Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

EU striving to strengthen the capacity of Ethiopian CSOs

The European Union (EU) has announced that it has increased the tenth round of Civil Society Fund (CSF) by two million euro, up from the previous round which was 10 million euro. The fund will be distributed among Ethiopian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) over the coming five years as opposed to the previous fund which has been implemented since 2006.
“To ensure the smooth and effective implementation of the CSF and to facilitate the engagement of the CSOs in every sector, the government decided to consider the CSF to be a domestic resource. On top of this, the government has provided a special tax exemption privilege to all CSOs who have benefited from the CSF. These important measures show our commitment towards creating a good environment for CSOs to help develop the country. We do also believe that the decision of the government and the EU to scale up the tenth CSF allocation to 12 million euro from the initially planned 10 million euro is also another positive step toward building the capacity of CSOs,” said Ahmed Shide, State Minister of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) of Ethiopia in his address at the wrap up workshop on CSF held last Wednesday at Ghion Hotel.        
The CSF is inspired by the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between EU and the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries which includes special provisions to involve civil society in the EU-ACP cooperation.
“The CSF deserves the qualification ‘remarkable’ because it has proven to be unique in many aspects. It is unique because of its tripartite governance structure, bringing together the three stakeholders; the government of Ethiopia, Ethiopian CSOs and the EU delegation, who worked closely together for the last six years to make the program a success. Without constant dialogue and collaboration between these three partners we would not have been able to build the trust and confidence that is uniting us today. With out this trust, the CSF  would not have been declared a domestic fund as per the definition of the CSO proclamation constituting the framework in which we all have been operating with since 2009,” declared Xavier Marchal, EU Delegation Ambassador to Ethiopia.    
The fund aimed at promoting a stable and democratic political environment through the integration of all sections of the society in to mainstream political, economic and social life.  It has supported more than 50 grant projects with a total cost of 10 million euro and reached more than 400 Ethiopian CSOs.
“I wish to thank in particular the MoFED for the bold decision to consider the CSF to be a domestic funding source and thereby allowing a room to preserve the diversity and pluralism with in the program,” added Marchal.
The closing workshop has provided a venue for all the beneficiaries, CSOs, government and development partner representatives to come together and share the success both in terms of lessons learnt and challenges passed through.
“I am very impressed to see that the CSF has actually been working on some of the core elements of EU external relations which are democracy, the rule of law, the respect for human dignity, fundamental freedoms, equality and solidarity as enshrined in the treaty that created EU,” said the ambassador in his speech at the wrap up workshop of CSF.
Ethiopia has introduced a law governing civil society operation in the country in 2009. The much debated and protested law has put restrictions on areas to perform by Ethiopian CSOs and foreign one. Any civil society which received more than 10 percent of its budget from outside sources is considered to be foreign NGOs. Thus, they are not allowed to engage in the promotion of democratic and human rights activity. The law also puts a tag on administration to be below 30 percent of their budget.
“We are currently negotiating with the Civil Society and Charities Agency to loosen the 30 percent administrative cost stipulation. It is very difficult for CSOs to carry out their duties with such a limit,” said Denis Thieulin, head of cooperation at the Delegation of the EU to Ethiopia while explaining the impact the Civil Society Law on their engagement in Ethiopia to Capital.  
The second phase of the upcoming CSF which is anticipated to commence in the second quarter of 2012 will be functional for five consecutive years.