The objective of the study tour was to closely study and draw lessons from the system of intergovernmental relations (IGR) of the German and Swiss Federations. Specifically, the study tour helped examine and draw lesson on the issue of accountability in IGR, the place and role of judicial organs, and the mechanism by which the overall system of intergovernmental relations is coordinated.
The group held meetings in Berlin on May 10-12, 2016, and in Switzerland on May 16-18, 2016.
The existence of processes and institutions that facilitate intergovernmental relations (IGRs) in areas of shared and overlapping responsibilities is one among the six main common characteristics of federations. Strong IGR is indispensable for effective functioning of a federal system. Intergovernmental relations are perhaps the least developed and least understood dimension of federalism in Ethiopia. This should not be surprising given the fact that Ethiopia is still a very young federation.
Recognizing the fact that intergovernmental relations are weak and inadequately institutionalized, the House of the Federation and the Ministry of Federal Affairs took an initiative to strengthen the mechanisms by developing an IGR Framework. This initiative was also endorsed by all the regional states. The major objective of this project is to develop and propose an IGR Legal/ Policy Framework that depicts what IGR in Ethiopia should look like and how interactions among the levels of government should be facilitated and managed.
In order to realize this objective, a steering team including of Speaker of the HoF, Minister of the MoFPA and regional presidents and Speakers was organized with the task of providing strategic guidance and direction for the task at hand and closely monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the project.
Under the steering committee, a technical team composed of senior experts and professionals was formed to carry out the technical activities of the project including assessing the IGR practice in Ethiopia, benchmarking other Federal Countries Experience, developing alternative IGR frameworks, organizing seminars and workshops for awareness creation and collection of feedbacks, and presenting proposals.
Since the inception of the project, a number of important activities have been undertaken. A complete assessment on the practice of IGRs in Ethiopia was conducted. The technical team exhaustively collected detailed information regarding the conduct of intergovernmental relations. Based on the information gathered, IGR’s audit was done so as to identify the strengths and gaps observed in the IGR system. Desk-based benchmarking of IGR practices of three Federations was then carried out.
Based on the above two major activities, a synthesis “Discussion Paper” on IGR practices was prepared. This served as a preliminary draft “gap analysis” for IGR in Ethiopia. Next, the technical team developed a Consultation Paper that contains alternative policy/ legal frameworks on which a number of consultation workshops were held, and important feedbacks that can enrich the development of the white paper were collected from all relevant stakeholders.
Having done all these steps, three important issues remain unsolved in the preparation of the white paper. These are the issue of accountability in the system, the place and role of judicial organs and the mechanism by which the overall system of intergovernmental relations is managed and coordinated in a sustainable manner. The purpose of this experience sharing visit is to draw lessons on the above three important issues thereby improve the final White Paper.