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A capability analysis of Rwandan development policy: calling into question human development indicators

Journal article
Authors Malin Hasselskog
Published in Third World Quarterly
Volume 39
Issue 1
Pages 1-18
ISSN 0143-6597
Publication year 2018
Published at School of Global Studies, Peace and Development Research
Pages 1-18
Language en
Keywords Capability approach, human development, participation, paternalism, Rwanda, transformation
Subject categories Peace and development research


This article provides a capability analysis of Rwandan development policy. It is motivated by impressive progress on human development indicators in combination with highly centralised policymaking, giving ambiguous signs regarding a capability approach. It is based on extensive original empirical material, along with large numbers of official documents and academic sources. The analysis is structured around three issues that concern the relation between individual agency and government policy, and that are debated among capability scholars as well as in relation to Rwandan development policy: participation, transformation and paternalism. The finding that Rwandan development policy reflects an approach very different from a capability approach is not surprising, but establishes that the assumed link between human development indicators and the capability approach needs to be questioned. This brings our attention to shortcomings in any quantitative measurements of development, or in the use of and importance attached to them, as well as to the problem of assuming that certain outputs go hand in hand with certain processes. While this is valid for contexts far beyond Rwanda, it also sheds light specifically on the polarisation that exists in the scholarly debate on Rwanda.

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