28 January 2009- Despite severe criticism from donors, civil society and foreign governments, on 6 January 2009, the Ethiopian Parliament passed a controversial law restricting the activities and funding for civil society organisations (CSOs).
"The Law will have a crippling effect on civil society inEthiopia. We are deeply disappointed that Parliament has passed this regressive law which undermines democratic values and the people ofEthiopia",said Ingrid Srinath, Secretary General of CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
The law, "Proclamation for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies", will prevent CSOs from taking part in democracy building initiatives and acting as a check and balance against human rights abuses. Key provisions of the law infringe upon freedom of association guarantees in the Constitution of Ethiopia, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights by:
- Limiting CSOs that receive essential funds from abroad to a mere service delivery role through prohibitionsfrom working on key areas including advancement of human and democratic rights, gender equality, conflict resolution and accountability of law enforcement agencies;
- Allowing wide executive discretion to refuse registration to CSOs and curb their activities.
- Clamping down on the independence of CSOs through provisions that permit institution of inquiries on unspecified grounds, allow removal of CSO officers and require advance notification of meetings;
- Subjecting CSOs to strict official control through exhaustive reporting requirements, mandatory license renewals every three years and an arbitrary cap of 30% on administrative expenses; and
- Discouraging CSO activities through harsh fines and strict punishments for administrative lapses.
CIVICUS has closely followed and critiqued drafts of the law before its final passage in Parliament. Sadly, the concerns outlined by CIVICUS and other CSOs have been ignored by the Ethiopian government. CIVICUS submissions on successive drafts have emphasised that any regulatory mechanism for civil society must be underpinned by legislation that is equitable, just and fair. The current law substantially fails this test.
Note to the Editor
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