New CSOs forum to address challenges

A group of charities and societies organisations (CSOs) has created a forum to find ways to resolve challenges posed in their work by amendments made to the law introduced by the government three years ago.

The board members of the Federal Forum for Charities and Societies (FFCS) said their aim is to find solutions to these problems and hold discussions with government departments to this end.

Chaired by Saba Gebremedihn, head of the Network of Ethiopian Women’s Association (NEWA), the forum said 54 organisations have joined as founding members, while others are expected to join along the way.

The FFCS says it represents charities and societies organisations to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of their contributions to bring about sustainable development in Ethiopia in general and to achieve specific development goals. FFCS is a forum for local, resident and foreign charities and societies organisations.

“It also establishes national collaborative frameworks to bring together the different actors working for the promotion and wider recognition of the affairs of the different local, resident and foreign charities and societies across the country,” said Saba. “It is supported and endorsed by the Ethiopian Charities and Societies Agency (ChSA).”

The establishment of the forum comes six years after a national task force was set up to review the environment in which civil society organisations operate.

Its objectives were to look at legislative issues in the sector and establish an internal code of conduct.

“The current organisation will play as legal entity to solve the sector problems that come from both government and the sector,” the FFCS board members said.

Established in 2007, the task force took part in discussions and consultation forums with ministries and the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who initiated and introduced the Charities and Societies Organisation (CSO) Law.

The board of the new forum said that they recognised a need for a properly-established federal body to replace the ad hoc task force.

She also said the task force’s executive committee had held talks with relevant authorities (notably the Charities and Societies Agency) and had through these talks decided to transform it into a federal level forum to represent the sector properly.

“In order to gain maximum advantage from public sector commitment, there is a need to reinvigorate the collaborative engagements of Charities and Societies through strengthening the existing structural arrangements and working procedures by creating a forum for sharing of    information between the sector, the government and other pertinent stakeholders to create effective linkages and partnership towards enhancing the role and contributions of the sector and building partnership,” Saba said.

She said, in addition, this forum will strengthen and create a more enabling environment for the work of CSOs.

The board members said that initially the forum will focus on strengthening partnerships, while it will deliver studies for the government on the issues and concerns that pose challenges for the sector.

Negash Teklu from Population Health & Environment Ethiopia Consortium (PHE) and Wubshet Woldemariam from Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), have been appointed deputy chair and secretary of the board respectively.

Eshetu Bekele from Poverty Action Network Ethiopia (PANE), Holle Fole from the Consortium of Reproductive Health Associations (CORHA), Azeb Kelemework from the Union of Ethiopian Women Charitable Associations (UEWCA) and Yetnebersh Negussie from the Ethiopian Centre for Disabilities in Development (ECDD) are the other members of the board.

Since the new CSO proclamation was endorsed, many NGOs have stopped operating in Ethiopia entirely and others have scaled down their work.

The financial source limitations that come from abroad and cost administrations are the major issues that created disagreement between the organisations and the government.