The Authority for Civil Society Organizations posted a notice on its official Facebook page on Nov 10, 2021, ordering civil society organizations to obey the law that requires the organizations to notify the Agency before expats enter the country to work adding that it would take legal measures against those that do not abide by the law.
Accordingly, the Council of Ethiopian Civil Societies has shown support for the Agency's notice on the issue of foreigners’ recruitment in civil societies that operate in Ethiopia. Secretary-General of the Council, Bizuwork Fantaye, told Addis Zeybe that enforcing the implementation of the law will urge Ethiopians who have the same skill and capability as that of the foreigners to work in civil societies.
The FDRE Civil Society Organizations Proclamation in its article 76 provision regarding the employment of foreigners states that “No Organization may employ a Foreign National who is not given work permit under the relevant laws, Notwithstanding the stipulation under sub-article 1, a Foreign Organization shall not be barred from appointing a Foreign National as its country representative, Foreign Nationals other than the Country representative may only be hired if the office granting work permit verifies that the work cannot be performed by Ethiopians, and the provisions of Sub-Article 3 shall not apply to Foreign Nationals who are not salaried employees but come to Ethiopia to professionally contribute by working as volunteers for a period not exceeding one year.”
The Secretary-General says that the council is in favor of this system and also shares the Authority’s concern which led it to the decision of enforcing the implementation of the law.
“Some civil society organizations recruit foreigners for a job in rural areas where employing an Ethiopian, who is familiar with the language and the culture of the area, would have been more effective,” he said.
Director-General of the Authority, Jima Dilbo, in his part says that they want to remind CSOs of the law because his office is observing some organizations, especially foreign organizations, recruiting foreigners to work in the country without respecting the law of the country.
“There are CSOs that recruit foreigners to do a particular work which can be done by Ethiopians. They want to benefit foreigners with the funds they get from donors for something that is misquoted as ‘mutual benefits,”
In such cases, the organizations will be asked to present a succession plan of an Ethiopian on the position when they try to renew the work grant then the organizations will only be given a three and four months period for the CSOs to train an Ethiopian on the position, as Jima noted.
According to Liku Worku, legal consultant for different CSOs, whom Addis Zeybe asked if the authority’s notice is right according to law says, in the proclamation issued in 2019, it is elaborated the sub-articles that if the organizations can verify that a particular work cannot be performed by Ethiopians, the maximum period of the grant to train an Ethiopian worker is one year. When the one-year period ends, the organizations shall renew the permit.
However, Ambassador Tadele Derseh, Director of Vision Ethiopia Congress for Democracy, argues against the notice saying, “First of all, every CSO has its own set of goals and procedures. So training and qualifying the recruited staff should not be mandatory. Besides, choosing the employee of an organization should have to be left to the office. Thus I don’t think the law is appropriate in many aspects.”
He also stresses that the authority is not making it clear whether the new notice is applicable to the former foreign employees and says it does not fit well with such organizations.
Responding to Tadele's concern, the Director-General of the authority responds that the law will not affect former employers as long as they stick with other regulations of the authority.
On the other hand, chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations, Gashaw Shibabaw, told Addis Zeybe that he takes a similar stance with the Authority’s decision, understanding that giving an opportunity for skill-building for professionals in the local society is a very important step to strengthen the growth of a country.
“For this reason, any foreigner who takes a job position to operate in the CSOs of the country should be someone who is willing to train an Ethiopian to execute in his/her position.”
On August 14, 2021, the Civil Society Organizations Authority announced that it was investigating 11 CSOs that were found to be operating outside the legal framework during discussions with stakeholders regarding the performance of the 2013/ 2014 Ethiopian fiscal year. The authority stated that compliance with the Ethiopian law should be the primary obligation of CSOs, noting that legal action will be taken against the aggrieved organizations.
Asked of whether the Authority’s notice appeared due to its finds in the recent investigations instigated by the current situation in the country, the Director says, "It is certain that in the current context of Ethiopian politics, civil society organizations must be free of any political affiliation and we are doing a lot of work with that, however, this notice has nothing to do with the investigation and is aimed at enforcing the due law that would benefit Ethiopians.”