By Selah Hennessy
July 23, 2013
LONDON — Two new reports published this month say sustainable development in Ethiopia is impossible without a specific focus on human rights. The reports say donor countries should bear responsibility for ensuring their aid money is not used to fuel abuse.
Ethiopia receives billions of dollars in international aid every year. It is money that is used to help improve basic services like access to health and education.
But human-rights campaigners say there also is widespread abuse that takes place in Africa’s second most populous country. And they say donors need to face up to what role their aid money might play in fueling that abuse.
Leslie Lefkow, the deputy director for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division, said, “The Ethiopian government is resettling large numbers of pastoralists and semi-pastoralist communities in the name of better services. But often this resettlement process is accompanied by very serious abuses.”
Human rights groups say so-called “villagization” has been marred by violence, including rapes and beatings, and people are often forced to leave their homes against their will. They also say the new villages lack adequate food, farmland, healthcare and education facilities.
Lefkow said the World Bank is turning a blind eye. “In Ethiopia you have several years’ worth of rising concerns of human rights and yet you do not really see that being absorbed in the monitoring and in the practice of donors across the spectrum, so not just the World Bank,” she said.
The World Bank is the world’s top aid donor, with a $30 billion annual budget.
Right now the World Bank is undergoing a review of its safeguard policies, a process that began last year.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based campaign group, says now is the time for it to commit to respecting and protecting human rights.
“Unlike some of the other international financial institutions, the European development bank and the African development bank, for example, is looking at reviewing some of its policies and explicitly committing to human rights, but the World Bank does not have that, even on paper.”
Another group, the U.S.-based Oakland Institute, published a report last week highlighting donor countries’ roles in alleged Ethiopian abuse.
It said Britain and the United States have ignored abuses taking place in the Omo Valley as the government forces tens of thousands of people from their land.
Executive Director Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank, says forced evictions are taking place in order to make way for commercial farming and a major new dam. She says money from donor countries supports the new projects.
“There is also support for infrastructure projects such as power lines and the rest, which are linked to the large dams that have been built, for instance, the dam in Lower Omo, which has been built to provide irrigation and electricity to the investors,” she said.
The Ethiopian government says sugar plantations in the region and the new dam, which will be Africa’s largest, are key to bringing energy and development to the country. VOA contacted the government for a reaction on the Oakland Institute report, but did not get a response.
Britain’s Department for International Development says its assistance in Ethiopia helps millions.