Civil society organizations (CSOs) are the unsung heroes of any society – tirelessly working to bridge the gap between citizens and the government while advocating for the needs of the community. Whether it’s fighting for gender equality, promoting peacebuilding, or empowering citizens, these organizations are on the frontlines of social change.
And in Ethiopia, the Civil Society Support Program has been supporting and elevating the work of CSOs since 2011.
Discover the impact of the Civil Society Support Program, which has been managing and supporting the work of civil society organizations (CSOs) in Ethiopia since 2011.
With generous funding from donor partners in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden, and Norway, this program has empowered CSOs to tackle issues such as gender equality, youth voice, peacebuilding, and citizen empowerment.
We’ll delve into the program’s two phases, spanning over a decade, and see how it has helped bridge the gap between citizens and the government while advocating for the needs of the community.
The two phases of the Civil Society Support Program in Ethiopia spanned from 2011 to 2017 and 2018 to 2023.
The first phase focused on building capacity, while the second phase was characterized by a more strategic approach. Both phases empowered civil society organizations to tackle complex social challenges and engage in dialogue with government officials. Together, they have created a lasting impact on Ethiopian society.
On May 30, 2023, a two-day conference was opened under the theme of “Towards a Better Civic Space: Opportunities and Challenges” brought together a diverse group of stakeholders.
Attendees included senior development partners supporting governance, human rights, and development initiatives, federal and regional government officials, local civil society organizations, grassroots community members and groups, academia, and researchers.
The conference was not just a gathering of individuals and organizations, but a celebration of the incredible work and impact of Ethiopia’s civil society. The CSOs showcased their dedication to creating positive change, often in the face of significant challenges. The conference provided an opportunity to recognize their achievements, share experiences, and build bridges across different sectors and regions.
The conference celebrated the achievements of the second phase of the Civil Society Support Program (CSSP) and provided a platform for CSOs to showcase their contributions to society. The program organized a marketplace where CSOs that worked with the second phase of CSSP could highlight their work.
Richard Garrett, the SRO of the second phase of the Civil Society Support Program, said in his welcoming speech, “The program has always been ambitious in working across the whole country and across several thematic areas, including gender transformation, young people, citizen-state engagement, conflict response, and peacebuilding.”
The second phase of the program was a capacity development initiative designed to support Ethiopia’s civil society. Its aim was to contribute to inclusive, transparent, and accountable governance, promote equitable and inclusive access to services, and create a better setting for the protection and promotion of human rights for all Ethiopians.
Paul Walters, the Development Director of the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, expressed his delight at the progress of the program and expressed hope that the conference would facilitate an exchange of ideas on sustaining and enhancing Ethiopia’s civil society.
He emphasized the importance of promoting women’s voices, supporting marginalized groups to claim their rights, and working with the government to inform policy development.”It’s a great honor to see the way in which this program has developed, but more importantly, it is really pleasing to see the role that CSOs are now playing in the development of Ethiopia 10 years later,” he said.
CSOs participating in the program’s second phase work on a broad range of issues affecting the community, including peacebuilding, advocacy, empowering youth to voice their needs, promoting gender equality, and protecting the rights of women, children, and people with disabilities.
During the conference, Richard Garrett and Paul Walters highlighted the work of the Konso Development Association, a CSO partner of the program’s second phase.
The Association collaborated with relevant government stakeholders to implement a project aimed at tackling gender-based violence and promoting women’s rights regarding land and property inheritance.
The project has been successfully implemented in 14 of the 43 kebeles in the Konso zone, ensuring that women receive their rightful property rights.
The CSSP extends support to CSOs working on drug and addiction mitigation, such as the BenshangulGumuz Development Association, which advocates for the elimination of the harmful traditional practice of chewing Khat.
Hiwot Ethiopia, a mainstream safeguarding service, equips CSOs, the CSO Council, and government partners with the necessary policies, procedures, and skills to create a safe environment for children and adults at risk.
The Ethiopian Civil Society Organization Council organizes an annual CSOs Week event, bringing together organizations to showcase their work and promote the development of the CSO sector in Ethiopia.
During the conference, Paul Walters acknowledged the significant impact of these CSOs in improving the lives of Ethiopians. He emphasized the importance of protecting and supporting CSOs, especially in light of the challenges the country has faced in recent years, which have made it difficult for some CSOs to carry out their work in all regions.
While the conference underscored the essential role civil society plays in molding a country’s current situation and prospects, it also served as a reminder that by joining forces, it is possible to craft a more inclusive civic realm – one where varied perspectives are listened to and all get the chance to contribute towards constructing a more equitable and just society. When diverse groups come together, meaningful change can occur, a key takeaway from the two-day event.