INCLUDE Platform

Reopening political space for CSOs in Ethiopia

Reopening political space for CSOs under pressure: the case of Ethiopia’s sustainable development CSOs

Since 1991, Ethiopia has recognized the right to public participation in the protection and fulfilment of the fundamental rights and freedoms under both the Transitional Period Charter and the subsequently adopted Federal Constitution. As a result, modern CSOs have started to grow steadily both in number and size. More than 3,000 CSOs were formally registered at the federal level before 2009. However, unhappy with the roles and behaviour of some CSOs in the 2005 national election, the Ethiopian government radically changed its policy towards CSOs and imposed several regulatory restrictions on their formation and operation. Ignoring the liberal rights and freedoms embodied in its constitution, Ethiopia has deliberately closed the political space for CSOs.

The aim of the research is to enhance scientific knowledge about legal ways in which countries deliberately close the political space for CSOs. Furthermore, the study seeks to support the necessary change in Ethiopia through research, both domestically and internationally, via intervention by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and northern CSOs. The research will contribute to change in Ethiopia by offering research-based solutions, creating critical public awareness through the dissemination of research outputs, and supporting the capacity building of CSOs, research institutions, organs of justice, and government officials.

The research will consist of a desk study and empirical research. During the literature review a normative framework for CSO protection laws will be developed. The empirical part of the study will ask what exactly has been the impact of the Ethiopian legislation on the day-to-day work of different types of CSOs. This will be examined through interviews with staff of various CSOs in different parts of the country, focus group discussions with stakeholders, and training for new professionals in these areas. The research will also establish institutional academic links between various CSOs in the country and Mekelle University, and pave the way for outreach and training programmes for CSOs as well as government officials and officials from the judiciary in Ethiopia.

back to top


  • Mekelle University
  • Tilburg University

back to top

related articles

This research group is active in