The Contributions of Mass Based Organizations in Enhancing Public Participation in Ethiopia

A Case Study of the Addis Ababa Women’s Association

Master's Thesis, 2015

98 Pages



Abbreviations and Acronyms

1 Introduction
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Statement of the Problem
1.3 Purpose of the Study
1.4 Objectives of the Study
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Delimitations of the Study
1.7 Significance of the Study

2 Literature Review
2.1 Participation
2.1.1 Meaning of Public Participation
2.1.2 Perceptions/Purposes of Public Participation
2.1.3 Mobilization and Public Participation
2.1.4 Measuring Participation
2.2 Analytical Framework: Relevance of Civil Society to Public Participation
2.2.1 Social Activity
2.2.2 Politicization
2.2.3 Leadership
2.2.4 Responsiveness

3 Research Methodology
3.1 Research Design
3.2 Sources of Information
3.3 Data Collection Tools

4 Findings of the Study
4.1 Ideological Basis of the Concept and Role of MBOs
4.1.1 MBOs During the Armed Struggle
4.1.2 MBOs After the Fall of the Military Regime (Dergue)
4.2 Policy Framework on MBOs
4.2.1 The Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Programme
4.2.2 The Plan for Accelerated and Sustainable Development to End Poverty
4.3 Case Study: The Addis Ababa Women’s Association
4.3.1 Profile of the Association
4.3.2 Membership and Social Activity
4.3.3 Politicization of Members
4.3.4 Leadership of the Association
4.3.5 Responsiveness to Members

5 Conclusions and Recommendations
5.1 Conclusions
5.1.1 Ideological Basis
5.1.2 The Policy Framework
5.1.3 Membership
5.1.4 Social Activity
5.1.5 Politicization
5.1.6 Leadership
5.1.7 Responsiveness
5.2 Recommendations


A) Books and Articles

B) International Agreements Laws and Policies

C) EPRDF Documents

D) Addis Ababa Women’s Association Documents


a) List of Persons Contacted

b) Compiled Data Collection Questions

c) Interview Questions for Experts

d) Interview Questions for EPRDF Leadership

e) Interview Questions for Experts

f) FGD Guidelines and Discussion Questions for Interviews with Members of AAWA

Acknowledgem ents

This thesis could not have been completed without the support and contributions of a number of people. Foremost, my advisor Yetayew Alemayehu deserves the credit for the clear direction he provided to guide me in the design of the thesis. I am also grateful to the leadership, staff and members of the Addis Ababa Women’s Association. Special thanks to the President Almaz Abrha, Mussie Yasin, Genet Wehibe, Chala Gidissa and Azeb Feleke. I am also indebted to Tsehay Negatu and Adanech Alula of the Addis Ketema Women’s Association as well as Birtukuan Tujuba of Woreda 8 Women’s Association. The contributions of Debebe Haile- Gebriel and Manyawkal Mekonnen, both experts on civil society issues, were also instrumental.

On a more personal note, I would like to thank all of my family and friends who have borne with me throughout my studies leading up to this thesis. Special thanks to Metiku Woldegiorgis, Buruktawit Metiku (Nani), Mebrahtu Woldu, Lemlem Habty, Eyob Ayenachew, Ruth Girma, Melon Girma (Melee), Yoseph Endeshaw and Markos Retta. I would not have done it without your support and encouragement.

Abbreviations and Acronyms

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Universal Declaration on Human Rights United Nations

United Nations General Assembly

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

World Bank

1 Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

The importance of public participation in a democratic system cannot be overestimated. (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 1) Public participation in fact forms the very essence of democratic governance in the modern understanding of the term. (Abelson, et al. 2003, 241) In the words of one author:

“It is part of the definition of democracy, and fundamental to all democratic theories, that private citizens should have the opportunity to vote in elections, to organize political parties and pressure groups, and to give public expression to their views on political issues without fear of reprisals if their views happen to be unpopular with the government of the day.'’" (Birch 2007, 146)

In fact public participation is such a pervasive concept in our modern understanding of democracy, it is considered “part of the very definition of democracy” and “democracy without citizen deliberation and participation is ultimately an empty and meaningless concept”. (Creighton 2005, 1 & 2)

This prominence of public participation has found expression in the international and regional human rights frameworks. Such recognition takes the form of recognizing the various ‘participation rights’ in the core human rights instruments. These rights fall into three inter­related categories: freedom of association and assembly; freedom of opinion, expression, press and information; and, the right to vote and be elected.

The right to freedom of association is recognized under the major international and regional human rights instruments including the UDHR, ICCPR, UNCRC and ACHPR. The core provisions recognizing the freedom of association are found in the texts of the UDHR and ICCPR. The UDHR recognizes the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association including the right not to be compelled to belong to an association. (UN GA 1948, 20/1 and 20/2) The ICCPR guarantees the right to freedom of association with others including the right to form and participate in trade unions. (UN GA 1966, 22/1) In the exercise of this right, the Covenant permits only those legally prescribed necessary restrictions “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others’", except ‘lawful restrictions’ on the armed forces and the Police. (UN GA 1966, 22/2) The right to form and join trade unions is also recognized under the ICESCR in very similar terms. (UN GA 1966, 8/1/1) The ICCPR also recognizes the right to peaceful assembly subject to restrictions identical to those permitted under the provision dealing with freedom of association. (UN GA 1966, 21) The right to assemble freely with others is also enshrined under these international instruments. (UN GA 1966, 21/1 and 21/2)

The UDHR recognizes the right to freedom of opinion and expression as inclusive of the right to hold opinions, and seek and exchange information using any media. (UN GA 1948, 19) The ICCPR similarly provides for ‘the right to hold opinions without interference’ and freedom of expression, understood as freedom to seek and exchange any information, in any form and in whatever medium. (UN GA 1966, 19/1 and 19/2) The right to freedom of opinion is guaranteed as an absolute right that cannot be restricted or interfered with in any manner. On the other hand, recognizing that the exercise of freedom of expression entails parallel duties and responsibilities, the ICCPR provides for grounds for legally prescribed necessary restrictions relating to protection of the rights of others as well as protection of national security, public order, public health, and morals. (UN GA 1966, 19/3) The ICCPR also excludes ‘propaganda for war’ and ‘ advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred’ from the purview of protections under freedom of expression. (UN GA 1966, 20/1 and 20/2)

The right to take part in government is guaranteed by the UDHR and the ICCPR as well as other treaties and declarations. Moreover, the meaningful exercise of this right is contingent upon a number of other rights including the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and association, and the rights to peaceful assembly. Conversely, the right is itself an essential element in the full enjoyment of a wide range of rights.

The FDRE Constitution has given cognizance to this range of participation rights through direct recognition as well as the incorporation of international human rights instruments ratified by Ethiopia into the country’s legal system.

The FDRE Constitution recognizes the right to freedom of association for any cause or purpose.1 The only exception relates to organizations formed, in violation of laws, or to illegally subvert the constitutional order, or which promote such activities. The Constitution also recognizes the right to voluntary membership in “a political organization, labour union, trade organization, or employers' or professional association” as well as “civic organizations which significantly affect the public interest” subject only to fulfilling the requirements stipulated by such organization.2 In addition, a ‘free and democratic’ electoral process is prescribed for the named organizations.

The FDRE Constitution provides for the right to hold opinions and the right to freedom of expression without any interference in wording very similar to the provisions of the ICCPR.3 The freedom includes “freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kind, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any media of one’s choice" 4 Moreover, the FDRE Constitution guarantees freedom of “the press and other mass media and freedom of artistic creativity” including by prohibiting censorship and providing for “access to information of public interest” as well as by laying down special protections to the Press and guiding principles for the operation of State financed media.5 Finally, the Constitution prohibits limitations based on “the content or effect of view expressed” and allows only for legally prescribed limitations aimed at protecting “the well-being of the youth, and the honour and reputation of individuals'”. Expressions of ‘propaganda for war’ and ‘public expression of opinion intended to injure human dignity’ are to be prohibited by law.

The FDRE Constitution also provides for the right to vote and be elected without discrimination to all Ethiopians. This right includes the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and stand for elected public office in accordance with the relevant laws.6 The right also extends Proclamation No. 1, 1995, Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Federal Negarit to voluntary membership in a political organization, labour union, trade organization, or 1 employers' or professional association subject to the requirements thereof.7

The Charities and Societies Proclamation (ChSP), which was issued in 2009 to regulate the Ethiopian civil society sector, has created an additional dimension to the situation. The proclamation has come up with a new typology of civil society, referred to in the proclamation as charities and societies, composed of three categories: Ethiopian charities or societies; Ethiopian o resident charities and societies; and, foreign charities and societies.8 This typology is based on the place of establishment, source of income, membership profile and membership residential status. Ethiopian Charities or Societies are institutions formed under the laws of Ethiopia, whose members are all Ethiopians, generate income from Ethiopia and are wholly controlled by Ethiopians. These organizations may not use foreign funds to cover more than 10% of their operational expenses. Similar institutions that receive more than 10% of their resources from foreign sources or whose members include Ethiopian residents are designated Ethiopian Resident Charities or Societies. Foreign Charities, on the other hand, are those formed under the laws of foreign countries, or whose membership includes foreigners, or foreigners control the organization, or the organization receives funds from foreign sources. The major distinction is that only Ethiopian Charities may engage in activities listed under Article 14(j-n) of the Proclamation. These include: the advancement of human and democratic rights; the promotion of equality of nations and nationalities and peoples and that of gender and religion; the promotion of the rights of disabled and children’s rights; the promotion of conflict resolution or reconciliation; and, the promotion of the efficiency of the justice and law enforcement services.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The ChSP singles out one sub-category of Ethiopian charities and societies for special favorable treatment. These are the mass based organizations. The proclamation identifies MBOs as inclusive of “professional associations, women’s associations, youth associations and other similar Ethiopian societies”.9 In dealing with the rights and duties of charities and societies the ChSP mandates MBOs to "... actively participate in the process of strengthening democratization and election, particularly in the process of conducting educational seminars on current affairs, understanding the platforms of candidates, observing the electoral process and cooperating with electoral organs”.10 The regulation issued pursuant to the ChSP also exempts MBOs such as women’s and youth associations from some of the regulatory requirements.11 (FDRE Council of Ministers 2009, 22/2 and 26/4) In practice, MBOs also receive significant support from the government in terms of material and technical assistance not routinely available to other Ethiopian charities and socieites.12 This support is even more extensive for MBOs situated in the regions.13

The prominent position accorded mass based organizations in the civil society regulatory regime in Ethiopia poses serious challenges in understanding their role in public participation. From a human rights perspective, one is bound to ask how far and to what extent these structures facilitate the exercise of ‘participation rights’ by citizens. In addition to the obvious possibility that these organizations can crowd out the more voluntary and self-driven forms of civil society, the very supportive environment created for them may lead to cooption by the state and stifle their efficacy in terms of ensuring meaningful participation.

This is particularly true for vulnerable and marginalized social groups including poor women and youth. These groups face significant barriers to participation including lack of education, lack of skills for participation, lack of confidence, limited ties with existing structures, lack of interest and limited trust. (Harvey 2010) To address these barriers, these social groups need social structures and incentives for public participation. This was generally achieved through social mobilization and self-help approaches outside the purview of the state. (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 2)

While all forms of organization and government aspiring to democratic governance pay homage to the idea of public participation, “its meaning, role, function and importance vary from culture to culture and political system to political system”. (Wengert 1976, 23) As such, different models have been developed to actually put public participation into practice. (Winter 2014, 25) These models of organized public participation are in essence a function of the specific perspective on the idea of civil society espoused by the government and society.

1.3 Purpose of the Study

This paper attempts to examine the theoretical foundations of MBOs in the Ethiopian context and assess their efficacy as vehicles for facilitating and enabling organized public participation in social, economic and political life of the country. In doing so, the paper will focus on women’s associations as representatives of the MBOs as understood under the ChSP.

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The general objective of this paper is to assess the contributions of mass based organizations in enhancing public participation in Ethiopia. More specifically, the paper seeks to assess:

- the extent to which MBOs provide members with the opportunity to participate in social activities;
- the extent to which participation in MBOs help members to acquire information and skills enabling them to understand and engage in political participation;
- to assess the extent to which MBOs provide members an opportunity to hold leadership positions thereby enabling them to develop leadership skills; and,
- the extent to which members of MBOs actually participate in political processes outside the associations.

1.5 Research Questions

The core question that would be answered through this study is: Are MBOs as understood in the Ethiopian legal system appropriate forums for social participation that would translate into political participation?

The following are the specific questions addressed in the study vis-à-vis the Addis Ababa Women’s Association:

- How open is the AAWA open to membership?
- What are the mechanisms in place to engage members in the internal and external activities of the AAWA?
- How does the AAWA help its members to acquire the necessary participation and leadership skills to more actively engage in political processes in their communities and the city as a whole?
- How does the AAWA elicit and accommodate the diverse interests of its members?

1.6 Delimitations of the Study

This study focuses principally on the AAWA as a representative of MBOs in Ethiopia. This puts some limits on the scope of the study in terms of the transferability of its findings to other MBOs.

The study also excludes the emergence and development of MBOs in the pre-EPRDF era in favor of examining the ideological basis of the concept within the TPLF/EPRDF and its implementation in the FDRE.

The study has consciously avoided prescribing a clear theoretical perspective on the role of MBOs instead opting for an exploratory and descriptive approach. Though this limits the scope of the study in favor of the perspective adopted by the EPRDF and FDRE government, it also enables consideration of the subject matter without the clutter of theoretical debate. To some extent, the study sought to address this issue through the adoption of a relevant analytical framework.

1.7 Significance of the Study

The current study seeks to address a topic that has not been given much attention in the Ethiopian context. While there are some studies that focused on mass based organizations, these were generally limited to attempts to find their place in the already defined space held by civil society organizations. Yet, the emergence and development of MBOs in their current form requires a more in-depth analysis of their basis, stated goals and operations in practice. This paper is an attempt to address this gap by re-directing attention to these issues. As such, the significance of this study could be seen in terms of introducing a new perspective in researching MBOs that is attuned to the overall academic practice as well as the actual Ethiopian context.

The paper could also serve to inform a critical re-examination of the current understanding of MBOs, their role in Ethiopian society and their place in the civil society sector in Ethiopia. More specific to the AAWA, the paper provides an opportunity to align the association’s structure and operations with its intended purposes as well as the relevant ideological, policy and legal context.

2 Literature Review

This chapter provides a review of the relevant literature on the topic of the paper and seeks to establish a framework for the assessment in the coming sections. The first section explores the concept of public participation and various models for measuring participation qualitatively and quantitatively. This is followed by a brief presentation of the assessment framework for the assessment of the role of MBOs in promoting public participation.

2.1 Participation

2.1.1 Meaning of Public Participation

The meaning of participation has evolved over time. For the Greek city states participation meant the participation of every ‘citizen’ in decision-making processes. In more recent times public participation has been revived in various contexts to mean different things.

“For the last twenty years, the concept of .participation has been widely used in the discourse of development. For much of this period, the concept has referred to participation in the social arena, in the community or in development projects. Increasingly, however, the concept of participation is being related to rights of citizenship and to democratic governance(Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 1)

Graham Smith defined public participation as “any action taken by an interested public (individual or group) to influence a decision, plan or policy beyond that of voting in elections”. (Smith 1984) In the development context, Paul Samuel defined community participation as “an active process by which beneficiary/client groups influence the direction and execution of a development project with a view to enhancing their well being in terms of income, personal growth, self reliance or other values they cherish”. (Samuel 1987, 2)

Participation has also been defined in terms of power and empowerment. Arnstein referred to community participation as “a categorical term for citizen power ... the redistribution of power that enables the ‘have-not’ citizens, presently excluded from the political and economic processes, to be deliberately included in the future”. (Arnstein 1969, 216) The link between empowerment and participation has been a subject of concern for scholarly work in the feminist perspective. In this context empowerment has been defined as “a process of awareness and capacity building leading to greater participation, to greater decision-making power and control, and to transformative action.” (Karl 1995, 14) Empowerment is understood in the sense of enabling women and other disadvantaged social groups to “take control of their own lives to set their own agendas, to organize to help each other and make demands on the state for support and on society itself for change”. (Razavi and Miller 1995, 34)

Gaventa and Valderrama draw out three forms or aspects of participation: social participation, political participation and citizen participation. (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 2) Social participation refers to “the organized efforts to increase control over resources and regulative institutions in given social situations, on the part of groups and movements hitherto excluded from such control”. (Stiefel and Wolfe 1994, 5) One writer defined community involvement and participation as “the involvement or participation of the community of households in both the mutual-help effort in, and the formal decision-making process on, the formulation and implementation of projects and programmes that affect them” (Choguill 1996, 432) A WB publication defined participation as “a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives, decisions and resources which affect them”. (Rietbergen- McCracken and Narayan 1998, 4)

Political participation has been defined as “... participation in the process of government, and the case for political participation is essentially a case for substantial numbers ofprivate citizens (as distinct from public officials or elected politicians) to play a part in the process by which political leaders are chosen and/or government policies are shaped and implemented(Birch 2007, 144) Thus, political participation could mean two things. In a narrower sense, it refers to participation in the election of representatives and officials. Nie and Verba have defined political participation as “those legal activities by private citizens that are more or less directly aimed at influencing the selection of governmental personnel and/or the actions they take”. (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 2) A broader understanding, on the other hand, would encompass the whole process of decision making within the state apparatus including the design and implementation of policies. Such a broad definition presents political participation as “takingpart in the process of formulation, passage and implementation of public policies'’". (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 3)

Citizen participation, on the other hand, is a broader term encompassing social and political participation and based on an understanding of citizenship rights enabling citizens to act as agents. (Gaventa and Valderrama 1999, 4) This agency of citizens goes beyond the usual indirect participation in representative democracy and anticipates the direct action of citizens in governance. One such definition understands public participation as “a process by which people, especially disadvantaged people, influence policy formulation and control design alternatives, investment choices, management and monitoring of development interventions in their communities’". (Schmidt 1996, 21) Similarly, in the context of urban upgrading, Imparato and Ruster have developed the following definition based on a number of foregoing definitions: “Participation is a process in which people, and especially disadvantaged people, influence resource allocation and policy and program formulation and implementation, and are involved at different levels and degrees of intensity in the identification, timing, planning, design, implementation, evaluation, and post-implementation stages of development projects.” (Imparato and Ruster 2003, 20)

Public participation could be seen either as political participation or social participation as a function of the primary goal of the organized groups within which participation is structured. While political participation is reserved for groups, organizations and associations that are clearly political, everything else falls into the social participation label. (Deth 2005, 3)

There have been many attempts to come up with a model explaining the link between social participation and political participation, though most focus on individuals. (Deth 2005, 9) One model, which is based on a 1944 study focused on the process of decision-making during a Presidential election campaign, came up with a two-step flow hypothesis on the influence of media messages. (Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet 1944) These authors posited that mass media messages are filtered through ‘opinion’ leaders and communicated to their associates, i.e. citizens. This hypothesis was latter developed into a powerful theory by Elihu Katz and Paul F. Lazarsfeld. (Watts and Dodds 2007, 441) This theory, which has since been ‘largely corroborated’ holds that “ideas often flow from radio and print to opinion leaders andfrom these to the less active sections of the population”. (Katz 1957)

Another important perspective on the correlation between social and political participation is the notion that ‘participation breeds participation’. (Deth 2005, 11) In a seminal survey measuring citizen participation in five countries, Almond and Verba found that various social institutions contribute towards the creation of a civic culture understood as “attitudes toward the political system and its various parts, and attitudes toward the self in the system1”. (Almond and Verba 1963, 11) One of the findings of the empirical research was a higher level of political participation among members of associations.

2.1.2 Perceptions/Purposes of Public Participation

While many writers found the levels of public participation in modern representative democracy to be adequate, others have questioned this conclusion based on empirical data. In relation to one cycle of presidential elections in the US, a group found “that the voters had not shown a great deal of interest in or knowledge of the political issues involved in the election, that there had been little meaningful discussion or debate of these issues, and that it seemed to be true of many voters that their political preferences were akin to cultural tastes rather than being the outcome of rational calculations'”. (Birch 2007, 147) In a way the individual citizens did not act as expected by proponents of participatory democracy.

This has led to a range of efforts to improve public participation based on various perspectives on the rationale for public participation.

Participation as Policy: Participation is viewed by some as “a ‘right’ to be involved in decisions affecting one” to be sought as an end in itself as a matter of policy”. (Wengert 1976, 25)

Participation as Strategy: Participation could also be understood and used as a strategy to achieve other goals, the specific goals to be achieved depending on the person formulating the perspective. (Wengert 1976, 26) From the perspective of the actor inviting participation, the objective is generally one of ‘public relations’, i.e., using public participation to promote the institution’s legitimacy, public confidence and trust. (Hanchey 1998, 22) Through participation, government agencies could inform the public on their mandates, resources and constraints and avoid misunderstanding that may lead to dissatisfaction on the part of the public.

Participation as Communication/Communicative action theory: Participation is often used as a mechanism through which decisions can be informed by the governed or beneficiaries. (Wengert 1976, 26) This relates to information relating to “the diagnosis of community problems and needs; development of alternative solutions; and, the evaluation of the consequences of solutions'’ (Hanchey 1998, 24) From this perspective participation “is the process by which public concerns, needs, and values are incorporated into governmental and corporate decision making ... with the overall goal of better decisions that are supported by the public.” (Creighton 2005, 7) This perspective also explains situations where non-democratic states and organizations seek participation. According to one author:

“To some extent participation can be justified in terms of the functional requirements of any system of government, whether democratic or not. Those who wield political power, whether this be at local or national level, will be likely to do so more effectively if they are well informed about the problems, needs and attitudes of the citizens and community they govern.” (Birch 2007, 145)

Participation as Conflict Resolution: Another perspective on participation is as a means for anticipating and diffusing tensions as well as resolve conflict through information, building trust and constructive collaboration. (Wengert 1976, 27) Conflicts may arise in decision-making processes due to various factors including “differences in opinions or beliefs; it may reflect differences in interests, desires, or values; or it may occur as a result of a scarcity of some resource”. (Hanchey 1998, 26) Participation provides an opportunity for consensus building and avoidance of extreme positions.

“Another general point is that the existence of channels for public participation in the political process is likely to increase the propensity for citizens to comply voluntarily with governmental rules and orders. If people have had the opportunity to play some part in the selection of public officials, to communicate their views on public issues, and to exert pressure on decision makers, they are more likely to accept that governmental decisions are legitimate, even if disliked, than would be the case if citizens did not have such opportunities(Birch 2007, 146)

Participation as Therapy: Participation can be seen as a tool for social therapy for the engagement of alienated social groups, especially the urban poor, in social programs affecting their lives. (Wengert 1976, 27) In this perspective, participation is used to address social ills such as stigma, discrimination and apathy. Yet, the reverse is also true and participation as therapy could be used to engender social ills as well as to merely mobilize support for dictatorial policies. Cases in point include the Hitler Youth movement in Germany and the Little Octobrists in the Soviet Union, specifically created to “socialize young people into accepting the legitimacy of the regime”. (Birch 2007, 146)

2.1.3 Mobilization and Public Participation

The concept of mobilization, particularly citizen mobilization and social mobilization, are fast becoming core issues in discussions of public participation and its place in a democratic system. This section attempts to provide a brief overview of the meaning and development of these concepts and their relationship with public participation. An attempt will also be made here to look at the role of associations in mobilization and public participation. Democracy and Citizen Mobilization

Citizen mobilization has been recognized as an important factor in democracy building in terms of its contribution to ‘deepening democracy’. More recently, this recognition is finding space in the reaction to mainstream political and developmental approaches to democracy. (Coelho and Lieres 2010)

The political approach to democracy relies on “almost exclusively on building and strengthening representative institutions, such as competitive elections, an independent judiciary and a strong legislature’. (Coelho and Lieres 2010) The political approach, which is based on what is often called a Dahlian conception of democracy, emphasizes the crucial place of “genuine, competitive elections and sufficient respect for political and civil rights” as a basis for meaningful participation of citizens in democratic political processes. (Carothers 2009, 7) Viewing democratization as a process of struggle between democratic and non-democratic forces, this approach measures progress in terms of “breakthroughs, reversals, crises, and resolutions” in terms of winners and losers in the competition for power. The role of the citizen is thus subservient to that of the core political actors (i.e. political organizations vying for power) and key institutions in the formal political system. Critique of this approach points to its narrow focus and inability to address broader issues of inclusion, representation and participation. (Carothers 2009, 10)

The developmental approach to democracy, on the other hand, espouses “a broader notion of democracy, one that encompasses concerns about equality and justice, and the concept of democratization as a slow, iterative process of change involving an inter-related set of political and socio-economic developments'”. (Coelho and Lieres 2010) The core conviction behind this approach is belief in the importance of democratic governance “to more equitable socio­economic development”. (Carothers 2009, 8) The evaluation of democratization thus focuses on results such as equality, welfare and justice and state capacity (as well as good governance) to deliver these results in terms of socio-economic development. Public participation is consequently viewed as a process contributing to national development and the partaking of its benefits through involvement in local level initiatives.

In contrast to the political and developmental approaches to democracy, the emerging alternative approach emphasizes citizen participation in terms of its contribution towards “the articulation of citizens’ concerns, the promotion of democratic change, and the pressuring of states to act more accountably and democratically”. (Coelho and Lieres 2010) The role of the citizens thus occupies a central role as initiators and owners in the democratization process. This goes beyond the role of citizens as electors envisaged in the political approach to democracy as well as their assigned role in national development and democratization from a developmental perspective. Citizens are seen here as the principal actors. Thus, democratization is a process of empowering citizens to articulate their concerns, bring about the necessary changes by influencing the decision making process. The concept of social mobilization is a crucial element of this process. Social Mobilization

Social mobilization has been defined differently in terms of who is mobilized, by whom and to what end. (Rao 2014, 2-3) UNICEF (2014) defines social mobilization as: (UNICEF 2015)

“a process that engages and motivates a wide range of partners and allies at national and local levels to raise awareness of and demandfor a particular development objective through dialogue. Members of institutions, community networks, civic and religious groups work in a coordinated way to reach specific groups of people for dialogue with planned messages. In other words, social mobilization seeks to facilitate change through a range of players engaged in interrelated and complementary efforts’".

The Asia Foundation (2008) provides a similar definition and aim stating that: (Asia Foundation 2008, 20) [the] objective of social mobilization is to create a process to mobilize hidden democratic elements and potentials for good governance, resources, self-help initiatives and joint efforts for trusted partnership-building. The concept of social mobilization would cover community mobilization, institutional mobilization, stakeholder mobilization, resources mobilization, economic mobilization, and environmental mobilization"".

In practice, social mobilization initiatives focus on what has been called a ‘transactional approach’ wherein the purpose of mobilization is improving access to services and resources. However, social mobilization could also be used in the context of a ‘transformational approach’ to bring about about “changes in voice and agency, and changes in the rules of the game" aimed at “building peoples’ capacity to actively participate in their own governance". (Rao 2014, 5) This approach to social mobilization is in tune with the citizen participation focused alternative approach to democracy.

The transformational approach to social mobilization has its basis in a strand of democratic theory referred to as civic engagement which “suggests that civil associations play this role by empowering individuals to engage in public politics, hold state officials to account, and claim public services” by enabling them become ‘active citizens’. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010) The Role of Associations in Transformational Social Mobilization

The potential role of membership-based associations in effectively implementing a transformational approach to social mobilization has been recognized in development practice.

These associations could have a crucial role in terms of “empowering members to negotiate directly with state agents for access to goods and services legally mandated for public provision, such as healthcare, sanitation, and security”. (Rao 2014) Studies have also shown that “individuals who participate in associations have substantially higher levels of active citizenship than their counterparts who do not”. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010)

In dealing with the concept of active citizenship, Houtzager and Acharya identify four types of citizenship practices, namely: institutional petitioning, informal brokerage, contention, and self­provisioning. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 5) The first of these practices, i.e. institutionalized petitioning, refers to mechanisms whereby “citizens make direct claims on public bureaucracy through channels that are known, formal, and universally accessible”. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010) This mechanism is considered to be one that most approximates the democratic ideal since it enables “petitioning state agents directly (without the mediation of associations or brokers) through institutionalized channels that guarantee universal access and equal treatment under the law”. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 6)

While the literature on the correlation between associational membership and active citizenship is more ambiguous, two conclusions appear to come out of it. The first is that: “participation in associational life makes individual citizens more public spirited and capable of engaging in public politics. Studies argue that associations help socialize individuals into civic values, inculcate democratic habits, and teach civic skills that enable one to take part in democratic public life’’. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010) The second claims that “citizens’ public-spirited engagement improves the quality of democratic institutions” (Houtzager and Acharya 2010)

This clear linkage between “the quality of democratic institutions to the civic engagement of individual citizens” rests on the assumption that “citizens acquire a sense of their agency, a public spiritedness, important democratic habits, and basic civic skills from their associationalism” they demand better performance from the State and its agents. Joining associations multiplies their individual voices and creates a collective voice. “To the extent that associations engage in pluralist politics to demand that public officials treat citizens as rights carriers and equals under the law, and counter any systemic bias in the provision of public goods and services, this representation also improves the quality of citizenship.” (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 8)

There is also evidence in the relevant literature showing that “associational participation increases different forms of civic engagement and helps individuals caught at the bottom end of the class and gender stratification to “catch up” with their more privileged counterparts in factors supporting active citizenship”. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 9) Thus, at least theoretically, associational membership should enable individuals, including those caught at the lower end of the social hierarchy, to negotiate access to basic public goods and services through institutionalized petitioning. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 10) This theoretical link has been explored in the context of urban centers in Third Wave democracies. Houtzager and Acharya, after a systematic review of active citizenship in Brazil and Mexico, have concluded that “that associations contribute significantly to producing citizens who actively seek to negotiate their access to vital public goods and services”. (Houtzager and Acharya 2010, 31)

2.1.4 Measuring Participation

There have been a number of attempts to come up with a schema or system for measuring public participation. This section presents two such systems: Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation; and, Choguill’s Ladder of Community Participation. Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation

Arnstein’s ‘ladder of participation’ is premised on the basic assumption that citizens cannot truly participate in decision making in matters affecting their lives unless there is a transfer of decision making authority to citizens. For Arnstein citizen participation is citizen power. (Arnstein 1969, 216) The levels of participation thus represent levels of power distribution between citizens and external actors. The focus here is on the extent to which citizens or participants can affect the outcome of a decision making process.

The ladder of participation proposed by Arnstein consists of eight rungs, which are divided into three general categories of public participation: non-participation, degrees of tokenism; and degrees of citizen power. (Arnstein 1969) At the lowest end of the ladder, we have degrees of non-participation expressed in terms of manipulation and tokenism. Instead of ‘enabling people to participate’, the objective at this level is “enabling power holders to educate or cure participants'’". (Arnstein 1969, 217) Manipulation is absolute deception where the appearance of participation is all there is while therapy uses the disguise of participation to modify the behavior of the ‘participants’. Oftentimes, this level of ‘non-participation’ merely achieves pacification of the public by creating the illusion of participation.

The second level in the ladder covers information, consultation and placation as degrees of tokenism from bottom to top. These levels of participation “allow the have not’s to hear and to have a voice ” without insurance that “their voices will be heeded by the powerful"". (Arnstein 1969, 217) Information involves one-way communication from the power holders to the public with no means of response and negotiation going the other way. (Arnstein 1969, 220) While consultation does provide a higher level of engagement by giving the public a chance to voice their views, it still fails to ensure that their views will be taken into account. At the highest level of tokenism Arnstein placed placation where members of the public are given a role in decision making while the real decision making power lies with the traditional elite. (Arnstein 1969, 221)

At the highest rugs of Arnstein we find levels of citizen empowerment going up from partnership to delegated power and ultimately citizen power. (Arnstein 1969, 218) At this level, citizens have more ‘power clout’ ranging through negotiation, shared decision and control of decision-making. Partnership represents a distribution of decision-making power between the public and the power holders through negotiated and agreed ground rules. (Arnstein 1969, 224) Delegated power, on the other hand, occurs where citizens take a dominant role in decision making on a specific item of decision-making. (Arnstein 1969, 225-226). Finally, the highest level of the ladder reflects full control by citizens over decision-making including decisions over the involvement of external actors. (Arnstein 1969, 226) Choguill’s Ladder of Community Participation

Choguill’s ladder of community participation starts with a critic of Arnstein’s ladder of participation. Such criticism mainly focuses on the purposes of citizen participation outlined in her model and its relevance to the situation of underdeveloped communities. (Choguill 1996, 434) Choguill accepts Arnstein’s focus on empowerment as the ultimate goal of public participation. However, this model goes even further. Community participation is not only “a means to enable the people to get ... the basic needs ... but also as a means to influence decisions in the political arena about issues that affect them’". (Choguill 1996, 231) This understanding takes the idea of public participation beyond the social or self-help to the political arena. It also implies a level of organized participation; hence the change of terminology from citizen to community participation. (Choguill 1996, 435)

Like Arnstein’s ladder, Choguill’s ladder of community participation has eight rungs. These rungs are, however, identified in terms of “govemmental willingness in carrying out community mutual-help projects"" and starts at the highest level of participation. (Choguill 1996, 435) The eight rugs of the ladder fall within four levels: support; manipulation; rejection; and, neglect. (Choguill 1996, 442)

The highest level of Choguill’s ladder involves empowerment, partnership and conciliation. Empowerment, which is the highest rung of the ladder, involves “actually controlling the situation and making allies, with governmental support". (Choguill 1996, 435) The goal of empowerment is “empowering people so that they are able to initiate actions on their own and thus influence the process and outcomes of development". (Samuel 1987, 3) Partnership represents a higher level of government involvement wherein decision-making is shared between communities and outside decision makers. (Choguill 1996, 436) The lowest rung at this level is conciliation occurs where “the government devises solutions that are eventually ratified by the people". (Choguill 1996, 37) While community members are heard, they are generally expected to accept the decision through persuasion and influence.

Lower rungs of the ladder falling within manipulation are dissimulation, diplomacy and informing. Dissimulation is pseudo-participation aimed at educating community members and ‘engineering their support’ through representation in powerless structures. Diplomacy, on the other hand, involves little or no governmental support beyond feigned interest in the self-help efforts of communities often with the help of other external actors such as NGOs. (Choguill 1996, 438) The lowest rung at this level of the ladder, i.e. informing, is very similar to the rung with the same name on Arenstien’s ladder. The government simply informs the community on its decisions regarding development projects without the possibility of feedback. (Choguill 1996, 439)

The lowest levels of Choguill’s ladder of community participation are rejection and neglect having a rung each, namely conspiracy and self-management. (Choguill 1996, 442) Conspiracy, the seventh rung from the top, does not even consider the possibility of community participation or even taking into account the interests of the poor. The government simply designs and implements decisions that affect communities to serve other ends.14 (Choguill 1996, 439) The lowest rung in the ladder of community participation involves situations where “the government does nothing to solve local problems and the members of the community” forcing communities to fend for themselves. (Choguill 1996, 440)

2.2 Analytical Framework: Relevance of Civil Society to Public Participation

The analytical framework for this paper is adapted from an empirical study conducted by George Moyser and Geraint Parry on Voluntary Associations and Democratic Participation in England. (Moyser and Parry 2005) The initial framework starts with a general profile of membership in voluntary associations and focuses on five general dimensions, namely, social activity, activity levels, politicization, leadership and responsiveness. (Moyser and Parry 2005, 29) In addition, the initial framework has been modified to reflect the context of MBOs in Ethiopia through elements drawn from various sources discussed in the previous sections.

2.2.1 Social Activity

In dealing with social activity, the framework distinguishes between the levels of membership in an association with actual engagement in the activities of the association in the social arena. The study dealt with membership in voluntary associations as a means of comparing the levels of membership in different associations among the populous. Since the focus of the current study is on a single category of associations, i.e. MBOs, in the Ethiopian context, the item will be dealt with as part of social activity. The actual level of engagement in the activities of the association will then come up focusing on the concept of empowering participation associated with the level of information, skills and access to resources created for members. In this way, one can measure both the level and quality of participation of members in the activities of the association. The

One example provided by Choguill is the cleaning up of squatter settlements by removing residents to clean up a city.

attention here is on the question ‘what proportion of members of the association actively participate in the core activities of the association’.

2.2.2 Politicization

The level of politicization of a voluntary association refers to the extent to which social and political issues are raised and discussed in associational forums. While some level of linkage between voluntary associations and the political system is expected, voluntary associations are typically non-political vis-a-vis a political party. This is more so in the Ethiopian context where direct political activity is much limited both in policy and practice.

The attention in this dimension is on three issues: discussion of issues; articulation of issues; and linkage with social/political action outside the association. The first deals with the question ‘how often are issues broader than the association raised in association meetings and other forums within the association. Since making the distinction between social and political issues is difficult, one needs to take a broader view. Moreover, the specific issues that are likely to arise will need to be identified in advance.

The articulation of issues refers to the extent to which members have been able to articulate the core issues that affect their lives through participation in the association. While mostly dependent upon the opinions of members, this would give one a general idea of the effectiveness of membership and participation in the association in raising awareness and sensitizing members.

Finally, the study takes the next step and attempts to see if there is any data to indicate the existence of linkages between membership and activity in MBOs with external political participation on an individual and group basis. The assumption here is members will engage with the formal political system in one way or another at least as an individual level although the MBOs are generally expected to be apolitical.


1Gazeta, Year 1 No. 1, Addis Ababa, 21 August 1995, Article 31

2Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Articles 38/2, 38/3 and 38/4

3Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Articles 29/1 and 29/2

4Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Article 29/2

5Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Articles 29/3/a & b, 29/4 and 29/5

6Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Article 38/1/a-c

7Proclamation No. 1, 1995, note 1, Articles 38/2 and 38/3

8Proclamation 621/2009, Charities and Societies Proclamation, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 15th Year No. 25, Addis Ababa, 13 February 2009, Article 2

9 Proclamation No. 621/2009, note 8, Article 2/5

10Proclamation No. 621/2009, note 8, Article 57/7

11Regulation No. 168/2009, Registration and Administration of Charities and Societies Council of Ministers Regulation, Federal Negarit Gazeta, 15th Year No. 66, Addis Ababa, 9th November 2009, Articles 22/2 and 26/4

12 Interview with Almaz Abrha, President of the Addis Ababa Women’s Association, August 21, 2014

13 Interview with Haymanot Tadesse, Secretary of the Benishangul Gumuz Women’s Association, August 26, 2014

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The Contributions of Mass Based Organizations in Enhancing Public Participation in Ethiopia
A Case Study of the Addis Ababa Women’s Association
Addis Ababa University  (Center for Human Rights Studies)
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Ghetnet Metiku Woldegiorgis (Author), 2015, The Contributions of Mass Based Organizations in Enhancing Public Participation in Ethiopia, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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