Ethiopia: Controversial law on charities and societies passed
06 January 2009

JRS projects, like this English course at the Refugee Community Centre in Addis Ababa, could be affected by a new law on charities and societies which was recently passed. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
The law stipulates that organisations, both foreign and Ethiopian, that receive more than 10% of their funding from abroad would not be allowed to undertake any activities in human rights.
Addis Ababa, 6 January 2010 — Despite strong criticism from different sides, the Ethiopian parliament on January 6, 2009 endorsed a new law regulating the registration and operation of NGOs and other associations, commonly known as Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) operating in the country.

The controversial Proclamation for the Registration of Charities and Societies was under discussion for quite some time. Representatives of the civil society had repeatedly pointed out that the draft would hinder due participation of the sector in the democratisation of the country. Moreover, they were of the opinion that if the law is passed, it would jeopardise citizens’ rights to organise themselves. They strongly argued that the law is regulatory rather than facilitative and that it restricts them from functioning properly.

The law stipulates that organisations, both foreign and Ethiopian, that receive more than 10% of their funding from abroad would not be allowed to undertake any activities in human rights, gender or ethnic equality, children’s rights, disabled persons’ rights, conflict resolution and strengthening judicial practices or law enforcement.

Some organizations exempt of new regulations

Only charities or societies who receive less than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources are allowed to work in the areas of human and democratic rights, promotion of equality of nations, nationalities, peoples, gender and religion; protection of the rights of children and the disabled, advancement of conflict resolution or reconciliation and promotion of the efficiency of justice and law enforcement agencies.

However, according to a copy of the draft law, several categories of organisations are exempted from the new regulations, among them religious organisations, international or foreign organisations operating by virtue of an agreement with the Ethiopian government and other similar cultural or religious associations and societies governed by other laws.

As reported by the English newspaper The Sub-Saharan Informer there were strong arguments in parliament from the opposition parties. Critics of the new law have voiced concerns that together with other proclamations issued recently, the government is keen on suppressing citizens’ democratic and human rights to subsequently moving towards creating and promoting a one-party system. There were also strong arguments that the move would restrict international partners to support Ethiopia’s own development efforts.

Affects seen throughout the year

On the other hand, the special adviser to the prime minister and minister of Federal Affairs assured that the law meant “to make sure that NGOs are working under the law and regulation and they do not misuse their powers.”

All expressed concerns and previous others did not stop the draft proclamation from passing through Parliament. It was passed with a majority vote of 327 and only 79 members of parliament were opposing the law.

How JRS in Ethiopia will be affected by the new legislation has still to be seen in the course of the coming one-year transition period.







Press Contact Information