Ethiopia's 1994 constitution granted regional and local governments wide-ranging powers of self-management. The process of devolving power from a historically centralized, authoritarian state has been slow and is heavily focused on building individual and institutional capacity.
Problem and Purpose
Ethiopia's transition to a Federal Democratic Republic has not been smooth as the legacy of authoritarianism has left few individuals and local/regional institutions with the capacity necessary to claim the powers of self-governance granted by the 1994 Constitution. The World Bank and German Development Agencies have been providing governing assistance to the country for some years. The joint programme to assist in decentralization sees development professionals deployed to various cities with the goal of instructing officials on the principles of good governance; assisting in the improvement of service delivery and co-production; and helping citizens learn about and exercise their political rights.
Background History and Context
With the adoption of the constitution in 1994, Ethiopia’s authoritarian, centralistic government was formally replaced by a federal state. It conceded wide-ranging rights to self-government to the regions and the cities. However, many municipalities lack the capacity to provide adequate services to their citizens. As Ethiopian cities are growing rapidly, they are facing immense challenges, including increasing urban poverty, a high unemployment rate, low governance capacities, weak infrastructure and poor municipal finance management.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Decentralization is carried out on all levels of government and civil society within the country. Assistance in capacity building and governance is offered by numerous organizations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, and numerous German agencies which have worked in Ethiopia since the 1960s when the two countries signed an economic partnership. German organizations (private and public) that fund, organize, and/or support capacity building and good governance initiatives include: the Corporation for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)) GmbH*, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM). Many of the international organizations working in the country work jointly or make an effort to orchestrate their activities.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
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Methods and Tools Used
Methods of decentralization vary in scope from regional or local government initiatives to local or individual level programmes. Examples of methods and processes undertaken or institutionalized to devolve power include the creation of community-based health insurance schemes, participatory forestry management, and the official sanctioning of indigenous systems of governance and resource management.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
Initiatives to decentralize power are often internationally-assisted and operate at levels of government, extending into civil society. Efforts promote civil society participation in establishing the conditions necessary for regional self-determination and local self-government.
The country has issued two five year Transformation and Growth Plans — the first in 2009, the second in 2014. Following the plans, the country has dedicated itself to an ambitious project of economic growth, good governance practices adoption, and public service improvement. Both TGPs have been drafted and implemented with support from the United Nations and Germany's Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH.
Alongside and in support of the TGP process is the ongoing joint Ethiopian-German development programme which currently operates in 26 cities covering all of Ethiopia’s regions and reaching over 3 million people. Its main supporting parterns are the Federal Ministry of Works and Urban Development, the regional ministries (bureaus) and the city administrations as well as the Ethiopian Civil Service College. Germany has aided Ethiopia in economic matters since the 1960s and views decentralization and local institutional and individual capacity building as integral to that process.
The programme prioritizes the following three components in the process of decentralization:
- Municipal infrastructure and services
- Urban management capacity
- Knowledge management and exchange
Influence, Outcomes and Effects
- In line with its decentralisation policy, Ethiopia has shifted responsibilities and mandates for services to regional and local levels.
- The Ethiopian House of Federation, supported by International and German development agencies, has devised and adopted a new distribution code for fund allocations from the federal level to the regions for financial equalisation among the federal states
- Cities have improved their capacities to prepare participatory local development plans and provide better basic services to their citizens.
- Cities have improved their financial management and enhanced their income.
- Cities now consult the public about past and future investments.
- Cities are implementing labour-intensive infrastructure projects, creating numerous jobs.
- The Ethiopian Ministry of Federal Affairs guides dialogue with regions and cities to improve governance reforms.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 http://www.mfa.gov.et/-/ethiopia-germany-relations [DEAD LINK]
 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Ethiopia. https://www.giz.de/en/worldwide/336.html
 Official Report, German Ambassador's Office http://www.addis-abeba.diplo.de/contentblob/3006480/Daten/1035737/downlo...
The original version of this case study first appeared on Vitalizing Democracy in 2010 and was a contestant for the 2011 Reinhard Mohn Prize. It was originally submitted by Christian Kreutz.
* The GIZ encompasses the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GTZ) which was merged with the German Development Service (DED) and InWEnt (Capacity Building International, Germany) in 2011.