A Regional conference under the title "Federalism for Peace, Democracy and Development: Experience Exchange on Federalism and Decentralization in the East Africa Region” was held from 25-27 February 2013, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
This event was organized by the House of Federation in collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), UNDP and the Forum of Federations. The idea of this regional conference was conceived during and after the 5th International Conference on Federalism held in Addis Ababa in December 2010. Many of the participants from the regions and other interested individuals expressed their interest in organizing similar events for exchanging lessons and experiences regarding the implementation of federal and decentralized arrangements within African regional contexts. The February 2013 conference drew more than 120 senior government officials, policy makers, and experts from the IGAD member countries (Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea), delegates of different international organizations and ambassadors of countries that follow federalism. The objective of the conference was to exchange knowledge and experiences on various aspects of federalism and decentralization from the Africa regional context in general and East Africa in particular.
The opening remarks were convened by H. E. Kassa TekleBerhan, Speaker of the House of Federation of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Langenbacher Dominik, Ambassador of Switzerland, Eugene Owusu, UNDP Resident Representative, UN Resident Coordinator and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Rupak Chattopadhyay, President and CEO of the Forum of Federations, and Mohaboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD. All speakers emphasized the need of sharing experiences on federalism and decentralization and their willingness to support such kind of forums in the feature.
The keynote address on the "Concepts and Principles of Federalism: Application, Prospects and Challenges” was delivered by professor Thomas Fleiner, a renowned international scholar, professor of constitutional and administrative law and former director of the Institute of Federalism at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Professor Andreas Eshete presented on "Coming to Terms with Diversity: The Ethiopian Experience” along with Dr. Rupak Chattopadhyay who spoke on "Diversity and Federalism”. Dr. Ash Narain Roy from India and Dr Akpan Ekpo presented papers on fiscal federalism titled "Federalism is about who gets what, when and how” and "Fiscal Federalism: Public Finance Issues and Selected Experiences”, respectively. Dr. Omer Awadalla Ali from Sudan and Mohamed Habib from Ethiopia spoke on constitutional models and systems of governance of their respective countries. John Mutakha Kangu from Kenya and John Garang Awan Mayom from South Sudan presented their papers on social service delivery in federal and decentralized governance systems.
One of the main points emphasized in the conference was that federalism â€˜is a permanent work in progress’ – it may address old issues but may also bring new challenges. For federalism as a dynamic institutional arrangement to succeed, various actors need to work and reinvent continuously. It can be used for ensuring development, peace and as a flexible arrangement for nation building where multiple identities find a proper place for unity in diversity.
Important lessons have been shared in the three day event and it was agreed that IGAD takes the lead role along with other partners to organize future regular events that provide platform for sharing experiences.