Ethiopian FlagCivic Freedom Monitor: Ethiopia

Introduction | At a Glance | Key Indicators | International Rankings
Legal Snapshot | Legal Analysis | Reports | News and Additional Resources
Last updated 27 February 2019

Update: On February 5, 2019  the House of Peoples’ Representatives adopted a new Civil Society Organizations’ Proclamation (“the CSO Proclamation”), which will replace the restrictive 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation. The CSO Proclamation now awaits publication in the official Gazette. The new Proclamation contains significant improvements, shedding several of the more restrictive measures from the 2009 Proclamation, but retains some concerning provisions, as discussed below. Various restrictive Directives remain in place, and will need to be revisited in line with amendments introduced by the CSO Proclamation.


Ethiopia has a long tradition of informal community-based organizations like the “idir” and “iqub” – self-help associations that operate at the local level and offer mutual socio-economic support to their members.  Formal civil society – that is, organizations with legal personality – is a recent development.  Civil society was slow to take root under the Ethiopian Empire regime (1137-1974).  It was also severely restricted under the rule of the Derg (a military junta) (1974-91).  Modern civil society organizations were first established as faith-based organizations in the 1930s, and beginning in the 1950s, welfare organizations like the Red Cross started to operate in Ethiopia.  As a result of the 1973-74 and 1984-1985 famines, many more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) emerged with a focus on relief and humanitarian services. It was after the downfall of the Derg regime in 1991 that NGO numbers substantially increased. 

In February 2009, the Government adopted the Proclamation to Provide for the Registration and Regulation of Charities and Societies (CSP), Ethiopia’s first comprehensive law governing the registration and regulation of NGOs.  The 2009 law and its associated Directives violate international standards relating to the freedom of association.  Notably, the Proclamation restricts NGOs that receive more than 10% of their financing from foreign sources from engaging in essentially all human rights and advocacy activities. The then-UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Mr. Maina Kiai, commented on the CSP saying that, “The enforcement of these provisions has a devastating impact on individuals’ ability to form and operate associations effectively, and has been the subject of serious alarm expressed by several United Nations treaty bodies.”  Mr. Kiai went on to recommend that “the Government revise the 2009 CSO law due to its lack of compliance with international norms and standards related to freedom of association, notably with respect to access to funding."

Following parliament’s confirmation of Abiy Ahmed’s appoint in April 2018, the new Prime Minister established a Legal and Justice Affairs Advisory Council to review a range of current laws, including the CSP and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. The new CSO Proclamation is the first step in this legislative reform process; the ATP is currently being revisited and is likely to be replaced with a new law.

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At a Glance

Organizational Forms Civil Society Organizations, mass based societies, professional associations, consortiums, charity organizations, charitable endowments, charitable trusts, and charitable committees.
Registration Body Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Agency
Approximate Number There were 3,181 CSOs as of December 2014 (in 2014, 174 new CSOs were registered, 158 CSOs were closed, including 133 involuntarily for failing project implementation due to lack of funds)
Barriers to Entry Excessive CSO Agency discretion in the mandatory registration of organizations:

CSO Proclamation Article 56(1) requires all organizations to register.

CSO Proclamation Articles 58(1)(b) and (c) allow the CSO Agency to deny registration if the aim of the organization, task description under the organization’s rules, or the organization’s proposed name is contrary to “public morals.”
Barriers to Activities Article 48 requires charitable committees to gain approval from the CSO Agency before performing any activities.
Barriers to Speech and/or Advocacy The restriction on NGOs from engaging in aims or tasks that are contrary to public morals (Articles 58(1)(b) and (c) of the CSO Proclamation) may impact the ability of some CSOs from freely discussing or advocating on certain issues.
Barriers to International Contact No legal barriers
Barriers to Resources Article 74(1) of the CSO Proclamation requires organizations to obtain written approval from the CSO Agency to open a bank account. Article 48 of the CSO Proclamation prohibits charitable committees from collecting funds without the approval of the CSO Agency.
Barriers to Assembly 48-hour advance notification requirement; wide government discretion to impose time, place, manner and content restrictions; and vague provisions on criminal penalties for violations.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are non-governmental, non-partisan entities established by two or more persons on a voluntary basis and registered to carry out any lawful purpose. CSOs include mass based societies, professional associations, and consortiums. (Article 2(1) of CSO Proclamation). Charity organizations are organizations established with the aim of working for the interest of general society or a third party (Article 2(4) of CSO Proclamation). Professional associations are organizations formed on the basis of a profession with objectives that may include protecting the rights and interests of its members, promoting professional conduct, building the capacities of members, or mobilizing the professional contributions of its membership to the community and the country (Article 2(5) of the CSO Proclamation). Consortiums are groupings of two or more civil society organizations, including consortia of consortiums (Article 2(6) of the CSO Proclamation). Charitable endowments are organizations by which a certain property is perpetually and irrevocably destined by donation or will for a purpose that is solely charitable (Article 21(1)). Charitable trusts are organizations established by an instrument by which specific property is constituted solely for a charitable purpose to be administered by persons (the trustees) in accordance with the instructions given by the instrument constituting the charitable trust (Article 31 of the CSO Proclamation). Charitable committees are collections of five or more persons who have come together with the intent of soliciting money or other property from the public for purposes that are charitable (Article 47 of the CSO Proclamation).

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Key Indicators

Population 96,633,458 (June 2014 estimate)
Capital Addis Ababa
Type of Government Federal Republic
Life Expectancy at Birth 55.8 years
Literacy Rate 42.7%
Religious Groups Ethiopian Orthodox Christian 40%, Sunni Muslim 45-50%, Protestant 5%, remainder indigenous beliefs.
Ethnic Groups Orthodox 43.5%, Muslim 33.9%, Protestant 18.6%, traditional 2.6%, Catholic 0.7%, other 0.7% 
Oromo 34.5%, Amara 26.9%, Somalie 6.2%, Tigraway 6.1%, Sidama 4%, Guragie 2.5%, Welaita 2.3%, Hadiya 1.7%, Affar 1.7%, Gamo 1.5%, Gedeo 1.3%, other 11.3%
GDP per capita $1,000 (2010 est.)

Source: The World Factbook. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency.

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International Rankings

Ranking Body Rank Ranking Scale 
(best – worst possible)
UN Human Development Index 173 (2018) 1 – 169
World Bank Rule of Law Index 34 (2018) 100 – 0
World Bank Voice & Accountability Index 10 (2018) 100 – 0
Transparency International 107 (2017) 1 – 176
Freedom House: Freedom in the World Status: Not Free
Political Rights: 7
Civil Liberties: 6 (2018)
Free/Partly Free/Not Free
1 – 7
1 – 7
Foreign Policy: Failed States Index
15 (2018) 177 – 1

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Legal Snapshot

International and Regional Human Rights Agreements

Key International Agreements Ratification* Year
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) Yes 1993
Optional Protocol to ICCPR (ICCPR-OP1) No  --
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Yes  1993
Optional Protocol to ICESCR (OP-ICESCR) No  --
International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) Yes 1976
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Yes 1981
Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (OP-CEDAW) No  --
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) Yes 1991
International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (ICRMW) No  --
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Yes  2010
Regional Treaties    
African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) Yes 1998
African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child Yes 2002
Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Yes 1992

* Category includes ratification, accession, or succession to the treaty

Constitutional Framework

The Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was adopted in 1994.  Ethiopia is divided into nine Regional States and two chartered cities run by the federal government. Regional States have legislative, executive and judicial powers. The Constitution provides the Regional States with residual power. Thus, all powers not expressly given to the Federal Government alone or concurrently with the States are reserved for the States. (Article 52) 

Relevant constitutional provisions include:

  • Article 29 Right to Hold Opinions, Thoughts and Free Expression
    (1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without any interference. (2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression without interference. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of his choice.
  • Article 30 Freedom of Assembly, Public demonstration and the Right to Petition
    Everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.  Appropriate procedure may be enacted to ensure that public meetings and demonstrations do not disrupt public activities, or that such meetings and demonstrations do not violate public morals, peace and democratic rights. 
  • Article 31 Right to Association
    Everyone shall have the right to form associations for whatever purpose.  Associations formed in violation of the appropriate laws or associations formed with the objective of overthrowing the constitutional order or associations carrying out these activities shall be prohibited. 

National Laws and Regulations Affecting Sector

Relevant national-level laws and regulations affecting civil society include:

Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Constitution

Charities and Societies Proclamation No. 621/2009 [to be replaced by the Civil Society Organizations’ Proclamation once published in the Official Gazette.]

Charities and Societies Council of Ministers Regulation (CSR) No.168/2009

Directives issued by the Charities and Societies Agency

Consortium of Charities and Societies Directive No. 1/2010

The Directive to Determine the Operational and Administrative Costs of Charities and Societies No. 2/2011

The Directive to Provide for the Establishment and Administration of Charitable Committee No. 3/2011

Directive to Provide for the Establishment of a Charitable Endowment, Charitable Trust and Charitable Institution No. 4/2011

The Directive to Provide for Public Collection by Charities and Societies No. 5/2011

The Directive to Provide for the Liquidation, Transfer and Dissolution of Properties of Charities and Societies No. 6/2011

The Directive to Provide for Income Generating Activities by Charities and Societies No. 7/2011

The Directive to Determine the Particulars of the Audit and Activity Reports of Charities and Societies No. 8/2011

The Directive to Determine Cost Sharing, No 9/2013

Labor Proclamation 377/2003

Chambers of Commerce and Sectoral Association Establishment Proclamation No. 341/2003

Electoral Law of Ethiopia Amendment Proclamation No. 532/2007

Anti-Terrorism Proclamation No. 652/2009

The Income Tax Proclamation No. 286/2002

Computer Crime Proclamation 2016

Pending NGO Legislative / Regulatory Initiatives

Under the government of the country's new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, who came into office in April 2018, several thousand prisoners have been released and tensions in restive areas of the country have declined. Amid increasing calls for restrictive anti-terrorism, media and civil society laws to be repealed the government has established an independent Legal and Justice Advisory Council, which is tasked with, among other responsibilities, the review of laws that have an impact on the democratization process and civic freedoms.

On February 5, 2019, Parliament adopted a new Civil Society Organizations Proclamation to replace the 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation. The new CSO Proclamation awaits publication in the Official Gazette to become operative. The CSO Proclamation  greatly improves the 2009 Proclamation, with significant changes including the removal of the 10% cap on foreign funding received by domestic organizations working on human rights issues, the elimination of criminal sanctions for violations of the Proclamation, the opportunity to appeal certain decisions by the CSO Agency to the Federal High Court, and generally more operational freedom for CSOs. However, there are several concerning provisions, including:

  • broad and intrusive investigative and supervisory powers of the CSO Agency, which may also disclose an organization’s reports and “other documents” “at any given time,” allowing the Government to engage in invasive supervision of organizations and undermining organizational privacy;
  • a 20% cap on organizations’ administrative costs;
  • strong government oversight of and control over organizational bank accounts and statements, undermining organizations’ ability to secure and use funds;
  • broad discretion by the CSO Agency to reject and suspend organizations’ registration; and
  • an auditing requirement that places a higher burden on smaller organizations, which must use a larger proportion of their funds to secure audits.

These restrictions undermine organizations’ ability to operate freely.

We are unaware of pending legislative/regulatory initiatives affecting NGOs.  Please help keep us informed; if you are aware of pending initiatives, write to ICNL at

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Legal Analysis

Organizational Forms

There are two types of registered, not-for-profit organizations in Ethiopia: Charities and Societies. 

There are four types of Charities recognized by Ethiopian law:  charitable endowments, charitable institutions, charitable trusts, and charitable societies. A charitable endowment is an organization through which certain property is perpetually and irrevocably designated by donation or will or the order of the agency for a purpose that is solely charitable. (Article 16 of the CSP)  A charitable institution is a charity formed by at least three persons exclusively for charitable purposes.  (Article 27 of the CSP)  A charitable trust is an organization by virtue of which specific property is constituted solely for a charitable purpose to be administered by persons, the trustees, in accordance with the instructions given by the instrument constituting the charitable trust. (Article 30 of the CSP)  A charitable society is a society which is established for charitable purposes.  (Article 46 of the CSP) 

Societies are associations or persons organized on a non-profit making and voluntary basis formation of the rights and interests of their members and to undertake other similar lawful purposes as well as to coordinate with institutions of similar objectives. (Article 55 of CSP)

Charities and Societies are given one of three legal designations, Ethiopian Charities or Societies, Ethiopian Resident Charities or Societies or Foreign Charities, based on where the organization was established, its source of income, composition of membership, and membership residential status:

Ethiopian Charities or Societies - Charities or Societies formed under the laws of Ethiopia, whose members are all Ethiopians, generate income from Ethiopia and are wholly controlled by Ethiopians. These organizations may not receive more than 10% of their resources from foreign sources. (Article 2 of CSP)

Ethiopian Resident Charities or Societies – Ethiopian Charities or Societies that receive more than 10% of their resources from foreign sources. (Article 2 of CSP)

Foreign Charities - Charities formed under the laws of foreign countries, or whose membership includes foreigners, or foreigners control the organization, or the organization receives funds from foreign sources.  (Article 2 of CSP)

Public Benefit Status

Both Charities and Societies are able to pursue public benefit activities. However, only Societies are permitted to pursue mutual benefit activities as well.  

While income from grants, donations and membership fees are not subject to tax, Charities and Societies must pay tax on other items.  Organizations carrying out humanitarian activities are exempt from paying custom duties on imported items, and organizations that work with international organizations that have agreements with the Ethiopian government are exempt from paying the VAT in some circumstances.

Charities and Societies that engage in income generating activities must pay taxes on earned revenue in accordance with laws governing organizations involved in activities related to trade, investment or any profit making activities.  In addition, the Income Tax Proclamation considers donations to Charities and Societies by business organizations or individuals as non-deductible-expenditures.

Barriers to Entry

Ethiopian law creates barriers to the establishment of charities and societies through mandatory registration and excessive Agency discretion in the registration process: 

CSP Article 68 requires all charities and societies to register. It further requires foreign organizations to obtain a letter of recommendation from the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

CSP Article 69 allows the Agency to deny registration if, inter alia, (1) the proposed charity or society is “likely to be used for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare or good order in Ethiopia”; or (2) the name of the charity or society is, in the opinion of the Agency, contrary to public morality or illegal.

Barriers to Operational Activity

The CSP includes barriers to NGOs’ operational activity, in the form of a direct prohibition, and through invasive supervisory oversight.  

First, CSP Article 14j-n restricts participation in activities that include the advancement of human and democratic rights, the promotion of equality of nations and nationalities and peoples and that of gender and religion, the promotion of the rights of disabled and children’s rights, the promotion of conflict resolution or reconciliation, and the promotion of the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services to Ethiopian Charities and Societies. In other words, charities and societies seeking to pursue these purposes cannot receive foreign funding that amounts to more than 10% of their overall income.

Second, the CSP grants almost unlimited authority to the Agency to supervise charities and societies.  For example, Section 7 (Articles 84 – 94) gives the Agency virtually unlimited authority to exercise control over the operations of a charity or society.  No procedural protections for the charity or society or its personnel are provided. Among other powers, the Agency may:

  • Institute inquiries about a charity or society without limitation or notice, and for purposes of an inquiry, require a charity or society, or its officers or employees, to produce accounts and statements in writing on any matter at issue in the inquiry, produce documents, and to attend at a specified time or place to give evidence or produce documents (Article 84);
  • Call for a charity or society or its officers or employees to provide orally or in writing “any information” relating to any charity or society, or to produce documents (Article 85);
  • Upon being satisfied that misconduct or mismanagement has occurred and that it is necessary to protect the property of the charity or society, suspend officers, restrict the organization’s transactions or the nature or amounts of payments made, or order the retention of property.  

Third, in November 2011, the Ethiopian Charities and Societies Agency issued the Guideline on Determining the Administrative and Operational Costs of CSOs, which is applicable to all charities and societies (international and domestic).  Retroactive to July 2011, when approved by the Agency without any consultation with organizations or donors, the “70/30” regulation limits administrative costs for all charities and societies to 30% of their budgets.  This has caused great concern among charities and societies, as well as among donors. A more recent amendment to the "70/30" regulation now classifies salaries, transport fees and training related costs as "project costs."  Nonetheless, some 30 international NGOs received warning letters, informing them that all their costs would be considered as "administrative."

In June 2016, Freedom House reported that the Charities and Societies Agency, which is the  government body that regulates NGOs, announced it shut down more than 200 NGOs in the previous nine months. The announcement followed an Agency directive seeking to impose penalties for noncompliance with the CSP.

Barriers to Speech / Advocacy

By prohibiting charities and societies that receive more than 10% of their funding from foreign sources from participating in essentially all human rights and advocacy activities, Ethiopian law may effectively silence civil society in Ethiopia by starving NGOs of resources, and thus essentially extinguish their right to expression.

In addition, in June 2016 in response to the role social media played in publicizing human rights violations perpetrated during the protests in Oromia, Ethiopia's parliament rushed through a Cybercrimes Law, which is known as the Computer Crime Proclamation. The law stipulates serious penalties for a wide range of online activities and gives authorities greater surveillance and censorship powers that will limit access to information on digital platforms. The adoption of this law followed a shutdown of Facebook, Viber, and WhatsApp in parts of the Oromia region. Authorities also cited social media posts as evidence in criminal charges brought against digital activists. These social media posts were images, videos, and audio recordings made during the protests that documented numerous incidents of heavy-handed response to peaceful demonstrators.

Barriers to International Contact

The CSP does not directly restrict international communication or contact, but the restriction on foreign funding may have negative implications for international contact.

Barriers to Resources

Foreign Funding

To be considered an Ethiopian Charity or Society, an organization may not receive more than 10% of its overall resources from foreign sources.  (Article 2 of CSP)  Only Ethiopian Charities and Societies may engage in activities that advance human and democratic rights; promote the equality of nations and nationalities and peoples and that of gender and religion; promote the rights of disabled and children’s rights; promote conflict resolution or reconciliation, and promote the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services. The foreign funding restrictions may force the closure of many organizations, especially human rights organizations. This is of particular concern in Ethiopia where local sources of financing are limited and NGOs are often dependent on foreign funding. Alternatively, NGOs may abandon disfavored missions or activities if they cannot raise funds locally to sustain them.

Domestic Funding

There are several restrictions relating to domestic funding:

  • Charities and societies are restricted from soliciting money and property that exceeds 50,000 Ethiopian birr (4000 USD) before registration.
  • Public collection is not allowed unless permitted by the Agency
  • Charities or societies can only engage in income generating activities that are incidental to the achievement of their purposes.

Barriers to Assembly

Article 30 of the Ethiopian Constitution affirms that:

Everyone shall have the freedom, in association with others, to peaceably assemble without arms, engage in public demonstration and the right to petition.  Appropriate procedure may be enacted to ensure that public meetings and demonstrations do not disrupt public activities, or that such meetings and demonstrations do not violate public morals, peace and democratic rights.

Relevant national legislation includes the Peaceful Demonstration and Public Political Meeting Procedure Proclamation No. 3/1991 (“the Proclamation”).

Advance Notification / Permission
According to the Proclamation, the organizers of peaceful demonstrations and public political meetings are required to provide to the authorities advance notification. There is no legal threshold for the number of participants who need to meet in order to trigger the notification process. The application has to be submitted 48 hours prior to the event and must disclose the following information about the demonstration or public political meeting: the objective, the place, the date and time and estimated length, the estimated number and kind of participants, whether any assistance is required from the government, and the names and addresses of the organizers.

The government office receiving the notification has 12 hours to inform the organizers of any reservations regarding the time and place of the planned demonstration or public political meeting. The office must give a written explanation if it declines to accept the proposed time or place of the event. Silence on the government’s part may be construed as acceptance of the demonstration. The Proclamation does not provide for an appeal procedure against the denial of permission.

Time, Place and Manner Restrictions
Article 6(2) of the Proclamation provides wide discretion for the government to refuse to permit a peaceful demonstration or political meeting at a certain time or location. According to the provision, peaceful demonstrations or political meetings may not be held if the government office “is of the opinion” that “in order to maintain peace and security” it is preferable for the peaceful demonstration or political meeting to be held at some other time or place.

There is also a list of prohibited places and content. According to Article 7 of the Proclamation, no demonstration or public political meeting can take place within 100 meters of the following areas:

  • Offices and residence of embassies and international organization,
  • Churches, mosques and similar prayer houses as well as hospitals and graveyards,
  • Electric power sources, dams and other dangerous places, and
  • Market places unsuitable for peaceful demonstration and assembly during market day.
    It is also not allowed to hold an assembly within 500 meters of the military bases and security offices.

Content Restrictions
Since the 2005 national election, the right to freedom of assembly appears to be a right reserved only for the ruling party. No other political party has been allowed to conduct peaceful demonstrations. According to leaders of the opposition political parties, the government office responsible for permits is providing various pretexts to restrict the time and place of proposed demonstrations by the opposition. In addition, hotels and conference centers are not willing to provide meeting facilities to political parties for fear of reprisal from government. There have been several instances where hotels and conference centers cancelled reservations for opposition political meetings at the last minute.

Criminal Penalties

Article 487 of the Criminal Code of Ethiopia provides that any person who makes, utters, distributes or cries out seditious or threatening remarks or displays images or drawings of a seditious or threatening nature in any public place or meeting is punishable with simple imprisonment not exceeding six months or a fine not exceeding 500 Birr.  Such vague language (“seditious or threatening nature”) may invite arbitrary enforcement.

Authorities also cited social media posts as evidence in criminal charges brought against digital activists. These social media posts were images, videos, and audio recordings made during the protests that documented numerous incidents of heavy-handed response to peaceful demonstrators.

Excessive Force

Demonstrations organized by Ethiopia’s Muslim community have been met with excessive force by police. In protests before the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa in June 2012, the leaders and organizers of a protest concerning the Muslim community were arrested and criminally charged under the anti-terrorism law. Since then, any similar attempts to demonstrate by the Muslim community have been met with the same reaction from the police.

In addition, in the wake of the large-scale protests in the Oromia region from November to March 2016, the government took a number of measures aimed at stifling dissent. For example, in addition to extrajudicial killings of hundreds of protesters, security forces arrested thousands of students, social media activists, and opposition party leaders and supporters. Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission has said at least 669 people have been killed in a series of protests that began in November 2015 and led to the country's current State of Emergency. Nonetheless, the government blames the unrest on opposition groups and foreign media and says security forces used "proportionate measures" to counter the protests.

More recently, on January 23, 2018, seven people were killed when security forces discharged live bullets on festival goers who were taking part in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's Epiphany celebrations. The shootings reportedly occurred when the security forces tried to stop people from chanting anti-government songs. The spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a press briefing that the Amhara regional state government should ensure that its promised probe into the matter is "prompt, independent, impartial and effective."

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UN Universal Periodic Review Reports National Report
Compilation of UN information

Summary of Stakeholders' Information

CIVICUS Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review: 2009
Human Rights Watch World Report: Ethiopia (2017)
Reports of UN Special Rapporteurs SR on the adverse effects of toxic waste and dangerous products and human rights. Report E/CN.4/1998/10/Add.
USIG (United States International Grantmaking) Country Notes

Not available

U.S. State Department Advancing Freedom and Democracy Report 2014: Ethiopia
2016 Human Rights Reports: Ethiopia
Failed States Index Reports

Foreign Policy Failed States Index

IMF Country Reports The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: Selected Issues: Country Report No. 08/259
The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: Ex Post Assessment of Long-Term Fund Engagement, Country Report No. 05/26
CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) Country Reports

Not available

International Commission of Jurists Not available
International Center for Not-for-Profit Law Online Library


International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) Human Rights Situation in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: 46th Session of the African Commission on Human and People's Rights

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News and Additional Resources

While we aim to maintain information that is as current as possible, we realize that situations can rapidly change.  If you are aware of any additional information or inaccuracies on this page, please keep us informed; write to ICNL at

General News

New Bill to Reorganize Ethiopian News Agency, Create Civil Society and Education Centers (December 2018)
The Council of Ministers of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed passed decisions on various draft bills at its regular meeting today in Addis Ababa, according to Ethiopian News Agency. Among other things, the Council of Ministers passed decisions to reorganize the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA). The draft bill will re-establish the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) and enable the agency to have institutional autonomy and disseminate reliable information accordingly. The Council also deliberated on Ethiopian Space Policy, Constitution and Federalism indoctrination center, and civil society organizations (CSOs) law.

Joint Letter on Ethiopia's New Draft NGO Law (November 2018)
The undersigned international, regional and national human rights and development organisations write to urge your government to ensure that the draft Charities and Societies (CSO) Proclamation complies with regional and international human rights norms and standards relating to freedom of association. The tabling of the draft law represents a pivotal moment to address long standing deficits in existing legislation, create a robust and resilient civil society and an enabling environment for human rights defenders in Ethiopia. Authorities should ensure that the new text is in line with the African Commission’s Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and international law.

Ethiopia establishes Advisory Council to reform justice system (July 2018)
Ethiopia has established Law and Justice Advisory Council to reform the justice system, including the anti-terrorism law. The Council has 13 members, Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye told journalists today. Freedom of the mass media and access to information law, anti-terrorism law and charities and societies law are among the proclamations which caused public outcry and contradict with the constitution, he said. According to him, the Council established today is tasked to provide policy recommendations to the government for the amendment of the aforesaid laws and reform of the justice system.

Unchaining Our Human Rights Record (June 2018)
In his report on current affairs to the House of People's Representatives (HPR) this week, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (Ph.D.) boldly acknowledged previous accusations of torture and dark rooms. He then explained that the treatment of anti-constitutional activities as terrorism should not end with opposition party members, strongly affirming that some of the measures taken by the government were all anti-constitutional. In his report, he openly stated the need to amend the Anti-Terrorism legislation, the Charities and Societies Proclamation and the Mass Media Law.

Ethiopian parliament votes to end state of emergency (May 2018)
Ethiopian lawmakers voted to lift a state of emergency imposed three months ago across the country to curb widespread anti-government protests. The ending of the emergency rule two months before it was due to expire is the most significant reform so far by the country's young new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has promised change. The controversial emergency rule, imposed in mid-February after deadly protests, mainly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, led to several hundred arrests.

Ethiopia forces responded to anti-govt chants with bullets: U.N. backs probe (January 2018)
Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has in a press briefing called for a probe into the latest clash between the Ethiopian security forces and anti-government protesters. According to Ravina Shamdasani's statement issued on Tuesday January 23, the Amhara regional state government should ensure that its promised probe into the matter is "prompt, independent, impartial and effective." Seven people were killed when security forces discharged live bullets on festival goers who were taking part in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's Epiphany celebrations over the weekend.

Ethiopia Should Release All Political Detainees (January 2018)
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says it welcomes Ethiopia's decision this week to release 115 detainees, including several leading political figures. But it says the government should free all those imprisoned for holding opposing opinions. One of those freed Wednesday was Merera Gudina, a senior leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress party. Gudina was arrested in late 2015 and charged with collusion with groups outlawed by the Addis Ababa government.

Ethiopia Needs to Open Up Civic Space (May 2017)
The Ethiopian government has rejected requests by the United Nations and the European Union to investigate months of anti-government protests that left hundreds dead. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said not allowing an outside investigation was an issue of sovereignty. Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission has said at least 669 people were killed during the protests that began in November 2015 and led to the country's current state of emergency. Its report puts the blame for the unrest largely on opposition groups and foreign media and says security forces used "proportionate measures" to counter it. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited Ethiopia this week, told DW in an exclusive interview he would push the government to allow his agency to investigate rights abuses.

Ethiopia's Oromo leader, 2 others, finally charged with terrorism (February 2017)
Dr Merera Gudina, leading opposition figure in Ethiopia and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), has finally been charged with terrorism by Ethiopian prosecutors. Gudina is accused of meeting anti-government elements during a European tour last year. He was twice denied bail by the courts as the police continued to gather evidence for charges. The privately run Addis Standard news portal reported that the opposition chief was charged along with two others. Jawar Mohammed, a popular Oromo activist and Executive Director of the Oromia Media network, and Berhanu Nega, were also charged with terrorism. Ethiopia is currently under a six-month state of emergency imposed to quell spreading anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country. The protests which started in November last yearhas continued into this year.

Attack on Civil Society Escalates as Dissent Spreads (August 2016)
In the wake of the large-scale protests that rocked the Oromia region from November to March, the government, led by the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), has taken a number of measures aimed at stifling dissent. While consistent with EPRDF's authoritarian posture, these steps are a devastating blow to the country's independent media and civil society. While the initial trigger for the protests in Oromia was opposition to an unpopular government development plan, the scale and persistence of the protests in the country's largest and most populous region point to a deeper ethnic discontent after years of misrule.

Ethiopia's New Cybercrime Law Allows for More Efficient and Systematic Prosecution of Online Speech (June 2016)
The Ethiopian government has passed a dangerous cybercrime law that criminalizes an array of substantive computer activities including the distribution of defamatory speech, spam, and pornography online among others offenses. The law, dubbed the "Computer Crime Proclamation," was passed, the government says, in an effort to more accurately attune the country's laws to technological advances and provide the government better mechanisms and procedures to "prevent, control, investigate, and prosecute the suspects of computer crimes."

Civil society groups urge international community to address killing of Oromo protesters (January 2016)
Amnesty International, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, and the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders) urge Ethiopia’s development and international partners to address the killing of at least 140 protesters in the Oromia region since December 2015. On November 12, 2015, peaceful protests started in the Oromia Region, southwest of the capital, Addis Ababa, in response to measures taken to transfer the ownership of a community school and portions of a local forest to private investors. The protests have since expanded in scope and size against wider grievances concerning the expansion of Addis Ababa into the Oromia Region under the government’s Integrated Development Master Plan. They have also turned violent, resulting in the killing of protesters, and arrests of protesters and opposition leaders. The government’s labelling of the mostly peaceful protesters as “terrorists” on December 15, 2015 further escalated the response of the police, and the military.

Government lauds CSOs' development role (March 2015)
Speaking at the Third National Charities Good Practice Day held at Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Associations (CCRDA) conference hall, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen said that the number of development projects implemented, funds utilized, the number of people outreached, and the geographic coverage of charities has been encouraging. Although there remains a lot of room for improvement, the contribution of developmental charities certainly has been notable and worth appreciating in the areas decentralized health services, drastic reduction of extreme poverty,expansion of educational services and provision of potable water. "With regard to further enhancing our partnership and creating an enabling environment for charities to operate smoothly and carry out their developmental objectives, the government will continue to ensure that our legal frameworks are consistent with the developmental priorities of the country," said the Deputy Premier.

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Desalegn Before Bilateral Meeting (October 2014)
At the UN building in New York, PM Desalegn told President Obama, "we value also the support the United States has offered to us in terms of engaging the private sector, especially your initiative of the Power Africa program, which is taking shape... You know that through your initiative and the leaders of the United States, we have the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which is the most important program, where the private-public partnership is the initiative." President Obama told PM Desalegn, "we'll have an opportunity to talk about civil society and governance and how we can make sure that Ethiopia's progress and example can extend to civil society as well, and making sure that throughout the continent of Africa we continue to widen and broaden our efforts at democracy, all of which isn't just good for politics but ends up being good for economics as well -- as we discussed at the Africa Summit."

Secretary of State Kerry Shares Concerns about Arrests of Ethiopian Bloggers and Closing Space for Civil Society (May 2014)
Secretary Kerry is on travel to Addis Ababa to encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, and advance peace and security. He said,"I made clear to Ethiopian officials that they need to create greater opportunities for citizens to be able to engage with their fellow citizens and with their government by opening up more space for civil society. I shared my concerns about a young Ethiopian blogger that I met last year, Natnail Feleke, who, with eight of his peers, had been imprisoned. And I firmly believe that the work of journalists, whether it's print journalists or in the internet or media of other kinds, it makes societies stronger, makes them more vibrant, and ultimately provides greater stability and greater voice to democracy."

Individuals and Groups Cite Government Abuse in New Opposition Party Report (January 2014)
Members of Ethiopia's most prominent opposition party say they weren't doing anything wrong one day in late September when police officers came along to stop, question and detain them. Several members of the group had gathered in Kazanches, a central neighborhood in Ethiopia's capital city of Addis Ababa, to hand out flyers and promote a Sept. 29 demonstration. Having already secured governmental permission for their upcoming protest, they expected no interference.

CSO Law Stumbling Block in Mining Transparency Application (September 2013)
Ethiopia’s restrictive civil society law may remain as much of a stumbling block today as in 2009, as the country pushes forth with its efforts to be accepted as member of the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), with a reapplication in September. The EITI is a set of standards, which essentially requires a country to be transparent and accountable about revenues collected from its oil, gas and mineral resources. A country is expected to publish reconciled and audited reports of payments made by mining companies and revenues collected by the government in the sector, according to the EITI standards.

Jailed journalist Eskinder Nega calls for sanctions against Ethiopia (September 2013)
According to Nega, aid should have an impact on GDP growth. Ethiopia now ranks in the world's top ten fastest-growing economies, the pride of Eurocrats. But aid should also increase trade between donor and recipient, as was the case with US aid to Europe under the Marshall Plan. By this measure, Europe has failed. Ethiopian trade with China has exploded, while stagnating or shrinking with Europe. Again, China wins without lifting a finger.

News archive

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn elected by African heads of state as chairman of the African Union (February 2013)

Where is the Humanitarian Requirements Documents for 2013? (February 2013)

Cooperatives championed amid NGO restrictions (November 2012)

NGOs call for Ethiopian human rights reform (November 2012)

UN labour agency names five countries where ‘serious and urgent’ labour-rights cases need attention (November 2012)

German NGO pulls out of Ethiopia (November 2012)

German NGO pulls out of Ethiopia (November 2012)

Government continues to target peaceful Muslim protest movement(November 2012)

Joint Letter to Ethiopia on its Candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council (November 2012)

Joint letter to PM Desalegn requesting removal of arbitrary restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and association in Ethiopia (October 2012)

Why Europe should speak out about Ethiopia’s human rights (September 2012)

After Meles: what next for US aid in Ethiopia? (August 2012)

Bahrain and UN Human Rights Council (August 2012)

The passing of Meles Zenawi (August 2012)
EU praises Meles Zenawi (August 2012)

CSOs concerned about African Human Rights Council candidates (July 2012)

Climate of intimidation against rights defenders and journalists (July 2012)

International community must act against latest curbs on free speech in Ethiopia (July 2012)

Lessons on dealing with the Charities and Societies Proclamation (May 2012)

Amnesty International report highlights Charities and Societies Proclamation's stranglehold on NGOs(March 2012)

Ethiopia's human rights record poses awkward questions for its aid donors (February 2012)

Future of last remaining human rights monitoring NGO in the balance (February 2012)

UN experts disturbed at persistent misuse of terrorism law to curb freedom of expression (February 2012)

A decision by the Federal High Court undermines the survival of prominent national human rights organisation (November 2011) 

Violence against women on the rise (September 2011)

Britain and EU increase aid to Ethiopia while ignoring human rights warnings (August 2011)

Terrorism law undercuts free speech  (July 2011)

Ethiopia violates its own Constitution, Laws – US State Department report (April 2011) 

EU Parliament hearing on Development Aid and Human Rights (March 2011) 

Ethiopian Charities & Societies Agency shuts down organizations (February 2011)

The Ethiopian Charities and Societies Agency board upholds revocation of NGOs’ licenses, and the freezing of accounts (February 2011)

Four NGOs get government ban (February 2011) 

Human Rights Watch: Ethiopia uses Aid to Bribe Voters (October 2010)

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The foregoing information was collected by the ICNL Civic Freedom Monitor partner organization in Ethiopia.