Recently Completed 

Title: Ethiopian higher education sector and its constituencies’ ability to contribute to peaceful dialogue and knowledge production

Duration:   March 2021—July 2021

Project partners: Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI) and Forum for Social Studies (FSS)

Objectives:

The project was aimed at examining the role of the Ethiopian academia in the context of the current political transition that commenced in April 2018. The overarching goal of the research project was to assess the role that academia and its diverse constituencies could play as agents or detractors of change that unfolded in the post-2018 period. Accordingly, the project endeavours to produce a comprehensive report and policy recommendations emphasising the need for improvement on the existing state of affairs. The research shown possible areas of collaboration between academic institutions and their stakeholders including how the Open Society Foundation could support Ethiopian public universities, pertinent think tanks and other stakeholders. The means and ways of improving the role of Ethiopian universities in buttressing efforts towards enhancing prospects for the success of the ongoing political and economic transition unveiled in the report and policy brief.

Data collection: Both primary and secondary data collection instruments were employed for this project. The fieldwork for collecting data was undertaken in five selected public universities, namely, Addis Ababa, Jimma, Jigjiga, Jinka, and Wollo. In addition, data was also elicited from sources in Addis Ababa with relevant government departments, think tanks and others.

Title: Clarifying the Uncharted Routes of Ethiopia’s Reform towards Democracy : Informed Dialogue Series on Major Economic, Politico-Legal, and Foreign Policy Issues

Duration: February 1st 2019 – January 31st 2020 (plus a period of no-cost extension to April 30th 2020)

Objectives:

To contribute towards an inclusive discussion about current socio-political reforms in Ethiopia through providing a platform for informed dialogue and deliberation among relevant stakeholders.

Background:

Since taking office in April 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has initiated a series of economic, political, and foreign policy reforms. In addition, multiple ideologically different opposition parties have either returned to the country or are increasing their public engagement. To analyze the current situation, deliberate on possible future options of potential structural changes, and conduct evaluations of proposed reforms in an informed manner, Forum for Social Studies (FSS) uses the support of National Endowment for Democracy (NED) s to facilitate public debates and dialogues among relevant governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders to seek mutual understanding and common goals.

To that end, FSS organized six half-day public dialogue forums on politico-institutional arrangements, economic policies, and foreign relations. Participants  discussed current constitutional provisions and potential constitutional reforms; economic reforms, including privatization and local development challenges and Ethiopia’s foreign policy focusing on the Horn of Africa and the Gulf states. Two subject matter experts opened the discussions with papers representing their divergent views. These were then followed by a moderator-facilitated audience debate. Each event was undertaken with an audience of 50-70 stakeholders invited from relevant government institutions, opposition parties, civil society organizations, professional associations, unions, academic and research organizations, and the media.

Title: Land and Food Security in Ethiopia’s Transition to a Democratic Society : An  informed dialogue and dissemination project to inform policy makers and the public

Duration: November 1st 2019 – October 31st 2020

Description:

Ethiopia has undergone considerable changes in the course of the last three decades. Its population has more than doubled, pushing demands for consumer goods and food very high. On the other hand, the nation has witnessed significant economic and infrastructural expansion as well as the growth of urban centers and immense improvements in the provision of health and educational services, to mention just a few. However, all the progress in these respects have had their downside in terms of lack of inclusivity, respects of property and human rights, and fair distribution of benefits; and above all, in the form of great pressure on smallholder agricultural land that was marked by significant land acquisitions on various development related pretexts. Obviously, the two pronged pressure emanating from rapid population growth, on the one hand, and socioeconomic change, on the other, have made the intertwined issues of land, agriculture and food insecurity, important aspects of the country’s economic democratization that deserve to be publicly discussed with the objective of informing policy reform.

We have sufficient reason to believe that it was these activities of FSS in combination with the efforts of other likeminded actors, as well as internal and external pressure on the government, that finally led to the latter’s acceptance of the important landmark in the gradual development of tenure security, namely, land certification that began in the early 2000s and is still going on in an improved manner.

Goal and specific objectives

The goal/general objective of the project was to support the current reform that was unfolding in the country by conducting public dialogue forums the outputs of which were made available to leaders/policy makers, the public at large, and stakeholders such as donors through appropriate dissemination mechanisms.

The specific objectives of the project were to:

Contribute towards national policy reform on land, agriculture and food security through a series of national public dialogues forums, as well as Chatham-house style discussion between influential personalities and researchers;

Contribute towards regional policy reform on land, agriculture and food security in the three Regional States of Oromia, Amhara, and Tigray by stimulating discussion between their leaders and the citizenry through regional dialogue forums the outputs of which are well disseminated;

Bring the discussion on land, agriculture, and food security to all stakeholders through public discussion forum, radio transmission, website repository, social media, and print media including 4-pager policy briefs in multiple languages.

Activities:

The major activities of the project were discrete public dialogue engagements and the dissemination of their outputs through broadcast and print media that are listed below:

  1. Conduct six monthly national public dialogue events at which secondary material based papers on the following topics of concern were presented and discussed to engage policy makers and the wider public through the media
    • Land Tenure: General assessment
    • Globalization, large-scale agricultural investments and their impacts on rural livelihoods
    • Women’s land rights and utilization
    • Land, landlessness, and rural youth
    • Pastoralist land rights and utilization
    • Land and food security
  2. Conduct three regional public dialogues events, one each, in the national regional states of Oromia, Tigrai and Amhara on the topic “Major land, agriculture and food insecurity issues/concerns of the regional state and their solutions”, with the objective of influencing regional policy makers directly and stimulating the public to engage the latter similarly
  3. Disseminate the contents/outputs of the national and regional public dialogues, listed above under 1 and 2, through the following modes of communication
    • Nine national radio programs in Amharic (aired twice within two weeks) through which the nine national dialogue events were aired.
    • Three regional radio programs in Oromiffa, Amharic and Tigrigna (aired twice within two weeks of the events) through which the results of the three regional dialogues were disseminated
    • Nine proceedings were posted on the FSS website (that is to be upgraded as part of this project)
    • Nine 4-page policy briefs in English containing summaries of the proceedings, both in print (addressed to all partner/donor organizations) and posted on the website
    • Publication of the papers presented at the nine dialogue events in a single volume
    • In addition to the above, social media dissemination platforms were used whenever appropriate.

Moreover, FSS invited as many TV and radio broadcasters as well as newspaper organizations as possible through its established media network to all public events so that they may report them at their own costs and conveniences. As a result the events were adequately covered by the local media.

The activities described above fit very well with our organization’s strategic agenda, since the issues of land and food security with which we have worked on for a long time remain to be areas of evolving challenges that require our continued engagement in search of appropriate policy options. Furthermore, the nature of the activities that we proposed here, namely, public engagement through knowledge-based dialogue is an aspect of FSS long-term dedication to instill the culture of tolerant exchange of contending views and options.

The project was expected to result in a better, comprehensive and fresh understanding of the complex and interrelated issues of land, agriculture and food security by policy makers and officials at the various tier of government, leaders of the various contending political parties, rights’ advocate groups and activists, as well as the public at large. In particular, the project was aimed to provide policy options that help overcome the major impediments in managing land, agriculture and food supply in a better and sustainable manner.

Title: Land for Life-Initiative (LfL)

Duration:  2018-2023 (But terminated as FSS project in March 2021 being setup as an independent CSO)

Description

The Land for Life (LfL) initiative is a cooperative project that is concerned with the issue of land governance and policy in Ethiopia with special focus on Oromia Regional State. The project was launched on May 8, 2018 by the FSS and Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and is being implemented in the Oromia Regional State through a secretariat that is housed at FSS headquarters as well as  a strong Steering Committee established for the purpose.

Objective

This initiative is to contribute to the formulation and implementation of policies on land governance and agricultural investments that are consistent with international standards and in particular the human rights of adequate food. As a Multi Actor Partnership (MAP) project, LfL promotes spaces for dialogue and collaboration between all relevant actors, fostering the effective and meaningful participation of local communities and their representatives in particular.

In the same month of May 2018 that the initiative was launched, the initiative organized a workshop that brought together the target stakeholders, including regional policy makers, implementing government offices representatives of civil society organizations, the academia, and the private sector in Oromia Regional State. The purpose of the workshop was to exchange knowledge and experiences and foster multi-actor dialogue and collaboration on land governance. To that end, a series of small coffee meetings were also held at the beginning with key stakeholders to discuss the problems of, and the injustices inflicted on smallholder farmers, as result of lack of good governance in the region. Thus, from that exercise, a group of committed actors who can take the initiative further emerged. The group jointly assessed the land governance context, reached out to other actors and initiatives and set the stage for the co creation of an environment for multi actor dialogue and collaboration, which has come to be called the Core Group (CG). The rationale was to facilitate and increase information sharing and strengthen the synergy between programs and initiatives and thus jointly address the key land governance challenges.

The wider Land for Life-Initiative is a multi-country project implemented in four African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Liberia and Sierra Leone) being supported by Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and the German Ministry for Economic Collaboration and Development (BMZ).

Title: WIDE-FSS Joint Public Awareness and Media Dissemination

Duration: December 2018-July 2019

Description

The Public Awareness and Media Dissemination Project was a media and communication project that aimed to disseminate WIDE’S research outputs through selected local media (Electronic: Radio and TV and Print: Newspaper) by procuring radio & TV airtime, and newspaper space from the local media, as well as by organizing a public lecture in Addis Ababa.

Objectives

The major objective of this project was to make use of the media as a tool in efforts to inform and influence public policy WIDE’s research findings in Ethiopia.

Moreover, the project had the following specific objectives:

  • To disseminate knowledge and policy ideas to the public
  • To educate and inform the public and policy makers
  • To inform and/or influence public policy
  • To promote wide public participation in national policies and provide forums for different societal actors to have a say in the policy process;

Outputs

As far as the outputs of this undertaking were concerned, they consisted of the following:

  • 13 radio programs in two series on he previous WIDE research findings);
  • 6 newspaper articles on the Amharic Reporter Newspaper
  • 4 TV programs in two series on Walta TV.
  • 1 Public lecture program in Addis Ababa on the title: Rural Ethiopia in Transition