Rwanda's track record on MDGs should inspire others

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Rwanda's track record on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are impressive, with targets met in almost all areas, writes Louis Michel.

Louis Michel is former Foreign Minister of Belgium, former European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, and current member of the European Parliament. This opinion piece was first published in Belgian newspaper Le Soir and De Standaard.

As world leaders meet in New York this week to shape the post-2015 development agenda, they can take confidence from how the Millennium Development Goals have mobilised national and global efforts to improve the lives of the planet’s poorest people. Progress has, of course, not been uniform. But this must not take away from the spectacular advances of the last 13 years. 

The focus provided by the MDGs has been vital in delivering these positive outcomes. But we have also seen the critical importance of individual governments framing policies and priorities to drive forward this agenda. Environmental challenges, for example, require a global response. But this response also needs each country to play its part in order not to undermine collective efforts.

I believe this principle of mutual accountability must be at the heart of the post-2015 framework. Without this collective responsibility, solidarity loses its meaning.

Few countries have had as much success in delivering the MDGs than Rwanda, a country I have visited many times. These achievements stem from a determination to use them to develop an ambitious but concrete programme rooted in the principle of shared responsibility with the international community and within Rwandan society itself.

It is this approach that has enabled Rwanda to rebuild a sovereign state - without which development cannot take place – and a transformed economy at the service of its citizens. The results are impressive. Rwanda will be one of the very few countries in Africa that can claim to have reached almost all the MDGs by 2015.

In less than ten years, a million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty. Annual economic growth has been averaged at 8%.  More than 95% of children now have access to a full cycle of primary education. Infant mortality is down 61%, while three quarters of the population have access to drinking water. It is a society, too, where nearly 50% of women have access to contraception and women, following the recent election, make up 64% of MPs, the highest proportion in the world.

But Rwanda has also shown its determination to address the new challenges of the future. As I said on many occasions, urban development is one of the most important issues of the coming decades with three out of four of the world population living in urban areas by 2025.

In Rwanda this trend has already resulted in a tripling of the urban population in the last two decades. So the country deserves credit for placing sustainable urban planning at the heart of its development strategy and as an engine of its goal of economic transformation. The country also has a framework of solid and transparent land legislation that guarantees women's rights in particular.

Rwanda has demonstrated how agreed goals and determined action can deliver real improvements for a country’s citizens. I hope its example can provide a positive inspiration to the international community as they decide the sustainable economic, social and environment goals which will drive our collective efforts to build a fairer and prosperous world over the next 15 years.

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