Globalization, Development, and Rwanda


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr. 20140824

Development can be analyzed at three separate levels (systemic, state, and individual).  Therefore, development is more appropriately a multi-leveled issue. Particularly, this paper aims to elucidate how development started at the individual level, graduated to the state level, and how the current state of development is primarily influenced by globalization. States were developed and still are controlled by individuals. However, there remains an apparent interrelatedness and need for developmental capacity of individuals and states, and globalization can have a debilitating effect on both. Further, state preservation does not necessarily translate to individual development and some states and individuals are able to maintain and expand their level of development despite the inability of others.

Historically, individual pursuits toward development led to organized groups which evolved into states. The political legitimacy of a state was inherently tied to its ability to provide security from external threats to the development of its citizens. Likewise, theoretically, the development of a state should remain relative to its ability to contribute to the individual development of its citizens. Problematically, both require conducive structures (state + international landscape conducive for development = capacity to develop / individual + state conducive for development = capacity to develop). Because a state of anarchy persisted in the international landscape, states relied on military aggression to maintain and continue their development. These development tours, or, colonial conquests as they have oft-times been referred, left other groups and states socio-economically and politically marginalized. This marginalization led to a division of successors and succumbed, colonizers and colonized, dominant and dominated, which would later be recognized as developed and developing.

In the aftermath of World War II, ideological divides between capitalism and communism forced states within the developing world (Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Pacific)  to choose sides with the newly emerged superpowers (U.S. and Soviet Union) (Zafarullah, 2012). The primary enticement was development assistance. As state leaders became more focused on state security than human security, individual development began to suffer. All the while, some states refused to commit to, “unconditional alliances,” or imitate the development models of the superpowers (Zafarullah, 2012). Eventually, the Declaration on the Right to Development surfaced claiming development was, “A comprehensive, economic, social, cultural, and political process, which aims at the constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population” (United Nations 1986). Nevertheless, in The Fragmentation and Consolidation of International Systems, Stuart Kaufman pointed out how the historical enhancements of military power became less significant as gains turned to losses when economic decline proved irreversible (Kaufman 1997). That is, state leaders were forced to evaluate the threat of economic exhaustion on the balance of power, despite past military victories. Thus, an attempt to restructure and harness global capital surfaced.

Historical sociologist Phillip McMichael expounded how global capital had been constrained by social and political priorities that revolved around national economies, and these constraints, “became targets for a capitalist counter-movement in the last quarter of this century” (2000, 674). He further stated,

“The concept of ‘globalization’ implies a borderless world, where stateless money can pursue efficient, low-cost production, and/or speculation in active financial markets. In order to construct such a world, the proponents of globalization seek to institutionalize their rhetoric in structurally adjusted states, free trade agreements, and global agencies geared to managing the world market” (2000, 674).

Following his logic, globalizing is easily conceptualized as capitalizing on opportunities to engage in international exploitation through economic institutions. So, capital previously accumulated through military power and industrialized trade of advanced economies, could now be used to finance the renovation of the international landscape. This new landscape could be structurally designed to feed off of the developing states’ consensual dependency (Conteh-Morgan 2001). Modern advancement would not come so much by military invasion and intervention, but state entrenchment through economic intervention. Zafarullah affirmed this notion when he pointed out how nearly all developing countries were ruled by the colonialists and remain vulnerable to outside intervention (Zafarullah, 2012).

Earl Conteh-Morgan equated, “external economic policy impositions” as, “the most formidable assault on the decision making autonomy, territorial integrity, and overall sovereignty of the developing state” (Conteh-Morgan 2001). From this perspective, the capacity for development to occur at the individual level is held hostage by a state that has already become prisoner to economic globalization. Conteh-Morgan argued, “Thus, developing state actors became increasingly accountable to powerful state and non-state donors rather than to their own citizens” (Conteh-Morgan 2001). More clearly, rules of the key international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO), are instituted toward the further expansion of the superpowers, and make it nearly impossible for developing states to contribute to the development of its domestic citizenry (Conteh-Morgan 2001). It is on this same premise that the multi-leveled issue of development culminates.

According to Zafurullah, “Dudley Seers equated development with poverty alleviation, raising employment, decreasing inequality, wider educational opportunities, political participation, reduced dependency on foreign assistance, and self-reliance” (Zafarullah 2012). This speaks to the individual level of development. However, in developing states such as Rwanda, the citizens, the government, and the international community must work synergistically to achieve developmental gains.

The Citizens of Rwanda must recognize that development is a gradual process and nurture resilience against the debilitating demands and effects of globalization. They must work to improve social conditions if the economic and political position of their state is to improve on a sustainable level. The historical ethnic tensions between the Hutus, Tutsis, and Twas must be addressed in a manner that fosters national pride over ethnic pride. Therefore, they must support initiatives such as a Highly Inclusive Inter-Rwandan Dialogue (HIIRD) that would discuss all past and present problems facing Rwanda and problem solve against issues that prevent a true reconciliation from occurring (Inter Rwandan Dialogue 2011).

Education is a vital key for Rwandans to become better equipped with solution-oriented knowledge toward the unsatisfactory social, economic, and political conditions they face. Therefore, Rwandans must demand and take advantage of better educational opportunities. Educated citizens contribute to capacity building by utilizing their local knowledge to assist outside expertise. This would help organizations like Global Communities more effectively integrate communities, governments, the private sector, and NGOs into collective partnerships working toward community-led change (Global Communities 2014). This would mitigate the risk of outside influences working counterproductively toward the development of Rwandan communities. Educated citizens would become more effectively involved in the political process and increase their potential to hold political leaders accountable. They would be able to harness communications technologies to increase exposure of domestic concerns to the international community, thus, increasing the demand of government protections against human rights violations. Educated citizens could partner with the government to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by developing knowledge regarding preventative measures against HIV/AIDS, malaria, anaemia, acute respiratory infections, and diarrhea (UNDP 2012).

The Government of Rwanda was the first country in Africa to invite the special rapporteur to examine the state of promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association (Human Rights Council 2014). He praised the development progress over the past 20 years, but cited limitations of freedom of assembly and discouragement and criminalization of public disagreements. He further encouraged the government to allow NGOs and the civil society sector the same ease of doing business that private corporations enjoy (HRC 2014). Further, the Rwandan government should build on the gains that have been made in gender equality and the empowerment of women as evidenced by the largest percentage of women in parliament in the world (Inter-Parliamentary Union 2014). However, these remarkable gains should not be overshadowed by the cultivation of inequality evident in obstructing opposition parties, blocking independent civil society organizations, and threatening critics (Human Rights Watch 2014). Therefore, the government should commit to a more democratic form of government and ensure freer elections.

The Rwandan government should take advantage of opportunities to develop the tourism industry as it can attract foreign investment and tourists and create job opportunities that can contribute to increases in national income and poverty reduction (Nkurayija 2011). Expanding this industry could lower the dependency on foreign assistance while soliciting higher levels of foreign direct investment. According to Dr. Nkurayija, “In 2007,  Rwanda’s tourism industry emerged the top foreign currency earner generating revenues worth US $42.3 million overtaking coffee and tea industries for the first time after the genocide” (2011). In 2010, the government envisioned $100 million in tourism receipts and 70,000 international tourists (Nkurayija 2011). The mountain gorillas, elephants of Akagera, chimpanzess and monkeys of Nyungwe National Park, and approximately 700 bird species make Rwanda a “nature-lover’s paradise” (Nkurayija 2011). Again, tourism can continue to be a positive alternative to other markets that have been vexed with unfavorable trade terms.

Finally, development in Rwanda will require the assistance of the international community. By monitoring Rwanda’s progress toward the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, global citizens can remain aware of the advances or lack of development occurring in Rwanda. The international community should recognize that a threat to one state is a threat to all. Non-governmental actors must utilize their on the ground experience and insight to sway the Rwandan government from being more concerned about elite interests while preventing international organizations from exploiting state vulnerabilities at the expense of the citizens. Further, when the Rwandan government provides military support to militias such as the M23 who are responsible for the death and rape of civilians and recruitment of child soldiers, it should be held accountable (HRW 2014). The international community should push for the swift prosecution of leaders such as Bosco Ntaganda and demand an investigation of the M23 fighters who fled to Rwanda (HRW 2014). It should send a clear message to Rwanda that participation in unjust killings will translate to a reduction in budget cuts or complete withdrawal of support.


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Kaufman, Stuart J. “The fragmentation and consolidation of international systems. (cover story).” International Organization 51, no. 2 (Spring97 1997): 173-208. International Security & Counter Terrorism Reference Center, EBSCOhost (accessed August 24, 2014).

McMichael, Philip. “World Systems Analysis, Globalization, and Incorporated Comparison.” Journal of World Systems Research, 2000: 68-99.

Nkurayija, Jean de la Croix. “Rwanda Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” March 15, 2011. (accessed August 25, 2014).

United Nations. “Declaration on the Right to Development.” December 4, 1986. (accessed August 20, 2014).

United Nations Development Programme. Reduce Child Mortality. 2012. (accessed August 26, 2014).

Zafarullah, Habib, and Ahmed Shafiqul Huque. Managing Development in a Globalized World: Concepts, Processes, Institutions. Auerbach Publications. 2012.  (accessed August 20, 2014).


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