Over the past six years an EC supported Civil Society Fund in Ethiopia has managed to implement projects that concern potentially sensitive elements - democracy, the rule of law, the respect for human dignity, fundamental freedoms, equality and solidarity. Xavier Marchal, Head of the EU Delegation in Ethiopia, explains how.
In January, more than 100 representatives of civil society, government officials and other development partners attended the wrap-up workshop in Addis Ababa of the first phase of the Civil Society Fund in Ethiopia.
With a total budget of ten million euros, the Civil Society Fund was implemented with the purpose of increasing civil society organisations' capacity to play a key role in the development process, not only as implementing partners but also as main actors in the dialogue on national policies.
“I think the main important achievement of this project is that we managed to implement many projects in support of democracy and governance in general in Ethiopia - which is a difficult context - in a tripartite environment, meaning the Government of Ethiopia, civil society organisations and the Delegation of the European Union,” said Xavier Marchal, Head of the EU Delegation in Ethiopia during a recent visit to Brussels.
In six years of implementation, a total of 56 grant contracts have been awarded and more than 400 Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have benefited of the capacity development activities provided by the programme in all regions of Ethiopia. The project portfolio shows a rich diversity in interventions with projects ranging from providing support to women and children facing abuse, campaigning for holistic women’s empowerment to popularising alternative dispute resolution, capacitating local courts and mitigating and preventing conflict in multi-ethnic regions.
“The main challenge was that we are operating in an environment where there is a law called the Charities and Societies Proclamation, which is, in a way, restrictive in the sense that it limits the possibility of NGOs that receive foreign funding to operate in the advocacy or governance field,” continued Mr Marchal.
The Delegation faced the issue of how to support CSOs in a transparent manner. “The best way is to work keeping government authorities in the picture, because this is their country. And I think that the lesson is that it is possible to do a lot of things when you do that with transparency with government authorities in the spirit of the Cotonou Agreement.”
In this way, said Mr Marchal, they were able to achieve many things. “Most importantly we have managed to keep a dialogue open and ongoing with government authorities. We are talking to them about a number of issues related to governance and human rights. We are talking about the modalities of implementation of the Charities and Societies Proclamation… and we are in a situation where we can discuss that with the government because we have done things transparently.”
A second project, with a first phase of six million euros, has been approved which will allow a continuation of the Fund. “Thanks to the domestic nature of the Fund provided under the provisions of the Cotonou Agreement, we will be able to continue to support non- state actors in the area of governance related projects,” concluded Mr Marchal.
Further information on the Civil Society Fund in Ethiopia can be found in the capacity4dev.eu Public Group on Governance and Civil Society:
Mid Term Evaluation
Lessons Learned and the Way Ahead
CSF Ethiopia: Celebrating the Past, Preparing for the Future