A New Initiative in Ethiopia               A Center for Research and Policy Dialogue
ABOUT FORUM FOR SOCIAL STUDIES (FSS)
   Governance
   Financial Support
   Background
   Partnership
Partnership

Since its inception, FSS has established a wide range of working and collaborative relationships with a number of civil society organizations, educational and research institutes, private sector groups, donors and bilateral and international agencies. Broadly, FSS’ interaction with these groups include: sharing experiences and information; jointly hosting conferences with kindred organizations;  attending conferences; jointly hosting approved research projects; participating in program events; taking roles in committees; delivering papers or presentations; serving as resource people; drafting advocacy documents; taking roles in committees; meeting with government agencies or visiting international missions. This has many advantages, including sharing of expertise and greater collaboration and mutual support.

Some of the specific programs and initiatives that FSS  undertook over the past 5-6  years (2004-2009) are enumerated as follows:

2004
  • FSS successfully hosted two pan-African workshops. One was CODESRIA’s East African sub-Regional Conference held in October 2003, and the second  under the theme ‘Civil Society and African Integration’ held in joint partnership with KwaZulu-Natal University of South Africa. These conferences were attended by a large number of scholars and researchers from many parts of Africa.
  • FSS had been actively involved in many of the important MDG and PRSP initiatives held both in the country and outside. Represented by Ato Eshetu, it organized a number of Killil workshops and presented papers on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) and the role of civil society organizations in poverty reduction. The same year FSS also attended a workshop on the MDGs in South Africa.
  • FSS had held joint programs with the Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA), EWLA, CRDA, PANE, Consortium of Civil Society Organizations, Clean and Green Addis, and a number of other local and international NGOs. It has also attended numerous workshops organized by the voluntary sector, donors and government agencies.
  • Through our Environment program we had had useful working relationships with the Federal Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Addis Ababa EPA, Addis Ababa Parks and Beautification Agency, the Ethiopian Heritage Trust, Clean and Green Society, Ethiopian Natural History Society, a number of School Nature Clubs, CPAR-Ethiopia, and others.
  • FSS had been active in the programs of the two new consortia of civil society organizations which it helped set up, namely Poverty Action Network of Ethiopia (PANE) and Consortium of Civil Society Organizations. PANE in particular has had numerous programs here in Addis Ababa and in the Killils with regard to poverty reduction and the MDGs. Ato Eshetu, from FSS management, attended an international workshop on the MDGs in Sough Africa in September.
  • There was a joint meeting of civil society organizations and members of Parliament in July and FSS was an active participant in the discussions that were held. This was the second such meeting during the year, the first one was held early in the year in which FSS also took active part. The purpose of the meetings was to create opportunities for dialogue between the two bodies in matters of concern to both.
  • FSS along with other organizations was actively involved in the discussion of the draft legislation governing CSOs in the country. It was also involved in the CSO task force to review the legislation. There was concern within the voluntary sector that the new draft legislation prepared by the Ministry of Justice was in some ways quite restrictive and infringed on the democratic rights of citizens and their organizations, and the task force had tried to persuade the Ministry to revise the draft.
 
2005
  • As in the preceding years, FSS had continued with its tradition of establishing  a working and collaborative relationship with a large number of civil society organizations, private sector groups, donor and international agencies. In 2005, special emphasis was given to local initiatives undertaken by local civil society organizations on poverty oriented programs, for example, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) as well as the environment.
  • FSS undertook a major initiative in organizing  a joint conference and dialogue programs with sister organizations.  The major program in this regard was the one-day conference on ‘Land and the Challenge of Sustainable Development’ which was held on August 5, 2005. The conference was jointly hosted by FSS, the Ethiopian Economic Association (EEA) and the Agricultural Economics Society of Ethiopia, with lead role taken by FSS.
  • FSS also participated in environmental programs during the year in collaboration with government environmental agencies, international organizations and civil society groups.
2006

In line with its commitment to fostering relationship and collaboration with other sectors of the civil society, FSS participated in a number of meetings hosted by kindred organizations. Among these, the principal ones are the following:

  • The Sub-Regional Roundtable on Poverty Reduction in the Horn of Africa Region with a view to assessing the level of civil society Engagement in the PRSP Process;   
  • General Assembly of the Union of Ethiopian Civil Society Associations (UECSA), where FSS was elected to serve as Board Member;
  •  A presentation at the 8th Conference of the Ethiopian Society of Soil Science;
  •  Participation at the Second International Conference organized by the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) on the theme of “Violence Against Girls in Africa.
  • Three FSS researchers presented papers at the Ethiopian Economic Association’s 4th International Conference on the Ethiopian Economy.
  • FSS directors also participated on two public discussions organized by UECSA on “Identity of Civil Society Organizations and Their Role in the Democratization Process in Ethiopia”, held at the Ghion Hotel in June and July 2006.
2007
  • On 22-24 May 2007, FSS hosted the 4th Congress of the Association of African Historians. This was the first ever regional conference organized in collaboration with the Addis Ababa University and the Executive Committee of the Association of African Historians, with funding by the African Union Commission and the Ford Foundation West Africa Office. The three-day congress was held under the theme ‘Society, State and Identity in African History’. It was attended by nearly 150 participants, consisting of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) government officials, AU Commissioners, members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of international and regional organizations, FSS donors, CSOs, researchers from within and outside Ethiopia and other participants. The Congress was opened by H.E. Ato Seyoum Mesfin, the FDRE Foreign Minister, and addressed among others by Prof. Alpha Oumar Konare, Chairperson of the AU Commission.
  • A total of 67 papers by young and established scholars drawn from 22 African countries and others from Belgium, France, Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Malaysia and USA were presented at the Congress. All the papers have been published by FSS under the title ‘Society, State and Identity in African History’.  
  • In addition to the preceding, FSS took part in the following events and activities as part of its networking and partnership program:
  • FSS' panel at the 5th International Conference of the Ethiopian Economic Association, with papers by Ato Desssalegn Rahmato, Dr. Yeraswork Admassie and Dr. Alula Pankhurst;
  • African Civil Society Forum 2007 (22-24 March 2007), which, among other things, passed a resolution on Ethiopia calling for the release of political prisoners and civil society activists as well as for dialogue and the creation of a wider space for all non-state actors to contribute to social harmony, stability and national development;
  • Participation in the CODESRIA Converence of Editors, FSS being represented by Dr. Taye Assefa, Research and Publications Director and Managing Editor of Africa Review of Books;
  • The Executive Director’s attendance of a TrustAfrica Board of Trustees meeting, followed by a workshop on ‘The Cost of Non-Integration in Africa’, held in Mararakech, 17-20 June, and participation in a Conference on the ‘Armed Conflict Between Ertitrea and Ethiopia in International Legal Perspective’, held at Pisa (Italy), on 19-20 October;
  • FSS’ joining of the International Civil Society network, CIVICUS. The South African-based organization has played a prominent role in the strengthening of CSOs worldwide through the sharing of knowledge and experience as well as by monitoring the state of CSOs in different countries;
  • The Program Administrations Director’s attendance of the three-day workshop (30 October- 1 November) in Adama/Nazraeth organized by NCA-Ethiopia on experience and sharing, in the course of which the Executive Director also made a presentation on ‘The Role of CSOs in Promoting Good Governance’;
  • FSS’ participation in the ‘NGO Day of the Millennium’ organized by CRDA, 14-16 December through the display of its publications.
2008
  • FSS hosted the first meeting of the newly elected Executive Committee of the Association of African Historians. The meeting discussed and approved the Report on the General Assembly of the Association held on the last day of the Congress in April 2007, the Minutes of the Election Committee, and a financial report covering the period April 2007 to January 2008, and the status of the proceedings of the Congress. The Executive Committee dedicated much time to a discussion of a proposal drafted by the Vice-President for a major project entitled ‘African Regional Integration in Historical Perspective’. The project has been designed with a view to enabling the Association to rally its membership while at the same time strengthening the Secretariat. The meeting also decided to take part in the 21st Congress of the International Congress of Historical Sciences, due to take place in Amsterdam in August 2010, and to hold the 5th Congress of the Association either in Southern Africa or North Africa.
  •  FSS had continued with its work of forging collaborative relationships  with the voluntary sector in the country, the donor community, and foreign academic, research and advocacy institutions. In this regard, for example, apart from organizing public debates in joint undertakings with local civil society organizations, FSS had benefited by joint-venture schemes with the University of Sussex, the Christian Michelsen Institute of Norway, and the Minority Rights Group International based in London. 
  • FSS had been working to attract the involvement of Ethiopians in the Diaspora. The organization is acutely aware of the brain-drain which has been going on since the 1970s and has severely depleted the trained human resource of the country. In view of this, FSS has long considered involving Ethiopians in the Diaspora as one way to overcome the shortage of expertise and training in the country.  
  •  FSS had welcomed foreign researchers who wish to establish collaborative links. It had an "affiliation arrangement" to enable such persons to work with FSS and its associates. The arrangement requires foreign researchers to be based in research, academic or civic institutions, and have access to sufficient funds for the work they wish to do, of which some of it will have to be earmarked as institutional cost payable to FSS. Collaborative arrangements have been made on a case-by-case basis.
  • In 2008, FSS marked its Tenth Anniversary with an International Conference titled “Civil Society, Democracy and Development: International Experiences and the National Context”. Sponsored by Action Aid Ethiopia, the meeting featured three renowned civil society leaders and activists – Kumi Naidoo (Secretary-General of CIVICUS), Gerry Salole (CEO of European Foundation Centre) and Brian Kagoro (Pan African Policy Manager of Action Aid) - as well as four speakers from inside the country. A central objective of the conference was exploring international experiences on civil society practices and identifying benchmarks which CSOs should consider in responding to a possibly more stringent regulatory framework for Ethiopia.
  • The Conference was capped by a reception to mark the Tenth Anniversary, during which FSS acknowledged the support that it has gained from various donors as well as its members over the years.
  • Singled for special recognition were two of the founding members of FSS, Ato Dessalegn Rahmato and Ms. Zenebework Taddese, who were awarded a silver-plated plaque bearing their names for their selfless and dedicated service to the organization in its crucial first years.
  • The papers presented at the Conference, along with those selected from the October 2007 conference, were published under the tile of Civil Society at the Crossroads: Challenges and Prospects in Ethiopia.
  •  FSS participated in the CIVICUS World Assembly which was held in Glasgow, Scotland, from 18-21 June. Professor Bahru and Dr. Taye Assefa took part in the various workshops of the Assembly. In addition, FSS displayed its publications at the Scoittish Exhibition and Conference Center. On Friday 20 June, Professor Bahru delivered an opening remark at a breakout session under the theme ‘How Should Civil Society Respond to Threats to its Existence’. The World Assembly provided FSS with an opportunity for networking and creating awareness of the status and challenges of civil society in Ethiopia and learning from the experiences of CSOs in other parts of the world.
  • The  FSS Panel at the Sixth International Conference of EEA consisted of the three MA candidates whose thesis research on decentralization was sponsored by FSS under the Small Grants Programme presented their findings at the Sixth International Conference of the Ethiopian Economic Association on 3 July. Their papers dealt with the experience of decentralization in Afar, Beni Shangul-Gumuz and Gambella Regions.