Remarks by Minister Biruta at the Opening of the 2015 Poverty–Environment Initiative Africa Regional Meeting in Kigali26.10.2015
I am delighted to welcome you all to this year’s Poverty–Environment Initiative Africa regional meeting. I would like to extend a special welcome to our international guests who have joined us from near and far. I also recognise Mr. Lamin Manneh, UN Resident Coordinator for Rwanda, Ms. Isabell Kempf, PEI Co-Director, and Mr. David Smith, PEI Africa Manager. Thank you for being with us.
I take this opportunity to thank the United Nations Development Programme, through PEI Africa, for choosing Kigali as host for this important gathering.
We are meeting at an important time in the development of poverty and environment when the Sustainable Development Goals have just been adopted. SDGs constitute aspirations for which we have a duty to realise, and the upcoming talks on climate change in Paris which will determine the strength of global action on dealing with the major issues of climate change.
As policy makers, we have the responsibility to take up the opportunities these frameworks provide, and deliver sustainable development for our people.
For Africa, the challenge remains to lift our people out of poverty and at the same time ensure our natural resources are managed sustainably. These two things are not mutually exclusive and the Poverty–Environment Initiative has proven this.
This week we are meeting to check if the tools we have created to change the way we plan, create policy and make budgets are doing their job.
We are also here to develop a common understanding of how we review the work we have done in each of our countries, and the objectives we have set for ourselves.
Finally, we want to learn more about the best way to place poverty-environment concerns at the core of our budgeting and planning processes in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.
With so many smart and passionate people together in one room, I have no doubt that we will achieve these aims.
Rwanda is a country with limited natural resources but infinite human resources. As a government, we recognise that poverty reduction and environmental protection are inseparable and we put our people at the centre of our development agenda. This approach has ensured that sustainability sits at the heart of our development agenda.
The PEI has helped Rwanda integrate the environment and climate change into our national economic development and poverty reduction strategies. It has also helped us to manage our natural resources in a way that builds sustainable livelihoods and empowers women.
The initiative has supported the development of green villages across the country, which demonstrates how environmental and poverty reduction goals can be achieved simultaneously. Support from the PEI also helped us to establish a Fund for the Environment and Climate Change, which promotes climate resilience through grant and loan financing mechanisms.
The fund is now the largest of its kind in Africa. At the same time, the GoR has adopted several policies related to the environment, natural resources, water, land, forestry, mining and climate change. With these and other programmes in place, more than a million Rwandans lifted themselves out of poverty over the last ten years.
However, while much progress has been made, we know that the greatest challenges lie ahead. Climate change, deforestation and an imbalance between population growth and natural resources use are only some of the obstacles on our path. It’s our conviction that by working together we will be able to overcome them. Over the past decade, PEI Africa has played an important role in helping countries integrate poverty-environment objectives into their national policies and development plans. The success of this work gives us great cause for optimism.
As hosts for this meeting, we hope that you share your experiences and learn from one another about what works well and what doesn’t. In doing so, we will set a solid foundation for the final two years of the current PEI Africa regional programme. I would like to challenge us all to work towards developing a continent of equal opportunity – one that provides dignity for our people, is productive, efficient, competitive, and at the same time sustainable.
I wish you productive discussions and officially declare this PEI Africa annual regional meeting open.