This paper presents findings from a case study exploring the prospects for measuring the impacts of restricted civic space on development in Ethiopia. It is part of a larger inquiry into the phenomenon of restrictions on civil society activity around the world, including but not only in developing countries, most notably in the past decade.
This case study of Ethiopia was a rapid exercise to test an approach to measuring the relationship between closures of civic space and development outcomes by tracing the implications of restrictions on NGO activities in relation to poverty, hunger and food insecurity, gender equality, with a focus on efforts to reach the poorest and most marginalized populations. The research involved gathering multiple sources of data, published and grey literature, and interview material, and analysing it in relation to a conceptual framework proposing mechanisms through which closing civic space impacts on development outcomes.
The paper concludes that there are good reasons to believe that recent restrictions on civil society, and in particular on NGO activities, have played or have the potential to play a clear and adverse role in Ethiopia’s development, and specifically to the extent that it is inclusive, equitable, and ‘leaves no one behind’. NGO service delivery capacity has been severely reduced in key areas by the closing of civic space in Ethiopia. Effects include that legal aid and advocacy for women and children is no longer widely available, while 1,741 NGOs were closed down completely; many of the remaining NGOs now have significantly reduced service delivery capacity, especially in the areas of advocacy for gender, ethnic and minority rights.