February 14, 2014
Ethiopia’s renewed push for admission to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) should be closely scrutinized due to the limited role Ethiopia has granted to civil society and a hostile legal environment that minimizes meaningful debate, Freedom House and Civicus World Alliance for Citizen Participation said.
Freedom House and Civicus urge the government of Ethiopia to live up to the commitment made in its 2013 EITI application to “improve the legal environment” for the citizen-based watchdog role in the process. We also call on the EITI International board to ensure that Ethiopian civil society organizations are granted free, full and effective participation, as required by the EITI standard.
“Free, meaningful participation by Ethiopia’s civil society is impossible in the current environment,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa Programs at Freedom House. ‘The Ethiopian government should use the EITI application process to identify and complete concrete action toward making substantive changes to the tightly restricted role of citizens’ groups.”
EITI is an international coalition of governments, civil society and companies that promotes transparency and accountability in the management of natural resources. In countries participating in EITI, oil, gas and mining companies are required to publish what they pay to governments, and governments are required to publish what they receive from companies. EITI requires aspiring member countries to ensure that civil society fully, independently, actively and effectively participates in the design, monitoring and evaluation of the EITI process.
Ethiopia, which has large reserves of gold, platinum, copper, potash and other metals and minerals, submitted a new EITI application in October 2013, which has yet to be considered by the international EITI board. EITI rejected an earlier application, citing the country’s 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation, which limits participation by civil society and human rights groups – legislation that continues to be enforced and supported through regulatory measures.
A virtual ban on foreign funding for Ethiopian nongovernmental organizations and government interference with civil society organizations has tightly limited both independent monitoring and reporting on the country’s human rights record, as well as citizen participation in governance. Without essential changes, the government of Ethiopia’s resistance to the basic criteria for an “enabling environment for civil society” should continue to prevent entry to the EITI community.