by Olivia Kefauver
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- How does environmental policy facilitate or constrain the activities of environmental NGOs in Ethiopia?
- This chapter summarizes the results of a literature review and semi-structured key informant interviews.
- Environmental institutions in Ethiopia have become increasingly important.
- Environmental policies and institutions are established, but the implementation capacity of government organizations remains weak due to inadequate budgets, lack of expertise, and lack of adequate facilities to test environmental conditions.
- Government bodies such as the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority collaborate with environmental NGOs for assistance in program and policy implementation.
- Environmental NGOs have good working relationships with the government as compared to NGOs working on issues such as human rights, but the political commitment to environmental policies and laws is sometimes unpredictable.
- International financial assistance will be critical for improving policy implementation capacity.
- Environmental NGOs play a significant role in environmental management in Ethiopia. Efforts should be made to improve government and NGO implementation capacity on all levels by:
- strengthening government-NGO resource exchanges and partnerships, and
- attracting international financial assistance for governmental agencies and NGOs to increase short-term implementation capacity.
“How Environmental Policy Facilitates or Constrains the Activities of Environmental NGOs in Ethiopia” is the first chapter in Environmental Policy Review 2011, a report produced by the Environmental Policy Group in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
In the 20 years since the overthrow of the Derg regime, new formalized environmental institutions have been established in Ethiopia, including environmental legislation covering an array of environmental issues. This chapter explores the historical and current context of environmental institutions and their interactions with environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Ethiopia.
Key informant interviews from multiple stakeholders provide different but consistent perspectives on the relationships between environmental NGOs and Ethiopian environmental policy. While environmental policies exist in Ethiopia, problems in implementation are pervasive. This implementation gap has meant that many policies that appear “good on paper” have resulted in few tangible environmental outcomes on the ground. In the face of this problem, environmental NGOs have played a significant role in supporting improved environmental management in Ethiopia. Case studies highlighting two domestic environmental NGOs, Forum for Environment (FFE) and Concern for Environment (CFE), further illustrate the different possible roles of environmental NGOs in Ethiopia and provide insights into the potential of the environmental NGO sector going forward.
Until recently, the Ethiopian government’s relationship with NGOs has been characterized by an aversion to “independent citizen activism,” with the exception of periods of necessity during environmental and human crises. But the strength and diversity of the NGO sector has increased significantly since the 1990s and environmental NGOs are now playing an increasing role. In the context of the government’s limited fiscal and expert resources for environmental management, efforts should be made to improve both government and NGO implementation capacity on all levels. Specific policy recommendations include: (1) strengthening government-NGO partnerships, including locally/regionally-based NGOs in environmental policy dialogue, project implementation and information/resource exchanges; and (2) attracting international financial assistance for government and NGOs to increase short-term implementation capacity.
Ethiopia is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of the world, but also one of the most degraded (FFE, 2011b; Conservation International, 2007; McKee, 2007). The country faces numerous environmental challenges such as deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and declines in soil fertility and water quality (FFE, 2011a; Bekele, 2008; EPE, 1997). These problems pose significant risks for Ethiopian citizens since – as emphasized in the 1997 Environmental Policy of Ethiopia – “natural resources are the foundation of the economy.”
Political, social, and economic challenges can both contribute to and be exacerbated by environmental degradation. Much of Ethiopia’s population is dependent upon on the environment as their principal source of income (HoAREC, 2011; US DOS, 2011; McKee, 2007; EPE, 1997). This leads to a cycle of environmental degradation and poverty: to survive, people “are forced to disregard the long-term well-being of the environment and thus degrade it further” (MoFED, 2002, p. 121). Recurrent droughts, famines, poor infrastructure and periods of political unrest serve as additional challenges for environmental management within Ethiopia (Ogbaharya & Tecle, 2010; EPE, 1997).
The Environmental Policy of Ethiopia (EPE) and the 2002 Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP) attribute the prevalence of poverty in part to low growth and low productivity of agriculture and to the populace’s dependence on agriculture and natural resources. The EPE states that agriculture is the main source of variability and stagnation in economic growth (1997). As one of the most dependent countries on foreign aid, limited fiscal resources impact Ethiopia’s ability to address these issues (ICNL, 2011). At the same time, as the current government of Ethiopia has only been in place since 1995, Ethiopia faces not only the economic development challenges of any low-income country, but also the challenge of creating a new government institutional structure so that it can best serve its citizens’ needs.
The manner in which environmental issues are addressed in the coming years will have a significant influence on the well-being of the Ethiopian people, and on surrounding nations whose ecosystems are “dynamically interlinked” with Ethiopia (McKee, 2007). In this context, the development of strong institutions and networks is a necessity to address environmental degradation and management of natural resources. This chapter assesses the strengths and weaknesses of environmental institutions in Ethiopia and explores how environmental NGOs might help strengthen both written environmental policy and policy implementation.
Institutions are “humanly devised constraints that structure human interaction” (North, 1994, p. 360). They consist of formal constraints, (rules, laws, constitutions), informal constraints (norms of behavior, conventions, and self-imposed codes of conduct), and their associated enforcement characteristics (North, 1994). The structure of environmental institutions in Ethiopia frames the ways in which environmental problems are approached and in turn, the extent to which tangible results are produced. Although past legislation has addressed natural resource management, formalized environmental institutions such as management bodies and comprehensive environmental policies are relatively new within Ethiopia (FFE, 2010; McKee, 2007).
A key component of environmental management is how policies, once adopted, are carried out. The concept that “policies gain force through implementation” applies directly to environmental policy (Weimer & Vining, 2005). The issuance of a policy establishes the problem at hand, and how it should be addressed. Implementation meanwhile refers to “the efforts made to execute the policies – efforts that don’t always achieve the intended goals” (Weimer & Vining, 2005). Eugene Bardach developed a metaphor for understanding policy implementation that provides a way of conceptualizing the environmental policy process (Figure 1.1). Bardach’s metaphor likens implementation to a machine – in order for it to work all, of the parts must be assembled and kept in place. To begin, a working machine (effective policy) is dependent upon proper design (correct theory); without this, the “machine” will not work, and the desired policy results will not be achieved (Weimer & Vining, 2005). If the correct design (effective policy) is in place, but the necessary parts for policy implementation (essential policy elements) are either lacking or unreliable, then the machine (policy) will be ineffective (Weimer & Vining, 2005).
The problem of implementation is driven by these essential policy elements, which consist of: (1) the willingness of persons or organizations to comply with the policy; and (2) the ability of persons or organizations to enforce approved policies, dependent upon resources and competence (Weimer & Vining, 2005).
Another aspect of policy implementation concerns cooperation. Cooperation becomes a factor in projects large in scope and scale that can involve many actors (Heikkila & Gerlak, 2005). In short, environmental policy implementation can be extremely complex, often crossing traditional administrative boundaries and requiring a great deal of knowledge and expertise. Actors in environmental policy issues range from government bodies (at federal, regional, and local levels) to civil society organizations (CSOs), academics, scientists, think tanks, corporations, and the general public.
One prominent set of actors in low-income countries is the non-governmental organization (NGO) sector. As described by a World Bank report, “NGOs represent an important element in the political and economic transformation of Ethiopia sought by its people and government” (Clark, 2000, p. 2). Given the relatively recent emergence of formalized environmental institutions in Ethiopia, and considering the capacity of environmental NGOs to address environmental issues on the ground level, it is perhaps no surprise that environmental NGOs appear to play a significant role in the area of environmental management. At the same time, since environmental NGOs must work within the national environmental policy context, they provide a unique perspective into the workings of the Ethiopian environmental policy system.
The environment will continue to be one of the most important determinants of Ethiopia’s welfare in the future (EPE, 1997). Environmental NGOs play an important role in policy development and implementation, acting as instruments of change in improving environmental quality and institutions. Despite this, there has been relatively little research on the roles of environmental NGOs. This analysis represents one of the first efforts to contextualize the work of environmental NGOs in Ethiopia within a policy framework.
In order to gather background and historical information, an extensive literature review explored the evolution of environmental policy and institutions, and the current state of NGOs in Ethiopia.
Semi-structured interviews and correspondence with environmental and legal experts provided additional insights into environmental institutions in Ethiopia. To gain a comprehensive understanding of my topic, I sought informants from multiple different stakeholder groups. Among those contacted were the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ethiopian national NGOs (NNGOs), international umbrella NGOs (INGOs), and academics in the fields of geography, environment, development, and law (Table 1.1).
Table 1.1 Notes: † indicates that not every contact resulted in an interview/exchange.
I contacted informants by email, telephone, or both, depending on available contact information. I typically sent informants an introductory email (if an email address was available) explaining the purpose and scope of the research project, and requesting information or further contact via email or telephone. A complete list of individuals and organizations contacted can be found under Appendix 1A. Interviews consisted of a series of 5-15 questions that varied based on the expertise and experience of the individual. When applicable, I asked follow-up questions to clarify comments and expand upon issues raised. I took detailed notes during all interviews outlining key points and quotes. When an interview was complete, I immediately compiled these notes and sent them to the interviewee over email for review and revision. The revised notes that I received often brought up new points or clarified previously ambiguous statements. Descriptions of the interviews and communications cited within this report may be found in Appendices 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 1F.
To further understand the relationship between environmental NGOs and environmental policy in Ethiopia, two environmental NGOs were selected as case studies: Forum for Environment (FFE) and Concern for Environment (CFE).
Self-described as “sister-organizations,” Forum for Environment and Concern for Environment are broadly representative of two different types of environmental NGOs active in Ethiopia today (CFE, 2010, p. 1). FFE is a large networking organization with an ambitious environmental policy agenda. Based in the capital city of Addis Ababa, in the epicenter of government activity, FFE attempts to strengthen environmental policy and engage government officials in environmental policy implementation in addition to its work in local communities (FFE, 2010). CFE, meanwhile, is a smaller regional NGO with relatively narrower goals, largely limited to improving environmental outcomes in a single watershed (Lake Awassa) in the Great Rift Valley.
While they differ in resources and scope, both organizations work to address environmental issues within the current environmental policy context. As such, they offer valuable insights into the environmental policies of Ethiopia, as well as into NGO-government relationships and the experience of environmental NGOs working in a developing country.
The Evolution of Environmental Institutions in Ethiopia
Historical evidences indicate that the reasons for century-old lack of sustainable natural resource management and environmental protection tradition are mainly related to the instability of successive governments, their rapidly changing political economy…and non-participatory top-down development programs (Bekele, 2008, p. 337).
Prior to the period of Italian occupation (1936-41), while there were rules that addressed aspects of the environment in Ethiopia, formal environmental decrees were rare (Bekele, 2008). The resource laws during the Italian occupation focused on the economic potential of Ethiopia’s natural resources rather than their ecological value. During this period, the Italians issued over twenty forest decrees and implemented destructive forestry programs to fuel infrastructural development (Bekele, 2008).
After the return of the Ethiopian imperial government (1941-1975), government policy focused on the development of the agricultural sector for domestic consumption and export; as a result, national forest land was redistributed for conversion to agricultural land (Bekele, 2008). While the 1955 Constitution introduced the principle of conservation, it took years for forestry policies to develop and even longer for any implementation to take place. The period of 1955-1968 is described by Bekele as “probably one of the most distressing phases in forestry management” in Ethiopia, where the highland forest estimated in 1937 at nearly six million hectares was reduced by almost half to three million hectares in the early 1960s (2008, p. 339).
In 1975, the militaristic Derg regime succeeded the imperial government, drastically changing Ethiopian environmental management. Environmental policies produced during the Derg era (1975-1991) were grounded in the socialist ideologies of the regime (Bekele, 2008). Environmental legislation from this time period “emanated from the socialist principles in which the role of the State as owner of land and manager of related resources was magnified and individual initiative greatly discouraged” (Bekele, 2008, p. 340). The environmental policies of the Derg regime were characterized by top-down management policies which, although they often incorporated extensive conservation and tree-planting initiatives, were accompanied by the disintegration of “customary institutions of natural resource management” (Ogbaharya & Tecle, 2010, pp. 495-496). This resulted in situations where “thousands of hectares of land belonging to communities and individual households came under plantation by force” (Bekele, 2008, p. 339) without regard for local participation or community empowerment. As a result, when the Derg government lost power in 1991, most of the conservation and development activities in the environmental sector were destroyed in protest against decades of top-down rule (Bekele, 2008; Keeley & Scoones, 2003).
After a brief period of transitional government, the current federal republic system, led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), was instituted in 1995 (Ogbaharya & Tecle, 2010). The violent change in government from the Derg regime to the current EPRDF was accompanied by a drastic ideological shift in environmental management that was manifested in the administrative structure of the government and the development of formal environmental institutions. The EPRDF’s approach to land management, which views land as a common property resource owned by the state and by the people, exemplifies the recent shift towards a more inclusive approach to environmental policy in Ethiopia (Bekele, 2008). The period after the Derg regime can be characterized by a move towards political decentralization, i.e., “a transfer of decision-making power and administrative responsibility from the central government to the periphery” (Wamai, 2008, p. 1). Ethiopia has pursued decentralization as a means of improving service delivery, resource allocation, regional development, and the meaningful participation of the people in decision-making processes (Wamai, 2008; MoFED, 2002). In theory, this administrative and fiscal decentralization was meant to result in more participatory, responsive, government structures and by extension, improved environmental management. The first wave of decentralization policies in 1995 resulted in the establishment of a federal republic government, and in 2002 a further set of decentralization initiatives relegated more fiscal and administrative power to local government administrations (McKee, 2007).
Today, most large-scale environmental administration is dispersed between the federal government, and administrative subdivisions, including nine ethnically based regions and two chartered cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa (US DOS, 2011). In 1995, the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) was established as a response to the Rio Agenda 21, which emphasized “the necessity of integrating environment and development at policy, planning, and management levels for improved decision making” (Ruffeis et al., 2010, p. 31). The EPA is the primary agency at the federal level responsible for managing environmental issues, and its responsibilities reflect the Rio Agenda 21 goals. The responsibilities of the EPA include the development of environmental legislation and policy, setting of standards, monitoring of environmental policies, implementing Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) for proposed development activities, negotiating access & benefit sharing agreements, and undertaking capacity development in relevant agencies to ensure integration of environmental management into policymaking (McKee, 2007).
Regional environmental authorities represent another significant level of environmental management institutions in Ethiopia. In 2002, the establishment of independent environmental agencies at the regional level was codified in the Establishment of Environmental Protection Organs Proclamation (McKee, 2007). Known as Regional Environmental Protection Agencies, or REAs, these groups were originally responsible for implementation of national and regional environmental policies. The federal EPA has since assisted Regional States in developing their own environmental conservation strategies, through provision of equipment, training and environmental education (MoFED, 2002).
The second stage of decentralization introduced by the federal government in 2002 established the woreda (a local level of government roughly equivalent to a District) as the center of socioeconomic development. The stated goal of this policy was bringing the government closer to the people and increasing responsiveness to local needs (Wamai, 2008; McKee, 2007; MoFED, 2002). The woredas still serve as the base unit for representation in the federal and regional assemblies, representing local communities in national or regional policy debates (McKee, 2007). In terms of environmental management, this power shift has moved responsibilities for environmental service delivery and policy implementation from the regional level to the woreda-level, with the REAs re-focusing their efforts on developing overarching regional environmental legislation and maintaining only a supervisory role in regards to woreda-level environmental management (Wamai, 2008; McKee, 2007).
Environmental Policy in Ethiopia Today
Similar to the development of formal environmental agencies, most of the environmental laws in place today in Ethiopia were developed after a national backlash removed Derg regime policies that were perceived as authoritarian (Bekele, 2008; Keeley & Scoones, 2003). As Damtie notes, within Ethiopia “a separate enactment of environmental laws is a recent phenomenon in the history of making laws,” although some earlier laws had dealt with environmental matters directly or indirectly (Damtie, 2011, p. 1). The majority of the environmental laws in effect today were developed after the transfer of power to the EPRDF in 1995 (Bekele, 2008).
After the Derg regime, a breadth of environmental legislation was written addressing many environmental sectors. Beginning as early as 1994 with the Water Policy Law, until the more recent 2007 Wildlife Policy, a number of sectoral policies were written, covering areas such as forests, conservation, rural land use, and impact assessment, among others. The strength of these policies varies significantly: some, like the Environmental Policy of Ethiopia (EPE) and its predecessor the Conservation Strategy of Ethiopia (CSE), are widely regarded as well-written, comprehensive environmental policies. Others, such as the Rural Development Policy, appear to lack crucial policy elements, or have been criticized for promoting development interests over environmental protection (Bekele, 2008).
Issued in 1997, the current federal environmental policy, the EPE, spans numerous sectoral policies and various cross-sectoral policies (Bekele, 2008). This policy, unlike those of previous regimes, addresses implementation principles, evaluation, and policy review, and explicitly recognizes a role for participatory management. The EPE also addresses the importance of involving local communities, NGOs and professional associations, indicating in its text the relevance of decentralization of power and collaboration between sectoral interests (Bekele, 2008).
The EPE stresses the importance of sustainable development, stating that its overall goal is
…to improve and enhance the health and quality of life of all Ethiopians and to promote sustainable social and economic development through the sound management and use of natural, human-made and cultural resources and the environment as a whole so as to meet the need of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (1997, p. 3).
To fully understand the implications of this process, one must understand the main objective of the current government that drives it. The thrust of the EPRDF’s sustainable development plan has been motivated by what has been described as Ethiopia’s complex, deep and structural poverty: 44% of the population was living below the poverty line in 2000 (MoFED, 2002). The Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) of 2006 and its predecessor, the 2002 Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP) state that the “main development goal” of the Ethiopian government is poverty eradication (MoFED, 2006, 2002). The main mechanisms to achieve this goal are an “overriding and intentional focus on agriculture,” and the strengthening of private sector growth and development of industry (MoFED, 2002, p. i).
The government’s focus on agricultural and industrial development has potentially large implications for Ethiopia’s environment. This potential conflict (and undeniable link) between environmental protection and economic development goals was addressed in a section of the SDPRP entitled “Environment and Development,” which holds accountable the EPA for ensuring “harmonization” of economy and environment through the laws established in the EPE, so neither sector suffers as a result of protection of the other (MoFED, 2002, p. 121). In contrast to the SDPRP, the PASDEP features an expanded section on environmental degradation as a result of development and increased agricultural pressures, addressing explicitly the fact that “reversing environmental degradation and poverty eradication are…mutually reinforcing imperatives and have to be implemented together in Ethiopia’s development initiatives” (MoFED, 2006, p. 187). The SDPRP mentions the potential of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) laws to enable integration of environmental consideration into development planning (MoFED, 2002). The extent to which these EIAs have been consistently implemented has been debated, however, and as such, the ability of these laws to prevent environmental degradation is unclear (Ruffeis et al., 2010).
NGOs in Ethiopia
Formalized community organizations, such as NGOs, are another relatively recent development in Ethiopia. Several types of indigenous organizations predate the arrival of NGOs in Ethiopia. Common organizations such as “debo,” “idir,” and “iquib” that served as self-help systems for their members, have defined structures, laws, and procedure of operation (ICNL, 2006). These systems have been in place for centuries, and some eventually were registered as organizations known as Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) (CRDA, 2010). A regulatory framework for the registration and establishment of CBOs and NGOs is embodied in the Civil Code of 1960, Proclamation Number 4/1995 and Regulations Number 321/66 (UN, 2004).
According to the Christian Relief and Development Association (CRDA), two important aspects of the development of the voluntary sector in Ethiopia have “had an enduring impact on the sector: one was that until very recently the sector consisted of a small number of organizations, and the second that they have operated under difficult and sometimes trying circumstances” (CRDA, 2008). The role of formal NGOs began in the 1960s, providing welfare services. As a result of the 1973-1975 and 1984-1985 famines, and subsequent global publicity, the Imperial and Derg regimes reluctantly allowed international and domestic NGOs to engage in relief and humanitarian services, under close observation (ICNL, 2011; CRDA, 2008). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the sector remained small and dominated mainly by international NGOs (INGOs) rather than national NGOs (NNGOs) (CRDA, 2008). The post-Derg period saw an accelerated growth in the number and diversity of NGOs (ICNL, 2011) (Figure 1.2).
As of 2007, the Ministry of Justice reported a total of 2,305 organizations registered at the federal level (CRDA, 2008). Of these 2,305 organizations, 1,976 were NGOs registered at the national level – domestic NGOs accounted for 1,742 organizations, while international NGOs accounted for 234 organizations (Figure 1.3).
Regional States within Ethiopia can also register domestic NGOs, and when included with the federally registered NGOs, the total number of NGOs in Ethiopia exceeds 3,000 (CRDA, 2008).
A gradual shift occurred in the focus of domestic and international NGOs towards rehabilitation efforts, and eventually to the focus on development held by many current NGOs (CRDA, n.d.). The majority of NGOs in Ethiopia today address aspects of human development (education, health, human welfare) and agriculture and food security, but the proportion of NGOs addressing other topics has risen over time, including those integrating components of natural resource management into their activities (Gessesse, 2010).
While on paper NGOs are deemed important partners in project implementation, the relationship between the Ethiopian government and NGOs has historically been characterized by tension as a result of deep mistrust (Wamai, 2008; CCRDA, 2006; MoFED, 2002; EPE, 1997). This mistrust derives from government concerns that relief organizations were perpetuating dependency on relief rather than development, that NGOs were inefficient with funding allocations, that the current influx of foreign financial assistance brought in tow unwanted foreign political influences, and that some NGOs had mandates that it considered questionable, marginal or troublesome (Clark, 2000). This tension has recently manifested itself in what is known as one of the most controversial proclamations in Ethiopia: the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP), which came into effect in February 2009. This law concerns the formation and operation of civil society organizations (CSOs), a category which encompasses NGOs. The CSP divides CSOs into three types of association: Ethiopian Charities or Societies, Ethiopian Resident Charities or Societies, and Foreign Charities (Hailegebriel, 2010).
Under this law, advocacy activities are considered “political activities,” which are reserved for Ethiopians and the category of Ethiopian Charities – groups that are prohibited from receiving more than 10% of their funds from foreign sources (Hailegebriel, 2010). The following activities are reserved for Ethiopian Charities (and as such are bound by the 10% funding requirement):
- “advancement of human & democratic rights, the promotion of equality of nations, nationalities and people and that of gender and religion;
- the promotion of the rights of the disabled and children’s rights; the promotion of conflict resolution and reconciliation; and
- the promotion of the efficiency of justice and law enforcement services” (Hailegebriel, 2010).
This proclamation bars any NGOs participating in advocacy and human rights activities from receiving more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources (Table 1.2). As described by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), this proclamation “may effectively silence civil society in Ethiopia by starving NGOs of resources, and thus essentially extinguishing their right to expression” (ICNL, 2011).
Unlike other policies, this proclamation “attempts to make a separation between development and governance/human rights interventions”; by doing so, it limits the ability of many NGOs to engage in governance or policy advocacy (CRDA, 2008, p. 4). As such, laws including the CSP that have the potential to significantly limit the resources of NGOs can by extension impact the sectors in which these NGOs work.
Findings: Key Informant Interviews
Findings from five key informant interviews are summarized below. Respondents’ comments largely centered around the following thematic areas: (1) environmental policy, (2) policy implementation, (3) NGO-government relations, and (4) NGO activism.
Overall, as a program manager for the environmental NGO Forum for Environment (FFE) said, Ethiopian environmental policies are “very good and very nice policies on paper” (FFE_1B, 2011). This research found that on the whole, environmental policies in Ethiopia are believed to be well written and fairly comprehensive (HoAREC_1E, 2011; FFE_1B, 2011; CFE_1C, 2011). However, although as one respondent observed “almost all of the necessary policies seem to be in place,” (FFE_1B, 2011) there remained a sense among respondents that not every necessary environmental policy is yet in place in Ethiopia today.
The main environmental law, the EPE, serves as a framework for environmental legislation at lower levels of government, especially regional policies. Regions are permitted to develop their own environmental policy, as long as it meets the standards established by the federal environmental policy (AAU_1D, 2011a). In theory, regional policies may support more stringent environmental standards, but may not set lower standards than the federal law – and indeed in many cases regional policies have been simply “cut and pasted” from the national policy, such that most written environmental policies are similar across regions (AAU_1D, 2011a). In practice, however, some regions are relatively less active than others in terms of environmental law enforcement, particularly with regards to regulating the environmental impacts of development activities (e.g., requiring Environmental Impact Assessments for proposed industrial expansion).
Despite universal recognition that government policies such as the CSP law have hindered NGO activities in Ethiopia (as discussed in greater detail below), when specifically asked how environmental policies affect NGOs, respondents stated that Ethiopian environmental laws themselves have no negative impacts on the work of NGOs. On the contrary, some environmental NGO respondents stated that environmental policy (or the fact that policy exists on some base-level) makes it easier for them to work (FFE_1B, 2011; CFE_1C, 2011) since such laws give additional legitimacy to their conservation and education activities.
Environmental Policy Implementation
“There is no concrete commitment on the ground as you now see in the papers” (AAU_1D, 2011a).
Implementation was identified by respondents as the main challenge for environmental legislation in Ethiopia today (FFE_1B, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a). As described by a professor at Addis Ababa University, “we don’t have any problems making laws! But they are not implemented…” (AAU_1D, 2011a). An interviewee from the NGO FFE further explained that the problem of implementation is not unique to the environmental sector, but rather is a problem shared by other sectors (FFE_1B, 2011). Along this line, several respondents emphasized that implementation problems are a common feature of developing nations rather than an issue specific to Ethiopia (FFE_1B, 2011; EPA_1F, 2011). A respondent from the Horn of Africa Regional Environmental Center (HoAREC) remarked that compared to other countries in the Horn of Africa region, Ethiopia’s capacity for implementation wasn’t as strong as that of Kenya, but was stronger than many other countries, including Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
A member of the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) remarked that Ethiopia’s environmental policies were enacted relatively recently; as a result, Ethiopia is comparatively new to the process of implementing environmental policy (EPA_1F, 2011). Respondents identified several factors responsible for implementation challenges. These included a lack of manpower for enforcement, a lack of expertise in the environmental sector to test and interpret pollution levels in the environment, and a lack of facilities to test environmental quality levels (EPA_1F, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a). HoAREC attributed implementation problems to inadequate financing, rather than an absence of concern for environmental issues (HoAREC_1E, 2011):
The issue of environment and development, along with climate change are greater here than anywhere else. They do not have strong implementation, not because they don’t want to, but because there is no funding or international assistance for environmental issues.
The HoAREC respondent also mentioned that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia was a leader on climate change issues for the whole of Africa, indicating the importance of environmental issues for the country (HoAREC_1E, 2011). But he also explained that much of the development assistance coming from outside Ethiopia is geared towards sectors such as agriculture, water and energy that have strong government ministries. By comparison, the environmental sector is under the executive branch and as such doesn’t have its own ministerial portfolio, which results in a smaller operating budget, and a potential disadvantage when attracting foreign funds (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
A political focus on economic priorities was also found to play a role in weakening environmental policy implementation in some cases. For instance, respondents noted that the Ethiopian government is actively trying to encourage development and promote investment in the country. A main mechanism through which government is currently seeking to address poverty reduction is through development and commercialization of the agricultural and industrial sectors (PASDEP, 2006). Some investors might not want to do Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) even though they are technically required – resulting in a situation where investment might come before the environment: As one respondent summarized: “It may not be easy to balance environmental interests and development interests, so the priority is often development with a high tolerance for environmental degradation” (AAU_1D, 2011a).
Legally, there seems to be no problem working on environmental issues as an NGO in Ethiopia, as long as the organization’s statues are focused solely on environmental issues (FFE_1B, 2011; CFE_1C, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a, 2011b). Indeed, despite citing the existing implementation problems, the NGO FFE emphasized that it has had no serious problems with government policies in terms of preventing them from implementing their work (FFE_1B, 2011). Both of the NGOs interviewed through this study emphasized that they have good relationships with government officials (FFE_1B, 2011; CFE_1C, 2011).
At times, however, government mistrust of the NGO sector can still be problematic for NGOs. For example, respondents observed that even though it is not the official policy of the government, sometimes a local official will stop the activities of an NGO unexpectedly. Generally speaking, the government is suspicious of NGO activity for several reasons.
- Some NGOs misuse funding that they receive for their organizations’ activities. A small percentage of funds in these cases actually benefits the public, with the remainder benefiting only individuals in the NGO. Since accountability of funds is not very clear, the government feels responsible for monitoring this (AAU_1D, 2011b).
- The Ethiopian government is suspicious that foreign funding is inextricable from foreign influences – the government worries that these influences may be contradictory to government interests, and as such, the government is very wary of foreign funding (AAU_1D, 2011b; CRDA, 2006).
One professor mentioned that recently in the SNNP region, an increase in the amount of environmental legislation led to an increase in the number of environmental NGOs; this quick emergence of NGOs raised concern and confusion among government officials (AAU_1D, 2011a). According to his account, the government was suspicious that the growing NGO sector would become politically active and anti-government, so it banned around 40 groups last year (AAU_1D, 2011a, 2011b). By comparison, the respondent from HoAREC observed that many NGOs, but not environmental NGOs, were shut down across Ethiopia when the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP) law came into place (2011). Those NGOs were shut down primarily because they did not meet the new guidelines (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
When asked about the CSP law, NGO respondents suggested there is no legal problem for any environmental NGO in Ethiopia to register as an Ethiopian Resident Charity, which allows it to raise more than 10% of its funds from outside of Ethiopia (Table 1.2). Once legally registered, it is possible to operate in any part of the country. Thus rather than facing registration problems, the most pressing problem for environmental NGOs lies in securing adequate funding. Most NGOs in Ethiopia receive some form of funding from foreign sources, and even locally based NGOs extend their hand to foreigners (AAU_1D, 2011b). Since the 2009 CSP law, however, NGOs have to be increasingly dependent on domestic sources of funding (AAU_1D, 2011b). HoAREC mentioned a specific exception within the CSP law for environmental NGOs: although foreign-based NGOs registered as international NGOs are prohibited from engaging in policy advocacy, locally-based environmental NGOs are allowed to engage in advocacy so long as such activities focused exclusively on environmental issues (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
Ultimately, environmental NGOs in Ethiopia have good working relationships with the government compared to NGOs working on issues such as human rights. One respondent noted that environmental NGOs are often in agreement with the EPA about environmental issues (HoAREC_1E, 2011), and over the past decade environmental NGOs and the Ethiopian government have known to cooperate extensively (HoAREC_1E, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011b). Such NGO-government collaboration seems to benefit both parties. For instance, the government can assist an environmental NGO by suggesting an environmental sector that needs assistance, and can provide the NGO with information relating to environmental problems (AAU_1D, 2011b). NGOs meanwhile assist the Ethiopian government in project implementation (HoAREC_1E, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011b). Another interviewee recognized environmental protection activities and management (e.g., tree-planting, soil conservation, water harvesting and plant production to fight deforestation), and environmental education and promotion of environmental stewardship as means by which NGOs currently assist the government working to acheive environmental goals (AAU_1D, 2011b).
Lacking a dedicated government ministry and faced with limited resources, the EPA collaborates extensively with NGOs and appreciates NGO partnership in project implementation and environmental education, especially when such activities are completed under the NGOs’ own budgets (HoAREC_1E, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a, 2011b). The HoAREC respondent mentioned that his organization often steps in where the government can’t allocate funds:
…if the government has to choose between a land use plan or allocating the resources to water and energy they will choose water and energy. So HoAREC provides support in land use planning and secures funding for land use planning programs (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
He further mentioned that while there is still much that the EPA could to do be more inclusive of environmental NGOs, there is a good flow of information between the two groups (HoAREC_1E, 2011).
The ability of NGOs to influence policy in Ethiopia is very limited. According to HoAREC, there aren’t any really large NGOs in Ethiopia; most NGOs being of small or “medium” size (HoAREC_1E, 2011), and few involved in the policy process. That said, particularly in the environmental policy arena, respondents noted that sometimes small, indigenous NGOs may have the largest impact on environmental policy because they are able to specialize within their field and provide in-depth and credible information to inform policy (HoAREC_1E, 2011). The type of activism for NGOs regarding environmental policy change varies from organization to organization (Betsill and Corell, 2001). One of Forum for Environment’s main goals is to influence federal environmental policy (FFE, 2011a). FFE programs include public meetings and public dialogue forums, research and publications, and capacity building (FFE, 2011a). On the national level, FFE is the secretariat of a civil society network on climate change committee, comprised of 60 member organizations (FFE, 2011b). FFE has also helped to establish and consolidate 12 local FFE groups throughout Ethiopia (FFE, 2011a). As the interviewee explained, “rather than being in Addis and shouting out to the communities,” FFE actively supports local groups that focus on local issues and have a degree of autonomy, translating into a louder voice in their communities (FFE_1B, 2011). Meanwhile, on an international scale, FFE has partnered with the Ethiopian EPA, HoAREC, and Addis Ababa University to promote environmental discourse including a May 2011 workshop entitled “Rio 2012: Ethiopia’s Input to the Sustainability Summit” (HoAREC, 2011). This workshop drew over 60 participants, comprised of “NGO leaders, federal and regional Ethiopian government officials, representatives of academia, research institutions, international organizations and diplomatic community” (FFE, 2011b).
Proceedings of FFE’s public meetings are publicly available, and these public dialogues and meetings have been strong, effective tools in bringing together different stakeholders and helping to influence policy formulation at multiple levels (FFE_1B, 2011). They are mostly organized at the national level in partnership with other like-minded organizations to address key environmental issues (more than ten different topics have been addressed over the last few years). Policy makers and politicians including parliamentarians are regularly invited to these dialogues and meetings (FFE_1B, 2011). FFE believes that its activities have directly contributed to bringing environmental issues into the public consciousness. As the interviewee explained, while a few years ago the issue of the environment was simply not an issue in the eyes of the government or the general public, “at present, one can talk about the environment at all levels, from the woreda-level to the national-level” (FFE_1B, 2011).
By contrast, smaller local NGOs such as Concern for Environment (CFE) work to build capacity and environmental awareness, but make few attempts to influence issues of environmental policy (CFE_1C, 2011). Instead, such organizations’ activities center on the regional and community scale and focus more strongly towards raising awareness and building capacity through skills training seminars and public workshops.
The differences between environmental NGOs in Ethiopia are further explored through the two case studies below.
Findings: Case Studies
Forum for Environment (FFE) and Concern for Environment (CFE) represent two distinct types of environmental NGOs working in Ethiopia today; the first, FFE, is a large networking organization with an ambitious environmental and policy agenda, whereas CFE is a smaller regional organization with relatively narrower goals.
Forum for Environment, Addis Ababa
Based in the capital city, Addis Ababa, in the epicenter of government activity, Forum for Environment (FFE) attempts to influence policy and engage government officials in addition to its work in local communities (FFE, 2011a). FFE engages in a wide variety of activities, including environmental policy advocacy, organization of public meetings, the publication of a printed Ethiopia Environment Review, and networking with both governmental and non-governmental organizations on international, national, regional, and local levels. FFE also works with many partner NGOs, serving as the secretariat of the Ethiopian Civil Society Network on Climate Change (ECSNCC), one of the largest and most visible networks on environmental issues in Ethiopia (FFE, 2011b). In addition to these activities, FFE carries out advocacy and lobbying campaigns involving diverse stakeholders, including government officials and civil society groups, to raise awareness among the public on environmental issues. FFE has supported the establishment of 12 local groups across Ethiopia, and in doing so, has helped form a nation-wide network as shown in Figure 1.4 (FFE, 2011a, 2011b).
Concern for Environment, Awassa
Concern for Environment (CFE) represents another type of NGO in Ethiopia – one that may partner with larger organizations like FFE, but largely refrains from policy discourses. Instead, CFE’s stakeholders are largely members of the local community, including local government officials, farmers, and schoolchildren, among others in the Lake Awassa watershed (Figure 1.5).
CFEs activities are at the regional and community level, working with citizens and local government officials to implement environmental programs with the goal of improving environmental quality, and increasing environmental awareness in their program areas (CFE, 2010). CFE focuses primarily on small-scale conservation projects, capacity building through skills training, and public meetings and other activities to raise environmental awareness (CFE, 2010).
In recent years CFE has run skills training sessions for fuel-efficient Mirt stoves with members of the community, and on a separate occasion, a training session on soil conservation techniques (CFE, 2010). CFE produces educational posters and pamphlets written in local languages to promote environmental awareness, and CFE also puts on events, such as their 2009 Earth Day celebration, which drew around 300 youth, as well as other residents of Awassa, including kebele administrators (local government leaders), fishermen, and teachers (CFE, 2010).
In June of 2009, CFE was recognized by a regional radio station for their work and were invited to speak (CFE, 2010). In their 2010 annual report, CFE recognized their year’s work within the community, explaining that their organization “is so glad…we bear in mind that the different awareness creation workshops, brochures, posters and stickers that were prepared had done something” (CFE, 2010).
The differences between these two organizations illustrate the diversity of environmental activities undertaken by NGOs in Ethiopia today. FFE focuses mainly on the coordination of environmental networks at international, national and regional levels, working to improve policy and implementing on-the-ground environmental programs. Meanwhile CFE focuses on building capacity, teaching environmental management skills, and raising awareness within their local community. The roles played by FFE and CFE in environmental policy are different, yet equally important, and each is based upon a shared vision of environmental improvement and awareness within Ethiopia. The efforts of each group seem to have contributed to change within each of their focus areas (FFE_1B, 2011; CFE, 2010). The impact that groups such as FFE and CFE have on the environment and public awareness is not limited to these two case studies, nor limited to the current level of environmental progress in Ethiopia. There are many other environmental NGOs working to create environmental and behavior change, and as the CFE annual report elegantly states, “advocacy is a slow process, but if it gradually enters into the minds and hearts of the people it will bear fruit” (CFE, 2010).
The literature review and feedback from key informant interviews suggest that there is a sufficient quantity and range of environmental policies in Ethiopia to cover various environmental sectors (FFE_1B, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a). The fact that the main environmental policy, the federal Environmental Policy of Ethiopia (EPE), serves as the “cut-and-paste” baseline for regional policies (AAU_1D, 2011a; McKee, 2007) has significant implications regarding potential policy recommendations. When looking to increase pollution standards, or to make adjustments in environmental policy, for example, it would be prudent to look to the federal policy as a means to do so. At least in theory, such a move would have a ripple effect across the standards in regional administration’s environmental policies, since regional laws are held to federal environmental standards.
But while on paper environmental policies may appear well-written and comprehensive, respondents indicated that this legislation has often not been translated into environmental outcomes on the ground. Bardach’s machine metaphor suggests environmental policy may fail due to incomplete or weak policies, or due to an inability to implement existing policies owing to inadequate resources. Collectively, respondents from the NGO Forum for Environment, the EPA, an academic, and the founder of an international environmental organization all suggested that improper implementation of environmental policies may result from combinations of the following reasons: inadequate expertise (i.e. experts who can conduct soil & water quality studies and interpret the results), a lack of facilities, an absence of implementation plans in the environmental policies themselves, inadequate financial resources, and conflicting government policies (HoAREC_1E, 2011; FFE_1B, 2011; EPA_1F, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011a).
The general need to develop implementation capacity has been addressed by a 1998 strategy for capacity building developed by the Ethiopian government. It implies that external (i.e. foreign) assistance will be necessary in the short term, with the hope of beginning to expand domestic capacity in the medium term (MoFED, 2002). Despite these efforts, it is clear from informants’ responses that the issue of inadequate capacity for implementation remains relevant. Poverty reduction and macroeconomic growth is a legitimate concern for Ethiopia and the health of its citizens, since implementation capacity is hindered by inadequate funds. But a focus on poverty reduction cannot ignore the implications of development for the environment. The link between environmental degradation and negative health and economic impacts is a concept solidified in mandated Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs), yet often overlooked to make room for development investment (AAU_1D, 2011a & 2011b; Ruffeis et al., 2010; Bekele, 2008). It is reassuring, however, that the PASDEP, Ethiopia’s “guiding strategic framework” for development, makes clear the need to address the link between environmental degradation and poverty (PASDEP, 2006, p. 1). If development is to be sustainable in the long run, policies such as EIAs and development permits should be enforced to dissuade short term interests from undermining the central goal of poverty reduction. Sustainable development in Ethiopia is crucial considering that, as cited previously, “natural resources are the foundation of the economy” and of social and economic development (MoFED, 2006; EPE, 1997).
While sustainable development can address the issue of inadequate capital within Ethiopia in the long run, short term solutions such as financial assistance can serve to address the capacity issues that hinder implementation of environmental policies today. Respondents cited financial assistance and adequate operating budgets as key factors in enabling environmental institutions to implement existing environmental policies (HoAREC_1E, 2011; EPA_1F, 2011). Keeley and Scoones have noted that the establishment of the EPA as a separate government body from other ministries has left it with a limited budget and also weakened the influence of conservationists in the Ministry of Agriculture (2000, p. 105). In the short term, attracting foreign financial assistance for environmental projects could strengthen the EPA’s efforts. In the long term however, in accordance with Ethiopia’s focus on sustainable development and eventual independence from foreign aid, the future of the environmental sector could possibly warrant a ministry similar to the existing Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, or the Ministry of Water Resources (MoFED, 2002). Establishment as a ministry would endow the EPA with a budget of its own to build implementation capacity to address the environmental goals outlined in the EPE, and perhaps address environmental issues in other relevant ministries.
For now, faced with a limited budget and weak implementation capacity, the EPA relies on assistance from environmental NGOs for project implementation (HoAREC_1E, 2011; AAU_1D, 2011). Wamai suggests that a decentralized government provides a suitable framework for NGOs to engage in local communities and participate in service delivery – the decentralized nature of Ethiopia’s service sectors may even necessitate the involvement of NGOs to achieve program objectives (Wamai, 2008). Several Ethiopian policies and studies explicitly cite the importance of encouraging partnerships NGOs in program implementation in Ethiopia (Wamai, 2008; MoFED, 2002; Clark, 2000; EPE, 1997).
While in theory and practice it appears that NGOs are beneficial for service delivery in Ethiopia, laws such as the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSP) can hinder the environmental management activities of NGOs. On the whole, the government remains very suspicious of the activities of NGOs, and closely monitors their operations through the CSP law (Hailegebriel, 2010). As mentioned before, by limiting international funding for most economic development and humanitarian NGOs to 10% of NGO operating budgets the domestic capacity of such NGOs has been further diminished. Essentially, laws of this type have the potential to remove or limit the benefits that many of these organizations provide to the communities with which they work (assuming that they were indeed non-corrupt organizations). While environmental NGOs have stronger working relationships with the government compared to humanitarian NGOs, the political context in which they work can still impact their ability to engage effectively in their program areas. The mistrust that characterizes the relationship between the government and NGO sector has significant implications for the activities of environmental NGOs going forward, and may restrict the potential of both parties to enact real environmental changes.
For the moment, however, environmental NGOs appear to enjoy a relatively strong collaborative working relationship with the government (as emphasized by the two organizations studied here, FFE and CFE). And across Ethiopia today environmental NGOs play a significant role in environmental management. Sustained cooperation between the Ethiopian government and NGOs can produce mutually beneficial outcomes. As demonstrated by FFE and CFE, NGOs have multiple roles in environmental protection, ranging from education and policy dialogue to on-the-ground environmental works. As suggested by a professor at Addis Ababa University (AAU_1D, 2011b), NGOs in Ethiopia fill environmental management gaps that may result because of limited financial resources in the government sector. Increased collaboration with the Ethiopian government to fill gaps in environmental management and implementation could be a potential goal for NGOs in the future. At present, FFE and CFE both organize workshops that spur collaboration between communities, NGOs and local government officials (HoAREC, 2011; CFE, 2010). It is important to remember that building capacity means building relationships as well.
In the future the fact that humanitarian organizations currently constrained by the CSP law might also contribute to environmental goals (such as providing clean water, food security through sustainable agriculture, and decreased poverty, among others), may be worthy of consideration. If restrictions on humanitarian NGO sources of funding (set in place by the CSP law) were loosened, foreign funding could further facilitate the implementation of environmental programs through humanitarian organizations in addition to through the exclusively “environmental” NGOs partnering with government today – thereby expanding the number of Ethiopian NGOs involved in environmental initiatives.
Questions to explore in future research include:
- To what degree do local environmental NGOs generate improved environmental outcomes relative to other organizations (e.g., public agencies; international NGOs)?
- How will the role of the NGO sector in environmental management and environmental policy discourse evolve in the future?
Environmental NGOs are already in a position to assist the government with the implementation of environmental policies and laws. Ultimately, the Ethiopian government has a clear policy that the public has to get involved with environmental protection and conservation, and NGOs can help make this connection by organizing citizens to be involved in environmental management in their communities. FFE and CFE are two NGOs working actively to accomplish this goal through their activities. As one respondent observed, “there are laws, so there will be a place for [NGOs]” (AAU_1D, 2011b). What remains to be seen is what form this “place” will take.
This research was limited by several factors. As per the nature of international research, I was limited to contacting my respondents by phone, Skype, and email. Contact information was difficult to find or not available in many cases, including academic departments at Ethiopian universities, and the Ethiopian EPA. 1 The sparse information provided by government ministries and departments is significant in its own way: availability of contact information in a public space is an indicator of the ability of citizens to access their representatives, and in turn, the ability to make their voices heard.
At times, language barriers presented further difficulties in communication when calling NGOs and the Ministry of Justice within Ethiopia. In future projects, partnering with a native Amharic speaker would prove very helpful.
Finally, the conclusions drawn above are limited by the small sample. While this report might not comprehensively represent the state of this topic within Ethiopia, given the consistency of accounts across respondents, findings are likely indicative of current trends. Further research should investigate the experiences of additional environmental NGOs, and examine both qualitative and quantitative data from relevant federal ministries, regional and woreda-level governments regarding environmental policy and NGOs in Ethiopia.
The post-Derg period has witnessed the development of many formalized environmental institutions, including environmental laws spanning diverse environmental issues. However, there are significant limitations to environmental policy implementation capacity. Ethiopian environmental NGOs play a significant role in environmental management and are in a position to help address these implementation gaps, but in the past a focus on economic development has caused the political commitment of the government to environmental policies and laws to be unpredictable. Present funding for environmental projects and institutions alike are inadequate to meet the desired environmental outcomes.
Environmental NGOs such as Forum for Environment (FFE) and Concern for Environment (CFE) play a significant role in environmental management in Ethiopia, in sectors that promote long-term environmental sustainability (CRDA, 2008). Looking forward, it is possible that this role will increase in coming years (McKee, 2007). To some extent, the ability of environmental NGOs to engage effectively within their program areas depends on the political context in which they work. As one academic observer mentioned, the relationship between environmental NGOs and the Ethiopian government is good, but there is still work to be done (HoAREC_1E, 2011). FFE and CFE are both examples of organizations working actively to promote NGO-government partnerships, and thereby improve environmental quality within their program areas. In the future the potential for environmental NGOs to affect tangible, positive environmental outcomes will be determined in part by their evolving relationship with the government, their operating budgets, and by the strength of environmental policy within Ethiopia.
Based on key informant interviews and a review of literature, policy recommendations include:
- in looking to adjust or improve existing environmental policies, one should start with the federal policy, since regional policies are held to federal standards;
- there should be a continued and intensified focus on improving government environmental policy implementation capacity at all levels; and
- this improvement in implementation capacity can be achieved in part by:
- strengthening government-NGO resource exchanges and partnerships, with attention paid to including locally/regionally-based NGOs in policy dialogue, project implementation and information/resource exchange; and
- attracting international financial assistance for governmental agencies and NGOs to increase short-term implementation capacity.
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Phone Interview with Forum for Environment
In response to the following questions, sent via email on October 21, 2011.
Questions regarding Forum for Environment and water quality
1. How does Forum for Environment encourage collaboration on environmental issues in Ethiopia? For example, do you bring together stakeholders at meetings? Work with NGO’s to build capacity? Set up networks of NGO’s and other stakeholders to foster communication?
2. Does Forum do work on the water quality of lakes?
3. What are the strengths of collaboration, as opposed to having one stakeholder address an environmental issue?
4. Are there diffiulties of collaboration? Does it get challenging bringing people with different opinions and interests together?
5. Is the government receptive to collaborating on environmental issues, and does this vary by region?
Questions regarding the Forum for Environment and the environmental policy environment
1. Would you tell me a little about your public meeting and dialogue forums on environmental issues?
2. What do you generally try to accomplish with these policy meetings?
3. Why is it important to have these meetings?
4. How would you describe your relationship with the environmental protection agencies?
5. Do you coordinate with government officials on programs?
6. What level of government do you primarily work with? (Federal, Regional, Woreda?)
7. What is the most important environmental issue addressed by your organization?
8. I’ve noticed that you have many local FfE groups spread throughout the regions of Ethiopia – to what extent have you found that the environmental legislation varies between regions?
9. What types of challenges, if any does this pose for your organization?
10. How would you describe the relationship between domestic environmental NGOs and the Ethiopian government?
11. Is that relationship different from that of international environmental NGOs?
12. In your opinion, does this differ from the experience of other types of (humanitarian) NGOs?
13. Could you describe any areas where existing environmental policy significantly affects your programs?
14. What are areas of environmental policy or management by the government that you believe could be improved upon?
15. Could you tell me about the Ethiopian Environment Information Network?
16. Do you know of any other organizations that would be interested in speaking with me?
Interview with Forum for Environment
21 October 2011, 7:20 AM
Introduction to FFE
FfE is a non-for-profit and non- governmental organization working on environmental communication and advocacy. It typically works in partnership with local and international as well as a number of governmental organizations. Its 5 major thematic areas include:
urban air quality
Environmental communication is the core focus: awareness raising, advocacy.
Currently working with many NGOs; Is serving as the secretariat of the Ethiopian civil society network on Climate Change (ECSNCC) which comprises 60 organizations working on environment and climate change related issues, making it one of the largest and visible network on environmental issues in Ethiopia.
FfE Advocacy tools include, among others:
Public meetings and public dialogue forums
Research and publications
Capacity building – Establishment and consolidation of local groups
Incentive and acknowledgement scheme
Proceedings of the public meetings are published and distributed… These meetings has helped to influence policy formation at multiple levels. These public dialogues and meetings have been very strong and effective tools. they are mostly organized at national level in partnership with with other like-minded organizations to address a number of environmental issues (over 10 different topics have been addressed over the last few years). They are very effective in bringing together different stakeholders. Policy makers and politicians including parliamentarians are invited to these dialogues and meetings.
Other activities include:
The Green Award program is another good model of collaborative advocacy program of FfE – collaborative advocacy works better in Ethiopia than the “confrontational” advocacy.
Research & Publications (e.g., Ethiopian Environment Review): FfE commission researches on a number of topical issues and publish the research findings for a wider distribution.
Has initiated and run different Campaigns. The most recent one’s include: A) America take the lead: Two million petition cards were signed, collected and delivered to the white house B) Countdown to Copenhagen: 32,000 petition cards were signed, collected and handed over to the Ethiopian lead negotiator and the Executive secretary of the UNFCCC
Initiated and joined a number of national, regional and international networks working on diverse environmental issues. Instrumental in sharing information and knowledge, capacity building as well as strengthening leverage for lobbying and advocacy
Establishing and Consolidating local groups
Work to consolidate local FfE groups. Currently 12 groups in 6 Regional States
working towards building a national environmental movement
quote: “rather than being in Addis and shouting out to the communities…”
quote: “the more you collaborate the more you can influence policy”
These groups can focus on local issues and have a degree of autonomy, which means they can have a louder voice in the community.
On policies in Ethiopia:
quote: “…very good and very nice policies on paper.”
The problem lies when we come to actual implementation. but this problem of implementation is not unique to the environment sector, but it also applies to other sectors as well. Is a common feature of developing nations. .
Almost all of the necessary policies seem to be in place, but they are often not enforced. Improper implementation of policies means there is still an effort required.
However, thus far FFE has had no serious problems with policy in implementing their work.
Water was previously a thematic area of FFE, but no longer. Can provide contacts of organizations working on water next week. Suggested that we check with Hawassa University for water quality data.
On challenges to working in Ethiopia:
Yes of course there are challenges, especially with advocacy but not impossible.
On government receptivity:
Legally there is no problem on working on environmental issues as an NGO in Ethiopia.
As could be true for any developing country Sometimes a local official will stop you all of a sudden by himself but this is not policy of the government, but in general environmental NGOs are given more space than, for example, human rights NGOs.
FFE has a good relationship with the EPA and other relevant government organizations including Parliamentarians and line Ministries.
The issue of environment was simply not an issue in the eyes of the government or the general public a few years ago. Now you can talk about the environment at all levels, from Woreda to National. We believe that FFE has contributed its tr share to the change
Generally, there is no legal problem for any environmental NGO in Ethiopia to register as Ethiopian Resident Charity (must raise 90% of its funds out of the country). Once legally registered fulfilling all other requirements it is possible to operate in any part of the country.
Follow-Up Email Exchange:
23 October 2011
We would all like to thank you for your time this past Friday, and your patience in answering our questions. We have attached our compiled notes in a Word document to this email – please look over these notes to ensure that we have accurately represented the subject matter of our talk on Friday October 21st.
After going through our notes, we had two brief follow-up questions:
- What year did Forum for Environment start the public dialogue meetings?
- How often have they been held?
During our talk on Friday, you also mentioned that Forum for Environment had 6-7 years’ worth of public meeting minutes available; would it be possible for you to send these to us? Documentation of these meetings would be very enlightening and help us in fully understanding the work of your organization.
Finally, we were also wondering if there was any research, writing or other work that our class might be able to do that would be of use to Forum for Environment. One of Colby College’s strengths is in the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) software for making detailed maps – would Forum for Environment like any maps, graphs or figures produced relating to your work? For example, you mentioned that Forum for Environment was partnering with 12 local grassroots groups within Ethiopia – if you were interested, we could produce a map depicting the location of these groups, along with any other indicators that would be useful. Attached to this email is an example of a GIS map produced by one of our students working on forest cover and carbon sequestration as an example of what we can produce.
Thank you again for your time and effort. We are happy for the opportunity to become familiar with your organization, and look forward to future communication.
24 October 2011
Our public meetings started in 2000. Each year we pick specific thematic topic and the number of each year’s meetings depend on the nature of the topic and avalablilty of resources. We can share with you some of the proceedings of past meetings with you by surface mail.
Email Exchange with Concern for Environment (CFE)
28 October, 2011
- What level of government do you primarily work with?
- Do you find that certain environmental policies make it easier or harder for Concern to do its work? Please provide an example if possible.
- Do the communities in SNNP comply with environmental policies? Which policies are enforced and which policies are not enforced?
- Does Concern for Environment attempt to improve/influence environmental policy? How? At what levels of government?
- What NGOs were present at the Provocative Environmental training workshop carried out between August 27-28, 2009? (an exact list is not needed – but please provide a list of as many participants as you can remember).
- In your opinion are environmental NGOs treated differently than humanitarian NGOs in Ethiopia?
28 October, 2011
1.The level of Government we are working with ia the regional Level,since we are registered to work at regional level
2.The Environmental policies and other environmental related proclamations make our works easier.The polices are helpful and make no difficulty in our works.
3.Communities also participate in implementing the government policies.
4.We have no problems to give our comments to the regional policy makers. But most of the time, Concern is occupied in advocacy works and hence we do very little attempts in policy influencing issues
5. I will refer the report of 2009 to find the names of NGOs which were engaged in porovocative environmental policy issues
Follow-Up Email Exchange 2, CFE
14 November, 2011
Subject: Follow-up Questions from Colby College, USA
Over the course of my research I have come up with some additional questions about environmental policy and NGOs in Ethiopia. If you have time to answer them, I have listed some questions below. We can speak by phone to discuss these questions, or you can respond via email, depending on which is more convenient for you. Thank you again for your time and assistance with my research! I look forward to hearing from you.
1. Do you think that there is a problem with implementing environmental policies? What do you consider to be the key reasons why environmental policies are not implemented?
2. Are environmental issues a high priority for the government of Ethiopia? What issues are considered to be more important than the environment?
3. Is the Ethiopian government ever suspicious of environmental NGOs? Do you know of any example of environmental NGOs being shut down by government?
4. In what ways do environmental NGOs assist the government with implementing environmental policy? In what ways could environmental NGOs assist the government more?
5. In what ways does the government assist environmental NGOs? In what ways could the government assist environmental NGOs more?
6. Do environmental policies differ greatly across regional states? Or does the national policy serve as the standard for regional environmental policies?
16 November, 2011
Subject: Re: Follow-up Questions from Colby College, USA
I will try to answer your questions which I can. But you have to know that I can not answer your questions on behahaf of the government.
NGOs in our region (South Region) assist the government by participating in development endeavours. There are NGOs that are working in land rehabilitation,afforestation etc.The Environmental policies usually do not differe from regions to regions.Of course,Ethiopia is a federal country.Regions can adapt the federal polices to suit their regional context.The government assist the NGOs in many ways. Faciltation,monitoring,evaluations,and enhancing etc.are some of the areas that the government assistance to the NGOs.If you are not satisfied,you can get more information when you came and ask questions to government personnels.
Interview Transcript, Professor in Addis Ababa University
- I have heard that some environmental policies are comprehensive and well written, but there is often a problem with implementation. In your opinion is this the case?
- Is it common for environmental policies to be re-evaluated, rewritten?
- Do environmental policies vary by region/local governments? Are there significant differences?
- Does the government take input from NGOs when forming policy? How much access do NGOs have to policy formulation?
- How would you describe the relationship between domestic environmental NGOs and the Ethiopian government?
- Is that relationship different from that of international environmental NGOs?
- In your opinion, does this differ from the experience of other types of (humanitarian) NGOs?
2 November 2011, 7:40 AM
General Comments on Environmental Policy of Ethiopia
In addition to the National Environmental policy (1997) there are some sectoral policies, e.g., water policy, forest policy, but an overall observance of polices is not in place.
- Whenever the government thinks that the public should participate, an announcement for a hearing is made.At this hearing, the public can voice their concerns. Some out of their own initiatives suggest some amendments, or promote further enactment of current legislation (is this the public, or NGOs who are invited?)
Problems with policies?
- Quote: “there is no concrete commitment on the ground as you now see in the papers”
- Capacity for implementation.
- Also government priorities. The government is trying to encourage investment to promote economic development. Some investors don’t want to do Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) although they are technically required. The government currently prioritizes development over the environment.
Quote: “It may not be easy to balance environmental interests and development interests so the priority is development with a high tolerance for environmental degradation.”
Are policies revisited/revised?
- Sometimes when there is popular pressure to do so – people complain sometimes, for example when they lose their cattle due to chemical pollution or when they suffer health hazards as a result of fresh water pollution by industrial wastes…
Quote: “We don’t have any problems making laws! But they are not implemented…”
- Capacity problems include manpower for enforcement, but also expertise – there is a lack of experts who can test and interpret the pollution levels in water, land, etc., and facilities to do so
- There are standards for industrial and other pollutions but there is no follow up and implementation of such standards..
Federal versus Regional State policies
- The main federal environmental law is the National Standard (Federal Framework Environmental Law).
- Regional States are permitted/encouraged to come back with their own policies, but these must be “better ones” (cannot be weaker than the Federal framework).
- Most policies are similar across the states – all are adaptations of the national plan – but when it comes to implementation there is high variability across states.
- Some Regional States do not even ask for an EIA to lure investors. – Investors are converging on the State of Oromia for its proximity to road infrastructure (80-90% of investors would like to be in this region).
- When it comes to issuing laws, the Regional States usually “cut and paste” from the Federal laws. (note: this may suggest a stronger role for the Federal government than previously thought – the Federal law may set the overall agenda)
NGOs in the policy process
- NGOs participate in reform, can even suggest amendments or new regulatory initiatives but of late government banned many NGOs alleging that they are involved in activities that are beyond their scope of statutes.
- For example, there were over 40 environmental NGOs in SNNP last year which were banned by government on the ground of suspicion that they were doing advocacy activities not related to environmental protection.
- Lately (when?) because of an increase in the amount of environmental legislation issued, many environmental NGOs were established
- The government banned NGOs at one point – they were confused about the role of NGOs and saw them as a threat
- According to the official position of the government as long as NGOs are clear about their statutes (environmental activities only) there is no problem – but there is always a suspicion by government that the NGOs might be doing something else and the government has a tight control on their operation.
- Today the government’s public commitment to environmental protection necessitates cooperation with NGOs
- With issues that necessitate discussion of government, advocacy and responsibility, you have to blame someone and often this is the government (Is this a source of tension between the government and NGOs?)
International NGOs in Ethiopia?
- There are not many, e.g., FarmAfrica, though some large, professional and well-accepted NGOs have had success through working with government
Are some types of NGOs (e.g., humanitarian versus environmental) treated differently than others by government?
- If an NGO is purely concerned about environment there is no problem. If it engages in other activities then there is more suspicion. Bigger established NGOs working closely with the government have no problems in general.
Interview Transcript, Professor in Addis Ababa University II
9 November 2011, 7:50AM
Question: In our last conversation you mentioned that the government’s public commitment to environmental protection necessitates cooperation with NGOs – in what activities do the government and NGOs work together?
- Cooperation can go both ways:
- if an environmental NGO wants to consult with the government about what environmental sector to be involved in, the government will suggest an area (example: promotion of environmental awareness, dissemination of information), and can provide the NGO with information relating to environmental problems.
- In most cases, environmental NGOs involved in natural resource protection worked with the government at some point or another, these groups provide advice to the government on natural resource issues
- NGOs can also assist the government through:
- environmental protection activities and management (tree-planting campaigns, soil conservation, water harvesting, and plant production to fight deforestation, etc)
- environmental education and promotion of environmental stewardship (for example, assist the government in telling/teaching the public that lives in rural areas that they if they live near forests, they should take care of the forests and wildlife)
- Additionally because the government has limited funding to spend, the government is happy when the NGOs provide assistance in the form of the activities listed above, and provide their own funding to do the said activities.
- Areas of assistance like these are welcomed by the government
Question: In your opinion, what level of government has the most power in environmental decision-making?
- Regarding law-making, the regional or towns make the laws
- Concerning implementation, it all depends on which sector is responsible: different environmental sectors have different ministries that are responsible for implementation of laws
- Because Ethiopian economy is primarily an agrarian economy, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) is the most important ministry in many sectors and cases dealing with rural resources.
- MoARD can delegate some of its power (to whom?, when would they choose to do this?)
- Most of the (natural?) resources are in the rural setting, but there is specialization in management of specific issues. (Implementation? or Projects?) are delegated by competence – if you have experts (in different government ministries?) in certain areas, they will handle that specific environmental issue
Question: Under the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation, do any environmental NGOs fall under the category of Ethiopian Charities/Societies, (who are prohibited from receiving more than 10% of their funding from abroad)?
- Most of NGOs receive some form of funding from foreign sources. This law is “paralyzing almost all of the environmental NGOs in this country”. There is no NGO that can ___ (operate? function?) without getting some assistance from foreign donors. Most NGOs look for, and expect (financial) assistance, and although they may not get all of their funding from foreign sources, most of the funding for NGOs in Ethiopia comes from foreign sources. Even locally based NGOs extend their hand to foreigners; they ask for assistance and they always get it. As of 2009 NGOs have to be very dependent on internal sources, as a result of the CSP law.
- The government is suspicious of NGOs for several reasons:
- Some NGOs squander and misuse funding that they receive for their organizations’ activities. The activities that the funds are used for can’t always be described as purely political – for example, 90% of funds may go to private individuals (paying family relatives for instance) and only allocating 5-10% of funds for the public good. Accountability of funds is not very clear, and the government feels responsible for these activities.
- The government thinks that funding that comes from abroad comes paired with influence from foreign sources – they worry that these influences may be contradictory to government interests. The government is very tense, and highly suspicious about this kind of interference.
- As mentioned in our last conversation the SNNP government was very suspicious of NGOs calling themselves “natural resource conservation NGOs”. Around 40 environmental NGOs were banned last year because the government was afraid that they would talk about surveillance taking place during the (elections?).
- These NGOs were here to protect the environment – there was nothing wrong in terms of their statues, but the government believe that they were doing something else.
- One by one, these NGOs are emerging, and changing some things within their organizations, and reregistering to do the same environmental protection work
Question: How do you think the role of environmental NGOs will change in the future? (Clarified, will the government still be very suspicious of them, or will their importance be able to expand?):
- The government has a clear policy that the public has to get involved with environmental protection and conservation. This involvement can come through NGOs – the general public may not be in a position to become involved in environmental protection unless organized through NGOs
- NGOs are in a position to assist the government with environmental policies and laws, but the political commitment of the government with environmental policies and laws is unpredictable.
- For instance: The government is looking for foreign investment; if investors find it difficult to do environmental impact assessments (EIAs), the government will want to change: in certain sectors, permits (to develop?) may not be subject to environmental clearance
- quote: “so we are going back, the government is playing down some of the environmental issues and giving blind eyes to the observance of standards”
- The government might tell them to “cool down”, but they may not be told they have to stop entirely.
- quote:“there are laws, so there will be a place for them” (NGOs)
Skype Discussion with HoAREC
16 November, 2011, 7:30AM
How does Ethiopia compare to other countries in the Horn of Africa region in terms of implementation capacity/level of environmental policy implementation?
If you consider the great Horn of Africa – Uganda, Kenya… then Ethiopia is not as strong as Kenya, but considering Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Djibouti, then definitely it has a much stronger capacity in implementation, not only in environmental issues but in most development projects such as safety net or other World Bank project, etc. They have a very good record of implementation for these projects. There is a VERY good environmental policy, but the problem is this policy is not as such backed by any finance. So most of the development assistance comes from outside… only funding available is for infrastructure, health, education etc…. The environmental policy is there but we do not even have an environmental ministry, we have the EPA which is under the executive branch, does not have its own a ministerial portfolio. Everything is geared towards for example agriculture, water, and energy which have very strong portfolios. Environmental policies by very nature is poorly implemented – the problem is mainly it is not covered by official development assistance funding, there is little for environment relative to other sectors such as agriculture, water and energy.
Do environmental NGOs assist the government with implementing environmental policy? In what ways? Is this the case in Ethiopia? In what ways does the government assist environmental NGOs?
Yes they do, most of the environmental NGOs advocate for, in the same line as government policy. You don’t see much … not problems due to government policy, but mostly it’s an international issue. In climate change negotiations what government and NGOs advocate for is the same thing (they are in agreement). Government is heavily associated with NGOs for implementation. EPA doesn’t have strong capacity, relies mostly on the support from NGOs. In implementing, government & NGOs have good relations.
Does gov’t help NGOs?
Yes. Even now government & NGOs are having a meeting about climate change. A good flow of information. I’m not saying that everything is perfect – there is a gap and there is a lot the EPA should do in terms of being more inclusive of NGOs. But overall the government depends heavily on NGOs in terms of trying to change the environment, mainly because it doesn’t have a separate ministry to do the job.
HoAREC – if the government has to choose between a land use plan or allocating the resources to water and energy they will choose water and energy. So HoAREC provides support in land use planning and secures funding for land use planning programs.
Who participates in policy advocacy? Is it typical that the larger NGOs are the ones driving policy change? How do smaller NGOs participate in policy dialogue?
There are no really large NGOs in Ethiopia – most of the NGOs are small or “middle” NGOs. Some small NGOs have had a very big impact – they are specialized in what they do – some of the smaller NGOs have had the largest impact on policy. I’m speaking of indigenous NGOs. Is role of international NGOs different? Yes, under the new NGO law the international NGOs cannot engage in policy advocacy. You have to register as a local NGO, with 90% of funding sourced locally. But they have made an exception for environmental NGOs – even international NGOs are allowed to engage in advocacy on environmental issues. But I’m not talking about international NGOs – these are not permitted to do any advocacy. But local NGOs that are registered as international NGOs, so long as they only do environment, they can engage in advocacy. Don’t know how this came about. But this shows how the government would like to be more for the environment.
Is the Ethiopian government ever suspicious of environmental NGOs? Do you know of any example of environmental NGOs being shut down by government?
I don’t know – I don’t think so. There were many NGOs, not environmental NGOs, that were shut down when the new law came into place – they did not meet the new guidelines. But I don’t know of any environmental NGOs that were shut down.
Are environmental issues a high priority for the government of Ethiopia? How does this compare to other nations in the Horn of Africa region?
Definitely a high priority – even now the Prime Minister is a leader on the issue of climate change for the whole of Africa. When compared to the Horn of Africa I would rank them first (outside of Kenya, only considering the “Horn in the proper sense”). In most Horn of Africa countries, the environmental issue is important in development.
Quote: “The issue of the environment and development, along with climate change are greater here than anywhere else. They do not have strong implementation, not because they don’t want to, but because there is no funding or international assistance for environmental issues.”
Interview with Enivironmental Protection Authority
Interview with Head, Environmental Policy and Legislation, EPA
17 November, 2011, 7:30AM
1) Specifically, what are operating constraints for the EPA? (What are some of the main challenges in the environmental policy system?)
All capacity constraints can be expected in developing countries. In terms of implementation, Ethiopia is a recent beginner…there was a publication in 2002 (of what?). All laws and policies have been in place since then so it has been a short time. There are capacity issues, issues of expertise, experience is not much developed, geography following federal system (how so?) regional (system?) is also a mess also the question of capacity in all stances in federal and regional.
Table 1.G List of Local Groups and their legal status, Forum for Environment
Table 1.H Latitudinal and Longitudinal Data in Decimal Degrees for Local Forum for Environment Groups
- The website of the EPA was new as of 2011, which might explain the relative lack of information available on the website. ↩