Legal Empowerment of the Poor

Beginning in the early 1990s, Africa in general and the Greater Horn in particular, have been experiencing a major ground swell of social, economic, cultural and political changes. While the movement towards fundamental political change is remarkable, there are certain formidable challenges that will make the transition to a stable, democratic and pluralist system of governance very difficult. The cultural, historical, political and socioeconomic conditions of this troubled region are not simply too conducive to the emergence of strong democratic polity. This is indeed the context within which the legal empowerment of the poor has to be recognized. It is difficult to anticipate and legal protection of rights when from Darfur to Northern Uganda, from the Red Sea to the banks of the Zaire; genocidal marauders go left unchecked by the international community.

An array of declarations, communiqués and action programmers’, notwithstanding, the human development crisis and progress towards pluralism and the rule of law continues unabated. Massive militarization and persistent armed conflicts, economic crisis manifested by absolute poverty and a vicious socio-political environment, has rendered societies and polities one of the tragic scenes of present day human crisis, rendering whole populations chronically dependent on international food aid charity.

The High Level Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor (HLCLEP) has been set-up as yet another attempt in the evolution of centers of excellence that seek to augur on new policy and strategic trajectories to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in a more radical way. Its core mission to “secure, enforceable property and labour rights, within an enabling environment that expands legal business opportunity and access to justice” is yet a novel attempt at bringing in marked changes in the fulfillment of sustainable livelihoods: a set of normative goals and an integrative concept which aims simultaneously to maintain or enhance resource productivity, secure their ownership of and access to assets, resources and income earning activities, and ensure adequate stocks and flows of goods and services. 

Download the concept Note here for further reading.

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Responses to Homelessness and its Impacts in Ethiopia

Housing forms an indispensable part of ensuring human dignity since it is essential for health, privacy and personal space, security and protection from inclement weather, and social space.  In this context, “adequate housing” en­compasses more than just the four walls of a room and a roof over one’s head.  However, population growth, migration to urban areas, conflicting needs for existing land, and insufficient financial and natural resources have resulted in widespread homelessness and habitation in inadequate housing. In every country children, men and women sleep on sidewalks, under bridges, in cars, subway stations, and public parks, live in ghettos and slums, or "squat" in buildings other people have abandoned. The United Nations estimates that there are over 100 million homeless people and over 1 billion people worldwide inadequately housed.

In Ethiopia, these problems are felt broadly and in depth throughout urban centers across the country due to various reasons. One major cause is the irregular pattern of urban growth leading to the emergence of slums’ and homelessness. This is especially true for the situation in Addis Ababa where housing is a serious problem in terms of availability and quality. According to one study,

-        75% of the total population of the city is living in overcrowded houses or dilapidated structures, under unhygienic conditions, lacking basic urban services like safe drinking water and sewage, and in sprawling informal settlements with growing number of shacks.

-        85% of the housing structures in Addis Ababa are dilapidated and would have to be demolished or rehabilitated in a costly manner. They are in their major without the minimum basic infrastructure such as flushing toilets and connection to the sewer system.

-        An estimated 80% of the 150,000 kebele houses have serious problems of maintenance and are in a very bad shape. Up to 50% of the population is without fixed employment.

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Assessment of National Response to Child Labor in Ethiopia

This post, which was originally part three of a larger report, seeks to assess the national response to child labour in Ethiopia in light of the international standards identified in the previous part of the report. The assessment principally focuses on the ratification of international instruments relevant to child labour and harmonization of legislation with their stipulations. Since Ethiopia does not yet have a comprehensive policy on child labour, the assessment does not directly cover issues that have to be addressed though the policy framework.

1.    Ratification of International Instruments

Ethiopia is a signatory to the UDHR and has ratified the major international human rights instruments including the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) as well as the ACHR and the ACRWC. The ILO Convention Minimum Age Convention 138 (1973) and ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour 182 (1999) have also been ratified.

Table 1: Status of Ratification of Major Child Labor Instruments

International Instrument

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The Right to Bail in Cases Involving Sexual Offences against Children

1 Introduction

This post was originally prepared for use in the internal publications of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission in an effort to strengthen the engagement of the Commission in protecting and promoting the rights of victims of sexual offences while at the same time ensuring the due process rights of the accused. However, it never got to see the light of day for reasons unrelated to its content. Now that we are done with the adoption of a criminal justice administration policy and taking up the revision of the criminal procedure code, it may be time to give it another try.

Children are the most vulnerable individuals in our society; they are also the most precious commodity that the world has and have a right to be protected from all forms of abuse

2  Trends in the Prevalence of Sexual Offences against Children

Sexual offences, especially those against children, are among the least reported offences in countries like Ethiopia. This has to do with the private nature of the settings in which the offences take place, the relationship of vulnerability between the victims and perpetrators, cultural tolerance of some forms of sexual violence against children, inaccessibility of the formal legal system to child victims and their families and other structural causes. Whatever the case, it is impossible to draw a comprehensive picture of the prevalence of sexual offences against children in Ethiopia.

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What is the 'good' in good governance?

1. Introduction

The purpose of this piece is to highlight the link between good governance and democracy. Through an examination of the key components of both, it argues that the two concepts are indeed one and the same: ‘good governance’ is but a sanitized name for ‘democratic governance’. (I have to admit a level of dislike for the term ‘good governance’ which, for me, suggests that it is an option rather than an obligation tied to a set of fundamental rights.)

2. Meaning and Elements of Good Governance

The word ‘governance’ is a noun normally used to designate a system or manner of government, the act or state of governing, or control or formal authority and as a synonym for management, administration, direction, or control. So, taken literally, ‘good governance’ would mean a good system of government, good standard of governing, or good practice in exercising formal authority to govern. While this literal translation may be applicable to many instances of everyday use, such as corporate governance or organizational governance, good governance takes an additional meaning with reference to the management of public affairs. In this sense, it describes

“…the transparent and accountable management of human, natural, economic and financial resources for the purposes of equitable and sustainable development” within “a political and institutional environment that upholds human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law”.

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Access to Justice and Legal Aid in Ethiopia

This is a brief article I wrote for the internal newsletter of the EHRC; it never got published due to delays in the coming out of the newsletter. I have planned to update it with additional information on recent events such as the new mandate of the MoJ to provide assistance to ‘women and children’ in civil cases. The intensified criminal legal aid activities of the Public Defenders Office under the Federal Supreme Court should also be mentioned. Finally, one should be wary of the current status of CSO/NGO legal aid programs in light of the post-Charities and Societies Proclamation challenges. As far as I can tell, the only ones that have survived are those supported through the EHRC funding initiative. Anyway, I believe the original version could serve as a starting point until I (or someone else) can come up with a revised version. So, here it is.

2.    Meaning and Recognition as a Right

The right of access to justice generally guarantees that every person has access to an independent and impartial process and the opportunity to receive a fair and just trial when that individual’s liberty or property is at stake. However, access to justice does not always involve judicial recourse but the availability of accessible, affordable, timely and effective means of redress or remedies.

Access to Justice is recognized under the international human rights instruments Ethiopia has ratified including: the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the  African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). For instance, articles 7 and 8 of the UDHR and article 14 of the ICCPR state that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to effective remedy against violations of fundamental rights.

Access to justice is also recognized as a right in the FDRE Constitution. At the outset, the rights and standards recognized in these international and regional instruments become part of Ethiopian law upon ratification. Since Ethiopia has ratified all of the above listed international human rights agreements, the rights recognized therein including access to justice have become part of the domestic law. Moreover, Article 37(1) of the Constitution expressly guarantees access to justice to all citizens. This constitutional provision reads:

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