The Forum in Ethiopia


Ethiopia is one of the oldest states in Africa. The most well-known of all Ethiopian emperors, Haile Selassie, ruled the country from 1930 until 1974, with the exception of the period during which Ethiopia was under military occupation by the armed forces of Benito Mussolini’s Italy, from 1936–1941. Selassie was overthrown in 1974 by the Provisional Military Council, known as the Derg, which proclaimed Ethiopia a socialist state. The Derg was in turn ousted by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) in 1991.

In 1994, a Constituent Assembly adopted a new draft constitution approved in a referendum and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was proclaimed in 1995. Meles Zenawi became the first Prime Minister of the new Federal Democratic Republic in 1995, and after his death in August 2012, the current Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took office.


With more than 80 ethnic communities, ethnicity is the underlying organizing principle of Ethiopia’s federal parliamentary democracy. Article one of the 1996 Ethiopian Constitution states that Ethiopia is a federal nation.

In 1996 the fourteen historical provinces of Ethiopia were dissolved and nine autonomous regions and two chartered cities (Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa) created to replace them. Six of these regions are inhabited almost entirely by a single ethnic group each, with the three remaining regions more ethnically diverse.

The Ethiopian Parliament consists of the House of Federation (the upper house), and the House of Peoples’ Representatives (the lower house), whose members in both cases are elected either by state councils or popular elections. The highest executive authority in Ethiopia resides with the Prime Minister.

The federal authorities deal with issues of national concern, including economic and social development, national standards and policy criteria for health and education, defense, federal police, foreign policy, foreign commerce, and immigration.

Current Work

Project Title: Federal Governance in Ethiopia: Strengthening Peace, Democracy and Good Governance

November 2014 – April 2016

Funder: German Federal Foreign Office

Strengthening Leadership Capacity of Key Federal Governance Institutions

Three leading federal governance institutions in the GOE – the House of Federation, Ministry of Federal Affairs, and Ministry of Urban Development – undertook a needs assessment to identify priority leadership competencies affecting their institutions’ capacity to fulfill their mandates and plans. Senior internal staff were then selected for classroom and on-site training to help them coach their colleagues in (a) identifying federal governance goals relevant to their departments and (b) identifying and implementing a leadership plan (individual and group) to contribute toward their FG goals and thereby strengthening federal governance. Activities implemented in 2015-16 included:

Strengthening capacity of national partners to develop, maintain and broaden federalism-leadership development

This program is a continuation of our TOT work undertaken in Phase 2, which created massive demand from federal and regional institutions for more such collaboration with FOF, with some modification to include post-training event coaching skills for the new trainers. Activities implemented in 2015-16 included:

Strengthening Constitutional Interpretation and Adjudication at Federal and Regional Levels

Again, this continued some exciting work initiated in Phase 2 but on a relatively minor scale due to funding limits. During Phase 2 our activities had helped build a better understanding and consensus on what the weaknesses and needs for strengthening constitutional interpretation and adjudication are in Ethiopia, and the Forum played a central role in revising the law guiding the CI practices.

Expected Outcomes:

The planned outcomes were:

  1. Strengthen the system of intergovernmental relations (IGR).
  2. Conduct and build capacity for inclusive public dialogue on federal governance.
  3. Strengthen leadership capacity in strategic institutions whose performance has major influences on democratic federal governance, peace and security.
  4. Strengthen capacity of national partners to develop, maintain and broaden federalism-leadership development.
  5. Strengthen constitutional interpretation and adjudication at federal and regional levels.

Past Work

The Forum ran two-year program (April 2012 – March 2014) on “Leading Federal Development in Ethiopia” funded by the German Foreign Ministry. This is an extension of a previous Forum three year program in Ethiopia.

The phase 2 program made a significant contribution to the deepening of federalism in Ethiopia and thereby to democratic development and sustainable peace by strengthening the capacity of individual leaders as well as their institutions in promoting open dialogue, more effective and inclusive policy making, addressing leadership and capacity gaps and enhancing constitutional development.

Toward this aim, the project delivered the following two outcomes:

1. Institutionalized Sustainable Capacity for Leadership Committed to Democratic Federalism

The outcome created a large group of influential individuals and organizations (governmental and non-state actors) throughout the country that have the capacity to deliver their own federalism-leadership training and dialogue. These leaders then reached thousands of others to deeply impact the political discourse and policy processes which produced more effective, long-term stability and stronger democratic development.

2. Strengthened Constitutional Adjudication

The outcome was structural.  Procedural reforms and human resource development at federal and regional levels implemented constitutional interpretation in a manner envisioned in the constitution and improved public faith in democratic development and supremacy of the constitution which contributed for sustainable peace and stability in the country.