Blog Archive » DFID and Eurodad trade views on mutual accountability posted on

    [...] Leach, who heads DFID’s work in Rwanda and Burundi, writes “this year it felt like the tables were turned on the donors”. How? Well at the Development [...]

  8. Comment by Martin Leach posted on


    I have finally found the definitive data on the UK's aid effectiveness performance in Rwanda for 2008. The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning issued this in September . Please use this link to the screenshot of the matrix.

    You can see from the screenshot that the UK scored 15 out of 19 for the indicators that had targets set and for which data was available. These are the rows marked either green or red.

    I think Rwanda is well ahead in getting this sort of work agreed between donors and the Government and making the information publicly available. This is an important step in the right direction, but you are right that there is still a long way to go across the aid community.


  9. Comment by Sophie posted on

    Wow! This is very interesting! I am writing on the extent of ownership in the aid relationship between Rwanda and the Netherlands and I would come to the same conclusion (when it comes to the leadership question) . I didn't know about this survey yet, so I am very happy to read your blog.

  10. Comment by Filip Reyntjens posted on

    It is astonishing (and worrying) how strictly technical, even technocratic this donor performance assessment framework is. It says nothing about substance and totally ignores the wider political environment. In a country like Rwanda, this is something you do at your peril (and of that of the Rwandan people).

  11. Comment by Kurt Rockeman posted on

    Marty: Fun to see what you are writing about these days - been a long time since Malawi!