Democratic assistance to post-conflict Ethiopia: impact and limitations
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There is a long history of donor relationship with Ethiopia going hack at least to the early 1940s. Since then, the number of bi- and multi-lateral donors providing assistance to the country has grown substantially. At present, the U.S., Japan and the Scandinavian countries are the major bilateral donors, while the World Bank, the EU and agencies in the UN system provide the bulk of the multilateral assistance. The international assistance that was offered to the country with the change of regime may be grouped into three categories: a) development assistance; b) humanitarian assistance; and c) assistance for democratization and good governance. Ethiopia has conducted a number of elections in the post-conflict period, the last one being in 2000. At present, the country is bracing itself for a third round of national elections in 2005. A comparison of election costs for selected African countries with Ethiopia shows that the cost of elections in Ethiopia has been quite low given the country's enormous size and its lack of experience in running democratic elections. Ethiopia has received considerable international electoral assistance since 1991 and such assistance has strengthened the capacity of the National Electoral Board and civil society and human rights organizations in monitoring and supervising elections. Donor assistance has also been provided to political parties to make the electoral process more competitive. However, the impact of such assistance in democratizing the election process has been limited because the ruling party has failed to broaden its political power base and provide a level playing field for all contestants. Human rights and advocacy organizations began to be established for the first time in the country following the fall of the Derg and the change of government. This has meant that the human rights record of the present government has been more systematically monitored and rights violations more extensively compiled than at any time in the past. Donor assistance to human rights has primarily been financial assistance to advocacy organizations on the one hand, and financial support as well as training and technical support to government institutions on the other. Assistance lias been provided for: a) preparatory work for setting up a government human right commission and ombudsman institution; b) reform of legal institutions, and training of law enforcement agencies; c) support to legislative bodies and training of legislators; d) financial support to civil society organizations active in monitoring human rights, human rights protection and advocacy. One of the first acts of the Transitional Government was to enact a press law, which turned out to have a dramatic impact on the country's media. At present, there are a large number of private papers published regularly. However, the free press is faced by a host of problems: structural, economic, and professional. International assistance to the media (both public as well as private) has been limited in scope, and relatively insignificant in terms of its impact. International donors have failed to make a strategic intervention in the media sector and have been limited to low level support with only limited results. Donor assistance to the democratization process in Ethiopia has been comparatively limited. In contrast, donors have invested heavily in the humanitarian and relief effort on the one hand, and in the socioeconomic development sectors on the other. Assistance to both sectors has been growing in the last ten years, and in particular assistance to the humanitarian sector has been increasing markedly in this period. On the other hand, financial support to civil society, especially local human rights and advocacy organizations, has been instrumental in enabling the growth of the voluntary sector in the country. Without such support, civil society would have faced serious difficulties, and its achievements, especially in the areas of human rights monitoring, training and advocacy, would have been more limited. On the other hand, the impact of international assistance on the democratization process in this country has been quite limited. The achievements registered to date in the areas of elections, human rights and press freedom have primarily been a product of local initiative, local organizations, and struggles by stakeholders.