Strengthening the Ethiopian Transition and Reform Process

The overall goal of our work is to support Ethiopian-led efforts to strengthening the Ethiopian Transition and Reform process. The project focuses on supporting our Ethiopian partners to foster inclusive dialogue on the reform agenda as well as the broader vision for Ethiopia. By doing so, the project contributes to enhancing trust in the process and among Ethiopian stakeholders and the broader public.

More specifically the objectives of the project are:

  • Supporting an Ethiopian-led inclusive (national) dialogue initiative on the Ethiopian Reform Agenda.
  • Providing technical workshops to deepen understanding on and reach plausible options for substantive and procedural aspects of the Ethiopian Transition and Reform Process.
  • Strengthening the capacity of Ethiopian stakeholders to facilitate the transition process through tailor-made trainings and joint learning opportunities.

As a response to the antigovernment protests that began in 2015, the ruling coalition Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary  Democratic Front (EPRDF) promised to open the political, civic and economic space in January 2018. This resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister (PM) Hailemariam Dessalegn and the appointment of PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed. Over the course of the year, the new PM accelerated this reform agenda, entering into a period of transition, accompanied with high hopes and public expectations, which will have implications on the sustainability of the reform and evidently on the peace and stability of the country. While impressive steps have been taken to initiate national reforms, uncertainty remains in the process and technicalities of the transition, with a potential threatening the possibility of making further reform progress.

Since June 2018, the Berghof Foundation has been implementing a pilot project in support of the Ethiopian Reform Process, which initiated a series of high-level dialogue conferences on critical issues related to Ethiopia’s transition process. The current project builds on these efforts and seeks to contribute to the strengthening of the Ethiopian transition and reform process in collaboration with our Ethiopian partners through creating inclusive spaces for dialogue and peer-learning on key aspects of the Ethiopian reform agenda.

Our main implementing partner is the Center for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation (CDRC). Together, we support a multipartial group of influential insiders from across the political and civic spectrum, which seeks to foster inclusive dialogue in Ethiopia.

The project is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office

Kick-off Conference on Political Reform in Ethiopia

The conference on political reform in Ethiopia took place on 24-25 November 2018 at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was opened by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed and attended by approximately 150 participants from different political, ethnic and professional backgrounds (government, opposition parties, academia, civil society, media).

The conference provided a platform for substantive discussion on the need for political reform in Ethiopia. It covered a wide range of issues, from the opportunities, challenges and possible pitfalls of the reform process to selected policy questions that will need to be addressed as part of it, such as the disentanglement of party and state, as well as transitional justice and reconciliation. The event also provided some historical perspectives on political transformations in Ethiopia and reflected on the role of political parties and media in the transition. Designed as a kick-off event bringing together the political elites, the conference highlighted a strong interest in continued exchange among the stakeholders, with a view to shaping and stimulating the ongoing political reform process and contributing to its implementation in the long-term.

Dialogue Conference on Opportunities and Challenges of the Ethiopian Transition Process

From 22 - 23 August 2019, the Berghof Foundation alongside its Ethiopian partners (CDRC, EFRSSI, IAG, Amani Africa) represented in the Steering Committee for inclusive Dialogue in Ethiopia organized a high-level Dialogue Conference on the opportunities and challenges of the Ethiopian Transition Process in Addis Ababa. The event was opened by the Ethiopian President Sahle-Worg Zewde and the former South African President Thabo Mbeki and brought together around two hundred stakeholders from the government, political parties, academia, civil society and the media.

The Dialogue Conference provided a space for key Ethiopian stakeholders to exchange viewpoints on lessons learned from past transition experiences in Ethiopia, the current dynamics as well as opportunities, challenges and risks for the future of the Ethiopian transition process. Comparative first-hand experiences were shared from political transitions in South Africa, Tunisia and Yemen and subsequently contextualized to the Ethiopian situation. Major discussions centered around procedural aspects of managing the transition process, potential constitutional amendments and the elections scheduled for 2020. The speakers and participants presented various viewpoints and engaged in a constructive dialogue on the way forward. Finally, a clear call for a comprehensive and structured process to manage the transition process by addressing national issues and reconciliation was issued.

Dialogue Conference on the Reform of the Ethiopian Foreign and Security Policy

From 17 - 18 October 2019 a high-level conference at the African Union on Ethiopia’s Foreign and Security Policy brought together about two hundred stakeholders from Ethiopian government institutions and political parties, the diplomatic community, national, regional and international experts as well as representatives from civil society. The event provided an inclusive space to engage in constructive discussions about the foreign policy opportunities and challenges Ethiopia is facing in light of its transition process and the emerging political dynamics in the Horn of Africa region. Highlighting the importance of greater national and regional cohesion and increased cooperation based on the principles of dialogue, the specific recommendations feed into the Ethiopian Foreign Policy Review Process.

Among others, discussions revolved around ways to resolve intra-IGAD disputes to strengthen regional cooperation, the implications of the transitions in Ethiopia and Sudan for multilateralism in the region and vice versa as well as Ethiopia’s leadership potential to address the peace and security challenges in its neighborhood. Contending perspectives were openly appraised and various recommendations were forwarded on how best to handle the multifaceted complexities facing Ethiopia in particular and the wider region in general.

National Dialogue Orientation Workshop

From February 03 – 05, 2020, the Berghof Foundation, in cooperation with its Ethiopian partners, the Center for Dialogue, Research and Cooperation (CDRC) and the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISA), as well as the Steering Committee for Inclusive Dialogue in Ethiopia, organized a "National Dialogue Orientation Workshop" in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. The 52 participants, each taking part in their own individual capacity, represented a broad political and social spectrum. They included representatives from 22 different parties, civil society, intellectuals and prominent personalities.

The workshop created a safe environment in which conceptual knowledge and practical experience of National Dialogues was shared. This facilitated an informed exchange on National Dialogue among Ethiopian stakeholders. These discussions build trust among the actors, enabling them to explore the acceptance of a national dialogue process in Ethiopia and to identify possible steps to prepare for such a process.

The participants were able to reach consensus on important issues. It was agreed that (1) a National Dialogue is urgent and necessary; (2) the greatest possible inclusiveness should be sought in it; (3) a thorough preparation phase is required; and (4) the process of preparation should begin as soon as possible - but also extend beyond the date of the currently planned elections in August 2020. The organizers of the event were given a mandate to plan and coordinate the next steps in the preparation phase, including a timely follow-up event, in consultation with the electoral authorities.