Local non-governmental organisations are essential drivers of change in Ethiopia

Published: Feb 5, 2024 Reading time: 4 minutes
Local non-governmental organisations are essential drivers of change in Ethiopia
© Foto: Mihiret Wasihun

Engaging and incorporating local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is critical in humanitarian settings. Establishing cooperation and partnerships with locals is one cornerstone of achieving common goals. Such partnerships achieve the highest results by targeting local needs and decreasing resource waste. Taking this into consideration, People in Need (PIN) engage CSOs in humanitarian activities all around the world.

With 20 years of work in Ethiopia, our development and humanitarian interventions country-wide reached over one million beneficiaries. We implemented these projects in cooperation with other INGOs, universities, and research institutes without strong engagement with local CSOs or NGOs. Engaging local CSOs and NGOs is integral to achieving development goals.

“Creating partnerships with local CSOs is essential. Working with local CSOs has become mandatory in recent years to access donor funding for emergency and development programmes. Developing joint proposals with local CSOs is a key criterion that most donors prefer. They believe this will enhance the capacity of the local CSOs and enhance a project’s impact,” says Amare Demisse, Deputy Head of Programs at PIN Ethiopia.

Since the Ethiopian government enacted a new law respecting the right to organise in April 2019, the Authority for Civil Society Organisations (ACSO) have re-registered over 1,805 existing organisations and registered over 1,300 new CSOs (https://acso.gov.et/en). With so much potential for many different CSOs, coordinated partnerships are pivotal in achieving goals.

Fiseha Mezgebu, director of the CSO Nexus Ethiopia, believes that strategic partnerships are essential to transform and empower local CSOs meaningfully, providing a complete picture of the aid localisation agenda. He explains that collaboration with INGOs holds significance beyond the budgets or projects. He says: 

“Partnering with an international NGO is important for us in many ways. Above all, our perception of partnerships is not based on our budget or the number of projects we have. By partnering with an international NGO, we, as a local CSO, get the opportunity to learn, share experiences, contribute to capacity and system development, and ensure localised and sustainable programming. We also have the opportunity to improve our international NGO partners' abilities to get easy access to operate, get local information, and link with local governments, amplifying our joint efforts and benefitting affected communities.”

To ensure the increased impact and sustainability of our interventions, we seek to forge a strategic partnership with CSOs so we can pursue long-term development goals more vigorously with the effective support of all partners. The partnerships promote local ownership, autonomy, and self-sufficiency and enhance approaches to advocacy.

Amare Demisse from PIN agrees that working with local CSOs is advantageous as the organisations know the target communities' local context, norms, culture, and language. Such partnerships ease project implementation in remote areas that INGOs cannot cover. They also reduce the cost of human resources and logistics, avoid the need to open offices, and contribute to the sustainability of project outputs.

PIN Ethiopia engaged in an assessment where it was able to identify engagement gaps and seek options that could enable it to strengthen and boost CSO contributions. To achieve this purpose through the Partnership Investment Fund, we proposed identifying local development partners in the three regions where we have been active (Sidama, SNNP, and Oromia).

The assessment began by explaining what partnership means and designing how to do partnership mapping, assessment, and verification. It concluded with partnership capacity-building training. We then mapped the list of local NGOs and grouped them according to their thematic and geographical locations. Finally, we conducted a partnership survey.

Fisseha Mezgebu, director of Nexus Ethiopia, was among the management team members from 15 local NGOs who attended financial management training, the C4C annual workshop, and Alliance 2015 learning sessions. 

“We have witnessed various good practices in strategic partnership assessment, capacity development support, and networking. The approach of PIN towards partnership and localisation is truly unique," he says.

We shared our organisational management experiences with 17 local NGOs through capacity-building training. Participants learned about financial management, monitoring and evaluation, procurement, community feedback response mechanism (CFRM), safeguarding, emergency operations, HR, logistics, and fleet management principles and disciplines. Among the organisations, we identified nine potential local NGOs who successfully met the GO-NOGOs requirements. We also organised three days of virtual partnership advisor support. 

Fisseha claims: “From my observation, PIN’s strategic partnership is multidimensional and innovative. It is strategic and empowers partners. It considers local CSOs as key actors in the sector and equal partners. They reinforce their partnerships with capacity sharing, and they connect CSOs to learning platforms and coordination mechanisms such as Alinace2015. They also facilitate networking with different platforms that can support the local CSOs in many ways.”

Currently, we are working intensively to establish partnerships with local CSOs in our intervention areas, both for emergency and development programmes. In doing so, we assign a partnership focal person to work with our global partnership advisor to learn about the experiences of other country programmes.

We have prioritised establishing strategic partnerships with different local CSOs in Ethiopia as a key aspect of our country programme strategy. In 2023, we identified 13 local CSOs and were able to sign a strategic partnership agreement and conduct essential training with three of them. We will continue the same with the others in 2024. We also aim to connect local CSOs with national-level networks, platforms, and alliances.
Autor: Hassina Ousman Nurie

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