Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative is a global initiative launched
by the then PM of U.K. Mr. Tony Blair in 2002. It is an International
multi-stakeholders initiative of governments, companies and civil society
working to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability
in the extractive sector. EITI involves a process by which the
payments made by companies and revenues received by governments are
published in independently verified reports. The process is overseen and
governed by a multi-stakeholders working group represented from government,
civil society organizations and extractive companies.
EITI will help countries to efficiently collect the revenue generated from the
extractive industry, supports anti-corruption and good governance agendas of
countries and establish citizen trust in public institutions and extractive
companies. Citizens would be able to hold government accountable in the use
of revenues collected from the extractive companies. A transparent
system will bring conducive investment climate and attract more direct foreign
the chagrin of the neo-liberal forces, EITI decided to admit Ethiopia on March
19. The decision infuriated Human Rights Watch, which have been lobbing against
the admission, that it issued a statement claiming: "With this move, the
EITI may have added a member, but it lost its credibility as a good governance
application for membership was accepted because Ethiopia met the criterion for
membership in the group. One of those criterions is that: A member shall commit
to meaningful participation for civil society on issues related to natural
resources. EITI's Standard instructs that, “government must ensure there are no
obstacles to civil society and company participation in the process,” including
with regard to “relevant laws, regulations, and administrative rules as well as
actual practice in implementation of the EITI.”
Human Rights Watch has a different view. It position is based on none but the
CSO legislation. Human Rights Watch's dep. director argued that Ethiopia's law
"prohibits nongovernmental organizations from working in human rights and
good governance if they receive more than 10 percent of their funds from
abroad. As a result, today there are few organizations working on these issues
and those that do, self-censor and straddle a knife-edge, always concerned
about a potential crackdown."
this is a gross misrepresentation of the reality. To begin with the 2009
Proclamation of Charities and Societies of Ethiopia was not intended to stifle
rather to encourage and broader civil society activities.
and Societies, and national and international Non-Governmental Organizations
(NGOs) have been operating in Ethiopia for a long time. The laws governing
their registration and operations were first drawn up in the early 1950s and were
based on the 1952 Ethiopian Civil Code and Regulation
321/1959. However, those legal frameworks have become outdated that
they reached to a point where they can no longer provide a workable environment,
not least due to the many legislative and other changes that had taken place in
Ethiopia and elsewhere. They were certainly incapable of ensuring the maximum
benefits for the country from NGO activities.
some Charities and Societies repeatedly requested the Government for more
up-to-date regulations to enable them to carry out their operations smoothly,
and put an end to unclear procedures and bureaucratic hindrances. Another
significant factor that needed to be taken into account was that, after the
demise of the former military regime and the introduction of a democratic
federal government allowing for full freedom of association in the country, the
number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) dramatically increased and
their areas of activity multiplied.
government therefore issued a new Proclamation of Charities and Societies in
2009 in order to facilitate and strengthen the effective contributions of NGOs
to the socio-economic development of the country. The Proclamation made the
necessary amendments to reflect new realities and incorporate the best
practices from the similar regulations of other nations. There were also
extensive public discussions during the drafting process with all NGOs
operating in the country and with other stakeholders.
newly enacted Proclamation No.621/2009 for the registration of Charities and
Societies came into force on February 13th 2009, and on
November 9th 2009, the Council of Ministers also issued
Regulation No.168/2009 to ensure its implementation in a transparent manner.
Proclamation had two main objectives. One of these was to ensure the
realization of citizens’ rights to association as enshrined in the Constitution
of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and secondly to support and
facilitate the role of Charities and Societies, and of NGOs, in the overall
development of Ethiopian peoples.
sum, the legislation is designed to create an enabling environment for citizens
to exercise their right to organize, engender the prevalence of accountability
and transparency, and enable the civil society community to become government
partners in enhancing development and democratization processes. It is
indubitable that these rationales and policy objectives are valid, and for the
same reasons, the existing old legislations need to be changed.
the good intentions, the drafting process was highly participatory. It involved
the civil society community thorough discussions of the draft proclamation.
There had been a series of discussions held among the civil society community
and between civil society and the government concerning the draft legislations
prepared by the FDRE’s Ministry of Justice. Moreover, there were forums in
which CSOs and NGOs had an opportunity to make thorough discussions among
themselves as well as with government representatives and other stakeholders. Before
and after the draft proclamation was referred to the Council of Ministers, the
civil society had been given sufficient time to launch a series of discussions
among themselves and forward recommendations. Last but not least, the Prime
Minister himself invited all CSOs and NGOs to his office for a discussion on
the draft legislation.
result, the final legislation delivered several important developments that brought
positive developments to CSO activities. Among those:
drafting of a separate legislation focusing on NGOs/CSOs by itself was an
important development: As indicated earlier, despite general provisions for
charities and associations, the previous legislation does not create an
enabling environment for their operations because it was not formulated in such
a way as to accommodate the diversity of civil society institutions, their
operations, and unique characteristics. The government’s initiative to address
these gaps was both timely and eagerly anticipated.
The incorporation of specific provisions for different types of NGOs/CSOs: The
legislation has specific provisions about charities and societies, which didn't
exist in the old legislation. Moreover, the charitable purposes enumerated
under sub-Article 16(3) fairly reflect the current status of the organizations
and cover to a large extent the spheres of engagement of the NGOs and CSOs in
c) The provision for the establishment of consortium
of charities or societies: One of the difficulties encountered under the previous
legislation is the lack of a provision for the legal status of CSO/NGO
consortia. In this regard, the draft legislation’s provision in sub-Article
6(1) for the establishment of such a consortium is one of its main strengths.
d) Allowing charities and societies to engage in
income generating activities: This is an important component of the legislation
because it helps charities and societies to strengthen their internal capacity
and ensure the sustainability of their activities.
e) Exemption from income tax for charities: This
is another important step that was not available under the old legislation and
that strengthens the civil society's capacity to provide service to the public
and enhances their financial capacity.
The establishment of the Charities and Societies Agency: Another positive
feature of the new legislation is the establishment of an Agency to undertake
the registration and supervision of civil society organizations and a council
to handle issues related to charities and societies. The Charities and
Societies Agency was established under the Proclamation as an autonomous
administrative body to handle the registration of Charities, Societies and NGOs
properly and assist them to achieve their goals with transparency and
Charities and Societies Agency has been given the powers and functions to: To
license, register, and supervise Charities and Societies; To encourage
Charities and Societies to have better administration; To collect, analyze and
disseminate information relevant to its powers and functions; To publish and
distribute information about the registration of Charities and Societies in the
newspapers; To organize consultative fora for governmental organs and Charities
and Societies; To make proposals to Ministers on matters relating to meeting
its objectives; To take decisions, in cooperation with the concerned sector
administrator, on the application of Charities and Societies for registration
and license; To exercise the powers of registration and authentication of
documents with regard to Charitable Endowments and Charitable Trusts; To
collect fees for the service it renders in accordance with rates to be approved
by Government; To own property and enter into contracts in its own name; To
delegate, when necessary, the powers and functions given to it by this
Proclamation; and To carry out any such other activities necessary for the
attainment of its objectives.
some choose to ignore all these developments and are hell-bent on tarnishing
this important legal document based on one of its aspects. That is; the
provisions of the legislation regarding the nationality of NGO/CSO institutions.
the legislation specifies the limitations to the operations of Foreign
Charities and Societies. These foreign charities and societies are not allowed
to engage in domestic Ethiopian political activities as of right. This is
normal practice in most countries, as political activities, by their very
nature, are reserved for citizens. It is a sovereign state’s right to limit the
influence of foreigners through any financing of political activities. Aside
from politics, foreign charities and societies are free to operate and assist in
any much-needed development activities and humanitarian needs of the country.
It might be underlined that the Proclamation does not exclude the possibility
of foreign Non-governmental organizations operating in Ethiopia to contribute
constructively in activities otherwise totally reserved for local NGOs in accordance with Article 3 Sub-article 2(b)
However this must be done through agreement with the Government of Ethiopia and
also include regular evaluations.
this regard, it might help to take a look at the distinctions set by the
legislation with regard to Ethiopian associations and the Foreigners.
open for Foreign Charities and Societies and NGOs include, among others: a)
The prevention, alleviation or relief of poverty or disaster; b) The
advancement of the economy and social development and environmental
protection or improvement; c) The advancement of animal welfare; d)
The advancement of education; e) The advancement of health or the saving of
lives; f) The advancement of art, culture, heritage or science; g) The
advancement of amateur sport and the welfare of youth; h) The relief for those
in need by reason of age, disability, financial hardship, i) The advancement of
capacity building on the basis of the country’s long term development
Activities reserved to Ethiopian Charities and Societies and NGOs, are: The
advancement of human and democratic rights; The promotion of equality of
nations, nationalities and peoples, as well as the promotion of equality of gender
and religion; The promotion of the right of the disabled and of children; The
promotion of conflict resolution or reconciliation; and The promotion of
improving the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services.
for any objective observer it is nothing but appropriate that political related
matters are reserved for Ethiopian CSOs and NGOs, while there is plenty room
left for any genuine foreign or foreign-funded organization to contribute in
there's no doubt this legislation have helped to advance clarity and
predictability in the operations of all charities and societies and NGOs in
Ethiopia. It has also significantly improved arrangements for the licensing,
registration and operations of these organizations in the country.
the more than half a century from the 1950s to 2009; the total number of
registered Non-Governmental Organizations registered to operate in Ethiopia in
various areas were less than 3800. However, since the enactment of the new
legislation and the establishment the new Charities and Societies Agency in
2009, more than 2000 national and international Non-governmental organizations
have been registered. The difference is very easy to observe. It is also worth
mentioning that the average registration rate for NGOs was 76 per year for the
period from 1950s to 2009. However, only in the first three years since the
Proclamation, the average annual figure has tripled. If the future rate of
registration follows the same trend in the future, the number of NGOs operating
in Ethiopia will certainly show a substantial increase.
is indeed quite clear that the new Proclamation, in addition to its impact on
speeding up the processes of registration and encouraging new NGOs to register
is also providing a legal and conducive working environment for
Non-governmental organizations encouraging and allowing them to discharge their
duties in a responsible and transparent manner.