Global Master’s in Development Practice Students meet President of Rwanda

Posted on: 19 August 2011

Rwanda does not intend to live on aid forever

According to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, if global trade was free and fair, developing nations such as Rwanda, would realise three times more income than they currently receive in overseas aid. The President was speaking on August 17 last to graduate students from Trinity and UCD who are in Rwanda as part of the Global Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) programme, funded by the MacArthur Foundation and accredited by the World Bank.

Although not faced with the famine problems of Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa, Rwanda still struggles for economic independence and is reliant on overseas aid to survive.

MDP students with President of Rwanda.

The Global MDP Network consists of 23 universities across the world. The TCD/UCD programme works with the National University of Rwanda, Kimmage Manor Centre for Development Studies, the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice and Trócaire and other partners to deliver the programme. Top students are drawn from engineering, health and natural sciences as well as from the humanities, management and social sciences and the programme provides them with the substantive knowledge and practical skills required to analyse and develop solutions for the multi-dimensional challenges of sustainable development such as extreme poverty, climate change and infectious disease.

As part of their programme, students undertake fieldwork and as well as undertaking projects, get to meet and discuss policy with national leaders such as President Kagame.

“Development is a notoriously complex issue,” stated Professor Patrick Paul Walsh, Co-director of the programme. “Those working in the area need to be cognisant of the economic and political pressures on a country as well as the devastating impact of scourges such as HIV/AIDs, rising food prices and extreme climatic conditions. The comments of President Kagame are both ambitious and realistic but, through programmes such as ours, we are training the next generation of global policy-makers for national governments and international organisations who will be able to make his vision achievable.”

President Kagame told the students that Rwanda does not intend to live on aid forever and is working towards weaning herself off aid: “As global trade and investments decline, we expect everything else to decline, including aid. Even if the current global financial problems were not there, it is morally wrong to think you can live on aid forever. In Rwanda, we will not say that we don’t need aid, we do, but we want to use the aid we get to build our capacities so that we can ultimately be able to stand on our own,” President Kagame observed.

“Rwanda is one of the countries in Africa making rapid progress towards the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, in addition to other initiatives such as rolling out fibre optic cable across the country to allow internet connectivity. Our students will contribute to the achievement of the MDGs in Rwanda and elsewhere through their practically focussed projects and in their future careers. This programme shows what can be achieved through international cooperation. We are proud of their efforts and look forward to their future achievements in the struggle against global poverty,” stated Dr Pádraig Carmody, TCD-UCD Masters in Development Practice Coordinator, School of Natural Sciences, TCD.

Commenting on the programme, MDP Field Training Programmes Director, Dr Joseph Assan, School of Natural Sciences, TCD stated: “The MDP field placement and clinical training programme in Rwanda has allowed the 20 MDP students to work on individual projects which address issues of practical development concern that have been identified by partner development organisations operating in Rwanda. This approach has enabled the students to formulate and implement projects that have direct relevance to Rwanda’s national poverty reduction programme and its vision to become a middle-income country by 2020. Working with high profile national and international development organisations has also helped the students to apply some of the conceptual approaches and theoretical frameworks taught in the classroom, thus ensuring that the students receive the needed exposure as future development practitioners and have the experience and profile necessary for securing employment upon graduation”.

The first cohort of 20 students on the TCD-UCD Master’s in Development Practice has spent the past three months in Rwanda, hosted by the National University of Rwanda.  Their time in Rwanda has been largely spent designing and implementing real-world operational sustainability interventions that address critical environment, health, development and livelihood threats in collaboration with Rwanda-based partners, including CARE International, Millennium Village Project, the Great Apes Trust and Rwanda National Parks. These interventions are distributed throughout Rwanda.

The students will return to Dublin in September for the academic year and then spend next summer on internships with major international development and development-related organisations in Geneva.

While half of the students are Irish the other students originate from Afghanistan, Brazil, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Canada, the USA, France and Sweden.