Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Governance and transparency work -- a view from Ethiopia

Gulilat Birhane is the Ethiopia focal person for the joint WaterAid/FAN Governance and Transparency Programme. Below he shares his challenges and what has been achieved so far.

Photo: Gulilat at the Africa regional governance and transparency meeting takes time out from the learning market.

As the Ethiopia focal point, I am responsible for the planning, monitoring and supporting our partner to achieve their governance and transparency objectives. One of our biggest challenges this year has been staff turnover – we lost the programme coordinator for our partner, the Water and Sanitation Forum (WSF) which is hosted by Consortium for Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA).  We also struggle to ensure that there is priority for this programme which only receives a small amount of funding compared to other programmes of work.

Our biggest challenge however, has been that this work is directly linked to the Charities  and Societies Proclamation passed in February 2009 by the Ethiopian government. This legislation divides CSOs into three groups: International non-governmental organizations (INGOs), Ethiopian resident organizations and local CBOs. INGOs and Ethiopian resident NGOs are restricted from working on human rights issues or politically sensitive issues – with the government calls ‘red line areas’ – and this limits some of our work.

We have still been able to have big successes though. We developed an engagement strategy for the WSF to engage more members and build the network and we provided trainings for member institutions in policy, advocacy and networking. The impact of this training has been that those trained have prepared the annual CSO WASH report – the first report of its kind in Ethiopia.

Within this report one of the things that came out is that 41 NGOs and CSOs are reaching more than two million people with water supply, sanitation and capacity building. In Ethiopia we have a low level of service provision so this work in service delivery form NGOs and CSOs is huge in terms of our country development goals.

By showing the government through our report what we are able to achieve we created space for partnership and sharing best practices. In July of last year we organized 20 CSOs to meet with and share best practices with the government. The director of the Charities and Societies Agency, a representative from ministry of justice, a representative from the ministry of finance and economic development, as well as religious leaders all attended and they promised to support CSOs in the WASH sector to create an enabling environment for continued dialogue and greater implementation.

This year we will follow up on those successes by developing an influencing strategy. Our engagement strategy and trainings gave us strong members, our strong members gave us evidence based research, our research gave us a dialogue with the government and now we are ready to continue to put our members into action for further influencing the governance agenda through organised participation. We will also share lessons from our engagement strategy support our members and others to support them to be successful in this kind of work.  

None of this would have been possible without having the time and resources to focus on the governance agenda and I am looking forward to our future progress.



This is great work

Gulilat, it is nice to see what you are doing and i must say that you are doing great given your limitations. In Nigeria we are also currently engaging in Governance work through advocacy and though i must confess that we do not work in the same socio- political context we also do have or share of challenges. one way i think can be effective in getting the government to listen to the issues is to empower the citizens to demand for themselves this services. In Nigeria we are doing this through the Citizens engagement process which is a well established approach for wateraid governance work. we do not do this work directly but through partners such as the ones funded under the GTF programme (WEIN and DBOLDA), building the capacity of the community groups in advocacy has also been helpful. one sure way to get space with the government is to show them what you can bring to the table and you can do this by offering technical support to the government, as you might well know the primary responsibility for providing basic services to the people lies with the government so while you can demand that they do these things, it will be great also to support them where you can. In Nigeria we are supporting the local government in the development of the LDP documents, this will help them increase their efficiency in planning abd budget which will lead to better targeted funds. you can get in tiouch with me for further discussions.

Saheed, wateraid Nigeria

merci Monsieur

Mon cher  ami


Je suis hereux de savoir du partage des defis partages et me demande si tu as besoin d'un apui quelconque de Papa ou de tou autre point focal; pour ma part, je m'en vais partager mon experience par rapport a l'insuffissance de financement 

Good Work

This is good. Despite the contextual  challlenges, you have achieved a lot within a short time . More greese to your elbolws.

Bravo Gulilat et WSF.

Bravo Gulilat et versez le FSM bon Travail. Tenez bon!

Saleck, WaterAid au Mali

Thank you!

Saleck it is always nice working with and learning and sharing with you.  It is  good to have you here in addis for this joint meeting. Gulilat 


Thank you for sending this, to be successful working in any environment especially in the development sector, it is first very important to know your limitations and there after develop strategies for engagement. so i think you are moving in the right direction.

Saheed, Zainab, Juliet, David, Romeo

wateraid Nigeria,

Nice to get you on this issue


This is some what good but could you give us more on the impact of the projct on the LNGOs.

thanks for sharing

Gulilat, thank you for taking the time out to share your experiences with us. It would be really interesting to hear more about your influencing strategy when it is completed. It would also be great if you could share more about the impacts of the 2009 Proclamation on your work.

Kolleen, FAN Secretariat


 This is good. Despite the contextual challenges, appreciable progress has been made. With good dialogue with government, more can be achieved.


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