Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity launches in Addis Ababa
The Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity, an initiative designed to support local and grassroots civic actors to achieve more inclusive, peaceful and responsive governance, officially launched in Addis Ababa on Dec. 11.
Speaking to a large audience of domestic and international officials and non-governmental organizations, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Mission Director highlighted the timeliness of the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity.
“By bolstering Ethiopian organizations’ abilities to engage in advocacy, dialogue and collective action for peaceful, democratic progress, USAID is ultimately empowering the voices of Ethiopians across the country, including marginalized groups,” USAID/Ethiopia Mission Director Scott Hocklander said at the event.
The Mission Director emphasized the U.S. government’s continued support for the country through programs like the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity.
“For decades now, USAID has placed a high priority on supporting Ethiopia in its efforts to expand the democratic space and foster an engaged citizenry,” he said. “Our focus extends to enhancing human rights, strengthening the rule of law and promoting government transparency and accountability.”
Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity is a four-year program designed to strengthen civic and community-based actors’ abilities to engage in policy analysis, advocacy, dialogue and collective action for peaceful, democratic change.
“Looking at the new project we are launching today, I have strong confidence that the USAID Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity will play a pivotal role in our continuing efforts to expand the civic space and empower civic actors,” the Mission Director said.
DIVERSITY, DIALOGUE AND LOCAL SOLUTIONS
The launch event included a traditional coffee ceremony, which the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity Chief of Party Melissa Brill highlighted for its cultural and programmatic significance.
“The coffee ceremony symbolizes the richness and diversity of Ethiopian culture, and it is a time and place for people to come together, put aside their differences, build trust, relax and reflect, where neighbors come together and discuss the issues that matter most in their lives,” Brill said at the event. “These concepts — diversity, coming together, dialogue, as well as Ethiopian solutions to Ethiopian problems — are foundational to the program.”
The four-year program uses a collective impact approach in which civic actors identify, understand and determine solutions to citizen-defined issues in an iterative process. The Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity, through identified cluster lead organizations, will bring together a cross section of organizations and individuals – including youth, women, traditional leaders, faith-based organizations and others – to work together to better understand the issues, determine solution and address the causes, while simultaneously building their organizational skills, comity, connection and trust.
Implemented by Creative Associates International, along with VNG International and the Center for International Private Enterprise, will support up to 20 clusters in key parts of Ethiopia which will promote issue-based partnerships and inclusive dialogue that leads to improved governance. The Activity will operate out of three regional hubs— Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Dessie.
PANEL SESSION ON GOOD GOVERNANCE
As part of the half-day launch event, a panel of four persons discussed “Civic Engagement and how it intersects with Transparency, Accountability, Good Governance, Social and Youth Inclusion, Peace and Security, Human Rights and Development and Gender Equality” in Ethiopia.
Referring to panel sessions and subsequent discussions as part of the launch event, Sharon Van Pelt, Creative’s Vice President and Senior Director of the Communities in Transition Division, said the speakers “emphasized the significance of civic engagement and the active involvement of multiple stakeholders in transforming Ethiopia’s civic sector.”
Though Dec. 11 was the official public launch, the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity has been working to conduct studies of the needs of residents in these geographic hubs. Panelists discussed these diverse needs during the launch event.
“Building upon these findings, the Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity will implement various activities to strengthen the social fabric in Ethiopia,” said Van Pelt, an expert in governance and civil society.
Based on the survey of citizen needs and priorities, the Ethiopia Civil Engagement Activity has selected a set of initial issues for support through these clusters based on the findings from its citizen survey. For Addis Ababa and Sheger city, the issues are water, fiscal transparency and inflation. For Dire Dawa, the issues are water, inflation, roads and fiscal transparency. And For Dessie, the topics are inflation, peace and security, job opportunity and fiscal transparency.
“The focus of ECE is on civic engagement,” Chief of Party Brill said. “We are not confined to a specific sector but will be supporting this engagement across many different sectors.”
USAID READ II EDUCATION RECOVERY ACTIVITY
The Ethiopia Civic Engagement Activity is one of two USAID-supported programs that Creative is implementing in the country. Its sister program, the READ II Education Recovery Activity, was initially organized to advance the country’s early grade reading efforts. When the war erupted in Ethiopia, the READ II Education Recovery Activity pivoted many times to support students, educators and others caught in the two-year conflict.
The program established education as a key element in life sustaining efforts, including work on social-emotional learning, supporting internally displaced persons and more.