The country of 100 million people has been suffering from human rights violations and economic and social casualties for decades long. Despite the recent revivals in the economic sector, as reported by local and international authorities, which is pronounced as double-digit growth, Ethiopians have been struggling with untold challenges. Among these, human rights violations take the lead and non-profit organizations are one of the responsible stakeholders to tackle the issue.
However, the hands of non-profits have been tied not to engage in human rights agenda and advocacy works if they receive funding from foreign donors and aid agencies. In a country which relies on foreign funding, the introduction of such a proclamation unquestionably nocked down the non-profit sector and resulted in the shutting down of many NGOs participating in the human rights sector. Those NGOs that decided to continue receiving foreign funding changed their focus areas to other sectors, such as infrastructure development and direct service delivery while ignoring advocacy and human rights issues at all. The irony is that, for example, getting educational or health services is a human right issue and an organization working in any service sector cannot detach itself from ´´human rights“ in one way or another. When you are working to improve educational quality, you are saying that getting a quality education is the right of students and they deserve it. However, NGOs are so afraid to use the term human rights to the extent that they replace the word in their project documents with the likes of ´´concern“. So, what is the prospect of human rights and the role of NGOs in the sector?
Well, after the appointment of its new prime minister, Ethiopia is going through both hopes and uncertainties. Despite the aroma of change aired on the media, deep policy and structural changes are not yet in place and the future of human rights still remains blurred. In the meantime, NGOs in the country should come forward and social change agents, especially the youth need to collaborate to bring down the repressive proclamation. Now is the time to take advantage of the half-opened windows of opportunity and bring the agenda of human rights into the table. I hope to update you on future changes.