Rwanda: Promoting peace effectively…
November 9, 2011
Interpeace and its local partner in Rwanda, the Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), have now received the results of an external evaluation of their peacebuilding programme covering 2009 to 2011.
“An external evaluation is always a tough process to go through. We are delighted with the analysis of our achievements over the last three years,” states Johan Svensson, Interpeace’s Regional Director for Eastern and Central Africa. “And the team of evaluators, Guus Meijer and Dr. Théogène Bangwanubusa, got fully involved. Their evaluation provides valuable guidance as we continue to embed lasting peace in our society.”
IRDP was primarily set up to provide answers to the question – ‘How to deal with the aftermath of genocide?’ The evaluation report states: “This all-encompassing question reflects the total distrust that prevailed after the genocide and the problem of coexistence of Rwandans returning from different cultural backgrounds, with different identities and life experiences. Disregarding such a question would have perpetuated the seeds of conflict that escalated into the 1994 genocide. Interpeace local partner, IRDP, has been working on some of the most challenging of the issues since 2001.“
The report goes on to define the continuing challenge: “Despite the fact that the country has made tremendous progress in many domains and is seemingly ‘at peace’. There is still an element of mistrust among people, the Government still needs to reinforce its ability to listen to the people, and the fundamental principles of democracy are not fully applied, so IRDP’s work on the themes of Governance, Citizens’ Participation and Ethnic Identity and Social Cohesion remains highly relevant.”
Experienced evaluators focused on IRDP’s work and impact for a month
The two external evaluators, Guus Meijer and Dr. Théogène Bangwanubusa, spent about a month analyzing the programme directly on the ground which ended two weeks ago. Guss has conducted numerous evaluations on peacebuilding programmes, mainly in Africa. Théogène is a Rwandan sociologist and lecturer at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) in Butare, specializing in development and peace; he has conducted evaluations and other consultancies for a range of Rwandan agencies and organizations. They conducted interviews with 29 people, considered documentation of the programme and directly participated in some of IRDP’s activities.
“The evaluation concludes that the IRDP/Interpeace Peacebuilding Programme continues to be of great strategic relevance for the prospects of peacebuilding in Rwanda.” Page v of the Evaluation Report of the IRDP/Interpeace Rwanda programme
Positive overall findings
The overall findings are highly positive. The evaluation concludes that “the solutions sought by IRDP are not “miracles”, but realistic, achievable measures towards reconciliation, and it sees its peacebuilding programme as a work-in-progress. “Peace” is not treated as something abstract, but as linked to very real and tangible issues that emerge from the research.”
“The IRDP/Interpeace Peacebuilding Programme continues to be of great strategic relevance for the prospects of peacebuilding in Rwanda. It has succeeded in bringing into the open a number of highly sensitive and controversial issues, yet of crucial importance for the future of peace in the country; in the process, it has engaged a broad range of people in growing numbers, from youth in schools and universities and ordinary “people on the hills” to local authorities and the main decision-makers at national level. In particular, it has uniquely succeeded in bringing groups of the Rwandan diaspora around the world into this ongoing and ever widening dialogue. Its approach of participatory research and action, its inclusiveness, its moral authority and credibility, its constant search for viable solutions based on a broad consensus – all these elements together have made it possible for IRDP to break new ground in opening up spaces for debate and dialogue in Rwandan society and make concrete and constructive contributions to official policymaking.“ Page v of the Evaluation Report of the IRDP/Interpeace Rwanda programme (PDF)
Taking the right approach
The evaluators confirm in the report the key elements of the Interpeace-IRDP approach: ” …its consultative and participatory aspect, its non-confrontational and constructive style and its focus on finding solutions, the way any criticism is always backed up by research (“evidence-based”) and its high level of inclusiveness.” Page 21 of the Evaluation Report of the IRDP/Interpeace Rwanda programme (PDF)
Tackling some of the most sensitive issues
One of the biggest achievements of Interpeace’s and IRDP’s work in Rwanda is the initiation of open discussion of highly sensitive and controversial issues that are of crucial importance in the peacebuilding process. The programme also managed to engage a high number of Rwandans, especially with youth in schools and universities.
IRDP is bridging the gap between local decision-makers and the national level
The evaluators stressed that IRDP’s approach builds bridges between “ordinary ‘people on the hills’, local authorities and the main decision-makers at the national level”. “Its approach puts IRDP in the position of intermediary between ordinary “people on the hills” and government bodies, able to capture the gaps and shortcomings of government policies and channel them upwards (“acting as people’s real spokesperson”)”. Another extraordinary feature of the programme, that the evaluators highlighted, is that it successfully engaged large parts of the Rwandan diaspora in the dialogue about the future of Rwandan society.
IRDP increases levels of trust in Rwandan society
The evaluators conclude that IRDP is “…. certainly contributing to higher levels of trust in society, of citizen’s participation in democratic governance and of public authorities’ accountability. By carefully monitoring and navigating the political space, IRDP has succeeded in safeguarding its neutrality and independence and thus remaining a legitimate interlocutor for all stakeholders and a credible advocate for its evidence- and consensus-based proposals for constructive changes towards a more just and peaceful Rwanda.” Page v of the Evaluation Report of the IRDP/Interpeace Rwanda programme.
The evaluators also included a range of recommendations for IRDP and Interpeace to consider in order to strengthen the programme even further:
- IRDP should focus the programme on drivers of potential violence and conflict and pass on other issues emerging from the consultation processes to more specialized organizations where possible;
- IRDP should continue to focus on youth and youth (un)employment;
- Disseminate the culture of debate by going beyond the current structure of the programme;
- IRDP should foster the vertical communication between different components of its programme; and
- IRDP should forge stronger links and synergies with other organizations to gain access to a wider audience.
As they are now planning the next phase of their joint programme that will start in January 2012, Interpeace and the IRDP will look to build on the recommendations offered by the evaluators.
The final evaluation report is now available in full online and can be downloaded here.