The partnership between Rhineland-Palatinate and Rwanda has existed for 40 years. It began in 1982 as an unusual attempt by two countries to reshape development policy and has now become an internationally recognised model of citizen-oriented, decentralised and efficient development cooperation at the local level. This form of grassroots partnership is based on the encounter with mutual respect and esteem and aims to go beyond pure development cooperation to a partnership in everyday, social and cultural life. It enjoys an excellent reputation among the Rwandan population and is also deeply rooted in the population of Rhineland-Palatinate.
People from both countries try to meet at eye level, exchange ideas and develop projects together. The partnership between Rhineland-Palatinate and Rwanda is organised in two parts: the Rwanda Department of the federal state government of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda Partnership Association.
1. At the municipal level, there is a partnership between 40 Rhineland-Palatinate regional authorities with around 160 Rwandan sectors. In addition to the communal contacts, there are 9 partnerships between parishes and dioceses of both confessions. Furthermore, six universities and technical colleges are in close contact with Rwandan colleges.
2. The school partnerships form the second major pillar in the network of relations with Rwanda. In 2020, over 180 schools in Rhineland-Palatinate were twinned with Rwandan schools. In addition to general education schools, relationships between vocational training institutions are also increasingly establishing themselves.
3. The third pillar of the partnership concept is formed by the 40 associations and foundations in Rhineland-Palatinate. Furthermore, countless individuals and individual initiatives keep the partnership between the two states alive. In almost 40 years of partnership and cooperation, a great variety of projects has grown up. A wealth that makes this partnership what it is.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Federal Government had called on the federal states to become more involved in countries of the global South. In spite of all the problems that preoccupied Germany and especially Rhineland-Palatinate at that time, Prime Minister Bernhard Vogel took up this idea personally. The main political reasons for this decision were on the one hand the feeling of obligation to help others in a less good situation, as Germany was helped in 1945, and on the other hand the will to transform the hitherto anonymous development aid into a model with a personal link between aid and need.
The partnership between Rhineland-Palatinate and Burgundy (France), which had been in existence since 1952 and was supported by various groups in both countries, served as an organisational model. For the new partnership in the global south, agreement was quickly reached on the neighbouring continent of Africa. The aim was to find a small country with approximately the same population size. In addition, it was to be French-speaking, since learning French was an important point of the educational policy of the southwestern federal state due to its immediate proximity to France. Also, the partner country should be as Christian as possible in order to involve the church communities of Rhineland-Palatinate in the partnership.
Finally, a commission was set up which made proposals for five African states. The decision in favour of Rwanda was finally made because there was already contact with the country through the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung as well as through church organisations such as Misereor and Brot für die Welt.
So in December 1981 the state parliament decided in favour of the small Rwanda in the heart of Africa with its more than four thousand hills and the then six million inhabitants. In July 1982 the official partnership agreement between Rhineland-Palatinate and Rwanda was concluded. The idea of partnership met the spirit of the times and convinced the people of Rhineland-Palatinate with its concept.
By 2020, more than 2300 different projects of all kinds had been implemented thanks to the creativity and willpower of many committed individuals. Over the past 40 years, the financial resources used for this have reached around 100 million euros. Approximately 20 percent of the donations came from private sources. The variety of projects covers a wide range of areas. The aspect of education is one of the most important components. In addition to the classical school building and its equipment with didactic material, there is an increased focus on cooperation in the area of further training of teachers in technical as well as methodical-didactic ways.
Another important segment is the student exchange, which is supported by the federal state government. In the field of higher education there is a long-standing cooperation between the University of Kaiserslautern and the Technical University in Rwanda. Currently there are about 80 Rwandan students enrolled at the University of Kaiserslautern, whose studies are financed by Rwandan scholarships. Furthermore, there is an exchange between the University Hospital Mainz and Huye (Butare). Four more universities of applied sciences from Rhineland-Palatinate have joined the partnership.
But how does a project in the "grass root partnership" work in concrete terms?
The following principle applies: Not the partners from Rhineland-Palatinate know what is good for Rwanda, but the Rwandans themselves.
1. The Rwandan partner submits a project proposal to the coordination office in Kigali, which includes a brief project description and a first cost calculation.
2. The request is checked by the office staff for purpose, feasibility and compliance with Rwandan regulations, as well as impact and sustainability.
3. If the office is convinced of the project application, it writes an official funding application for the partner in Rhineland-Palatinate with a verified cost calculation.
4. If the Rhineland-Palatinate partner agrees to the application and can finance the project volume from its own resources, it gives the green light to the partnership association in Mainz to carry out the project.
5. If the partner from Rhineland-Palatinate cannot completely finance the volume on his own, he can apply for a grant from the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. If the state agrees to the application, the office of the association in Mainz will also be authorized to start the project.
6. With the receipt of the permission from Mainz, the coordination office in Kigali informs the Rwandan partner.
7. A contract is agreed with the Rwandan partner with a time schedule for the implementation of the project.
8. The coordination office shall accompany the implementation of the project and prepare interim reports on request. The funds will be paid out according to agreed instalments.
9. At the end of the project, the Kigali office will draw up a final report and photo documentation.
10. After examination of the documents in Mainz, the partner in Rhineland-Palatinate receives the documents. The project is hereby considered as completed.