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Civil Society and Policy Making : A Case Study of Land Reform and the Gacaca Courts

This paper focuses on two case studies of civil society engagement with policy making and policy implementation in Rwanda : 1) LANDNET, a network largely comprising international and local NGOs, set up to work on land reform ; and 2) Penal Reform International (PRI), a northern based INGO, utilizing a much more ad hoc set of partnerships in its monitoring of the gacaca courts. In the sections which follow the paper provides : 1) An introduction to the research and the issues. 2) Background on the relevant organizations and partnerships. 3) A profile of the policy context (regime type, development environment, civil society). 4) Outlines of the policy processes, and the contribution of LANDNET and PRI to these processes. 5) An evaluation of the determinants of civil society effectiveness. Certain lessons emerge.

The interplay between the post-genocide moral legitimacy of the Rwandan government and its material dependency shapes opportunities for and constraints on all policy actors. Local contexts and power dynamics are revealed as crucial to the translation of policy prescriptions into policy realities. An ongoing exchange between policy making and policy implementation, with the latter repeatedly feeding back into the former, troubles any simplistically linear notion of policy processes. Effectiveness for civil society actors is determined by the ability to creatively engage a state that is simultaneously strong and weak, without being co-opted by it. Role combination within agencies (balancing advocacy and partnership), divisions of labour between agencies (sometimes along similar lines), and ‘shifting register’ (between strategies and/or different interlocutors) are strategies that have had some success. In short, engagement needs to be sustained beyond policy making to policy implementation, and beyond central government to donors and local government and power structures to really have an impact. Finally, effectiveness depends on not allowing the tensions and divisions that characterize the political culture to rebound negatively on internal organizational dynamics or external organizational relationships.

In sum, it is argued that LANDNET has had successes in shaping the land reform policy and law, but has struggled to define its role or strategy in the implementation phase. PRI had less success in shaping policy, but has had more influence during the implementation phase as one agency among many involved in monitoring the gacaca process. To date, implementation of land reform has not been monitored by civil society.

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Les opinions exprimées et les arguments avancés dans cet article demeurent l'entière responsabilité de l'auteur-e et ne reflètent pas nécessairement ceux du CETRI.