By Mesud Gebeyehu, Executive Director of the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO), which is a national coalition of civil society organizations supporting human rights, democracy and conflict resolution in Ethiopia, reflected about CEHRO’s approach to advocacy.
Formally established in 2018, the Consortium of Ethiopian Human Rights Organizations (CEHRO) is a member of the national Civil Society Organizations’ Forum (with more 1500 member organizations) and of the Ethiopian Civil Society Council at national level, as well as of CIVICUS/AGNA at the international level.
As a national platform for strategic advocacy on good governance, protection and respect of human rights, and promotion of a culture of peace, CEHRO has played a leading role in facilitating the collection of inputs nationally for amending repressive laws and for reforming key democratic institutions. Many of our recommendations are informed by inputs from our consortium members, as well as from our various methods for collecting evidence. This has helped CEHRO’s meaningful engagement with the government.
Human rights advocacy work implies risk and this is why CEHRO strives to create a safe space for human rights defenders and organizations. We promote constructive engagement and seek to work together with pro-reform-like minded officials within government, which provides some safe space for our work. When Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reform agenda was launched in 2018, it became an opportunity for CEHRO and other organizations to advocate for the reform of existing draconian legislations
We have worked together with relevant stakeholders for amending laws affecting human rights defenders, such as the civil society proclamation -which was amended in 2019-, the media law and the anti-terrorism law. We have also collaborated in the reform of relevant public institutions such as the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the Ethiopian National Electoral Board as well as the Federal Prison Commission.
Our engagement with government has been very much welcomed due to our evidence-based advocacy for change. We conduct monitoring, documentation and reporting of human rights violations and we demand a proper investigation and accountability. We also undertake research and collect evidence for drafting legislation, and we use surveys to understand the extent of implementation of international legal instruments or conventions in the country. Based on our findings, we engage relevant government authorities, media and the donor community.
CEHRO coordinated the 2019 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submission of CSOs to the UN Human Rights Commission where many of the recommendations of the CSOs working group were accepted by the government and the recommendations are being incorporated in the 3rd National Human Rights Action Plan which is under development.
For instance, we have engaged with the Attorney General Office to support the finalization of the draft Criminal Procedure and Evidence law and reached a consensus to collaborate in the areas of input collection for draft legislation, familiarization of new laws, proper implementation of the and capacity building. In relation to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, the collaboration started in 2019 where for the first time in the Ethiopian history, CSOs partner with EHRC to celebrate the World Human Rights Day (UDHR71), where we discuss common agendas. We have already signed Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on common agendas.
We are also working with the National Electoral Board to conduct voters’ education and election observation at IDPs sites and monitor the human rights in the context of the elections -which were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic- as there have been some politically motivated conflicts.
We also engage with international organizations, bilateral cooperation agencies, media, other international CSOs and the diaspora.
CEHRO Exhibition on the 72 International Human Rights day, on the 10th of Dec. 2020 (Photo: Dr. Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and Mesud Gebeyehu, CEHRO Executive Director)