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NewsStudy shows unfair distribution of CSO projects in regional states

Study shows unfair distribution of CSO projects in regional states

A new study reveals wide variations in the number of CSO-implemented projects across regions.

The third CSO mapping study was conducted between 2015 and 2021,Launched last week, it indicated that the number of projects implemented in the Tigray region grew by 350 percent, while the Somali and Harari regions experienced a 50 percent decline.

Although there has been a decrease in the number of projects in the six regions, the total amount of funding committed for projects across Ethiopia has increased by 120 percent. The total amount of the budget for projects has increased from 35.7 billion birr to 78.7 billion birr from 2014 to 2021, while the total number of projects implemented by CSOs in the country increased by only 15 percent.

The mapping study of CSOs is conducted every five years and is used as a reference for related activities by the government, donors, and CSOs themselves. The first study was conducted in 2008, followed by a second in 2014.

The third study was conducted with funds from the EU, UK aid, the Embassy of Sweden, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is a study implemented by the Authority for Civil Society Organization with the EU’s Civil Society Fund III (EUCSF III) and the British Council’s Civil Society Support Programme II (CSSP II).

Debebe Hailegebriel, a member of the council of constitutional inquiry under the House of Federation and a renowned lawyer, led the study that took about six months. The study was delayed by a year and was finalized at the beginning of 2022. However, the process of hard copy publication of the study delayed its launch.

“Even though the launch is delayed by months, the findings of the study can represent the facts on the ground without a significant change. It is compiled to be referenced for the coming five years,” Debebe told The Reporter.

The number of projects of CSOs and their funding show a significant change across the regions in the last few years. The number of projects in six regions, including Somalia, Harari, and Amhara, decreased over a six-year period, according to the findings of the study.

In Somali, the second largest region in size next to Oromia, out of the total 51 projects that have agreements with the regional government with a life span from 2018 to 2026, 21 have already been phased out. While seven of the remaining projects were left with less than a year to end, two projects will stay for more than four years. Only eight projects are planned to be implemented from 2022 to 2026, the study showed.

In the Harari region, the number of operational NGOs in the region, 31, has not changed in the past six years. The number of CSOs operating in the region has dropped by 26 percent. In 2014, the budget of projects in the Harari region was 264 million birr.

In 2021, the total budget of projects in the region declined by 68.1 percent, to 84.1 million birr.

On the contrary, the Tigray region has seen a huge number of CSO projects flowing in over the six-year period. Between 2014 and 2021, it increased by 350 percent, followed by the Benishangul Gumuz region, which increased by 100 percent.

For Debebe, who has participated in the last two studies, the difference between the regions can be attributed to the variation in the implementation of the previous CSO law in the regions.

“Some regions, such as the Amhara region, adopted the previous proclamation in an even tighter way, while regions such as Oromia were somewhat flexible. Officials in the Oromia region were against the proclamation,” Debebe said.

The previous CSO proclamation, which was replaced in 2019, has been a major stumbling block for CSOs’ being active in the country, especially when it comes to advocacy for rights. Currently, there are over 4,200 CSOs registered by federal authorities, of which over 2,000 were newly formed as a result of the relaxed proclamation.

However, the proclamation can only be executed for CSOs registered with the federal authorities and for CSOs in the two federal cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa.

Out of the 11 regional states in the country, only Benishangul Gumuz, Sidama, and Gambella have ratified their prospective proclamations in line with the federal one.

The Authority for CSOs has given a model draft bill to all regional governments and is supporting them financially in order to help ratify the proclamation in a shorter time frame, according to Fasikaw Molla, deputy director general of the Authority, who spoke to The Reporter last month.

However, the laws are not the only reasons for the huge difference in the activities of CSOs in various regions.

According to another participant in the study who asked to remain anonymous, the previous security situation in the Somali region has contributed to the disinterest of CSOs in the region. The participant added that the authorities in the Somali region would not want aid organizations to operate in the region if they did not employ a resident of the region.

The 350 percent increase in the Tigray region was made possible by the active support of the regional government and “a policy-like deliberate push” on CSOs by some authorities in the federal government, according to the participant.

Developing subsidiary and regional CSO laws is the primary recommendation of the study, underlining the need for regional primary and secondary legislation since only a few ratified their perspective CSO laws.

The CSO mapping study criticized CSOs operating in the country for relying on foreign aid for the great majority of their funding. It recommends the development of a culture of philanthropy and strengthening CSOs’ engagement in investment and income-generating activities to overcome their reliance on foreign aid.

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