A Call for the Establishment of Ethiopian Government Armís-Length Diaspora Agency

Normally governments create armís-length agencies when they feel that there are public issues that can be better addressed by non-partisan organizations. ††In fact, armís length agencies are sometimes referred to as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that run government business.Although ministers or prime ministers/presidents handpick members of their governing boards or councils, these agencies are supposed to function without the inference of politicians and state bureaucrats.

Why should we be concerned about an armís-length Diaspora agency? First, currently Ethiopian Diaspora affairs are managed by a small directorate within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and cadre of diplomats stationed at various Ethiopian missions abroad.An armís-length agency (preferably governed by experienced civil servants and representatives of the public) will have sufficient bureaucracy and organizational resources to deal with Ethiopian Diaspora issues effectively. The agency will also have a departmental portfolio which means that it will directly report to the Ethiopian parliament and give Diaspora issues more visibility. Second, the Ethiopian Diaspora climate is good.The people of the Ethiopian Diaspora have made a distinction between what is and is not important in their lives. They want to participate in the development of Ethiopia.Finally, an armís-length, non-partisan agency is relevant for the realities of the Ethiopian Diaspora where there are diverse interest groups ranging from those who would like to pursue professional careers in Ethiopia to those interested in investment, trade, development and political ďstruggleĒ.The Ethiopian governmentís Diaspora engagement strategy must include Diaspora opposition groups that prefer to embrace peaceful political opposition and poverty fighting agenda.

It is possible that there will be new initiatives within the Ethiopian government after the May 2010 election including review of ministerial portfolios. One must then appreciate my effort here to be forward-looking and suggesting the creation of a government armís-length Diaspora agency. What has also become clear is that the majority of the people in the Ethiopian Diaspora have said, ďenough is enoughĒ. They want to do serious business with the Ethiopian government, and in doing so, contribute to Ethiopian development. Thanks you.


Getachew Mequanent

Ottawa, Canada

May 2010