They were organized first at the instigation of the historian Richard Pankhurst, founder of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies (IES) at Addis Ababa University, and Stanislaw Chojnacki, keeper of the IES Museum until the revolution, who were both prolific writers on Ethiopian art and history. First focusing on Christian art, the proceedings of these conferences addressed very specific points and do not provide any general overviews. They show, however, a field of study and how this field is pragmatically defined. If these conferences have not always gathered every art historian who is a specialist on Ethiopia, they do give good insights into scholars interested in the field at least at one point in their careers, and thus provide a list of scholars to follow. Even if the articles published in these proceedings are of very different quality, they may be mined for information.
Most human rights organizations, including women affiliated ones, have so far left these unfavorable areas of the law and shifted their programs and projects. In 2014, only 174 new CSOs were registered, 158 CSOs were closed, including 133 involuntarily for failing project implementation due to lack of funds.
New Hope for Women’s Rights CSOs?
In July of 2018 the Federal Attorney General’s office established a 13-member justice reform advisory council to address an array of serious issues, including reviewing suppressive laws such as the Civil Society Proclamation. This was followed by consultations among the members of the justice reform advisory. This reform advisory committee includes women like Meaza Ashenafi, founder and executive director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) who have expressed their concern over the enactment of the CSP.
Reportedly, the working group is conducting consultations and plans to propose amendments to the HPR (House of People’s Representatives). Proponents of the reform particularly as far as the CSP is concerned are taking two positions. The primary one is the complete repeal of the CSP and replaces the same by ordinary association laws. Other suggestions include review of the CSP particularly articles that have adversely affected the operation of CSOs including but not limited to the 90/10 funding restriction. Though these discussions are still at their initial stage, I strongly suggest that the reform committee assesses best practices to propose a model that could maximize the number and also the role of Women’s rights CSOs in the country.