Forum official speaks at Ethiopian institute for federal studies

The Forum’s Senior Director for Global Programs, Rupak Chattopadhyay (centre), delivers a presentation on Lessons from Indian Federalism. This was the first event in the public seminar series of the new Institute of Federalism at Addis Ababa University. Over 70 participants included students, faculty, civil society activists, government officials, parliamentarians and international guests.

The Institute of Federal Studies at Ethiopia’s University of Addis Ababa recently hosted its inaugural public lecture, where Rupak Chattopadhyay, the Forum’s Senior Director of Global Programs, delivered a talk on lessons from Indian federalism.

The event was organized around a mission to Ethiopia by Mr. Chattopadhyay and Shawn Houlihan, the Forum’s director for Africa, to hold preparatory discussions with the Government of Ethiopia about organization of the 5th International Conference on Federalism in 2010.

The presentation touched on three topics:

  • historical foundations of pluralism in India and its impact on institutional development and the consolidation of democratic politics.
  • significant features of Indian federalism, such as its provision of an institutional framework for managing cultural diversity through a quasi-federal constitution, while simultaneously creating a strong sense of nationhood.
  • future challenges to federalism in India, including the management of intergovernmental relations, a need which became apparent with the decline of the Indian National Congress as the dominant political party at both the central government and in the states.

During discussions, Mr. Chattopadhyay noted that despite Ethiopia’s recent arrival on the federal scene – Ethiopia became a federal country in 1995 – other countries could learn from its unique institutional arrangements for Ethiopia’s regions. These innovations took place in the state of Harar and the state of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples. He also noted that Ethiopia’s decision to host the 5th International Conference on Federalism will provide a unique opportunity for Ethiopia to display its considerable achievements, while learning from the experiences of others.

The Forum’s current program in Ethiopia includes providing ongoing support to the institute, carrying out of a comprehensive needs assessment in fiscal federalism and addressing issues concerning intergovernmental relations.

The Feb. 7, 2008, event was attended by about 50 academics, civil society activists, government functionaries and politicians.

Participants included several members of Parliament from the House of People’s representatives, and the Chairman of the Nationalities Standing Committee of House of the Federation, the Speaker of Southern Nations’ Council of Nationalities and the Leader of the Opposition in parliament were among the practitioners present on this occasion.

Senior officers and department heads of the Ministry of Federal Affairs also attended as well as staff, students and faculty from the University of Addis Ababa and the Civil Service College.

Opening remarks were delivered by Mr. Gurjit Singh, the Ambassador of India to Ethiopia. The session was chaired by Professor Mohammad Habib, director of the institute and Vice President of the University of Addis Ababa.

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