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Ethiopia: Civil Society Proclamation Advances Essential Freedoms
Following the adoption of the Civil Society Proclamation by Ethiopia’s House of Peoples Representatives this week, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“This law is the first major legislative reform measure that the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken toward ensuring an open operating environment for civil society,” said Yoseph Badwaza, senior program officer for Ethiopia at Freedom House. “The measure demonstrates Ethiopia’s growing commitment to respecting and protecting freedoms of association and assembly.”
“While there are several concerning provisions in the law, including those that put limits on the activities of international nongovernmental organizations and the broad powers of the Civil Society Agency, the new law is a substantial break from its predecessor,” said Jon Temin, director of Africa programs at Freedom House. “The Charities and Societies Proclamation of 2009 decimated independent civil society in Ethiopia by placing draconian restrictions on the ability of civil society organizations to raise funds, choose their areas of engagement and form coalitions and partnerships.”
“We commend Prime Minister Abiy’s government for prioritizing civil society legislation, as this acknowledges the devastating effects of the previous legislation over the past ten years,” added Badwaza. “We encourage the government and the Civil Society Agency to ensure that implementation of the new law is consistent with principles of freedom of association enshrined in Ethiopia’s constitution. Implementation should also reflect international human rights standards that recognize citizens’ rights to organize for any legal cause and to seek and receive support from any source, foreign or domestic. Simultaneously, the international community should provide robust support to urgently rebuild the capacity of Ethiopia’s civil society.”
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.