21 September 2017

Ethiopia: Pastoralists' Right to Development

Development is a right which governments are obligated to deliver to their citizens. The aim of this article is to explore the legal right of Ethiopian pastoralists to development, examine the compatibility of pastoral policies and laws with pastoralists' right to development.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR 1981), the mother instrument of the African human rights system, recognizes people's right to development. It provides that 'all people shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind' (ACHPR Art 22(1)). As clearly stated in ACHPR, people's right to development is not only about the right to socioeconomic and cultural development but also such development should consider their freedom and identity in the process.

Although nowhere in the ACHPR (1981) is the term 'people' defined, the jurisprudence of peoples' rights reveals that the notion of people refers to the population of a state as a whole and a section of the population of a state (Solomon 2006). Pastoralists as a section of the population of a state can qualify for people's status and can be subjects of the right to development under the ACHPR. Accordingly, they have the right to socioeconomic and cultural development in the way that advances their freedom and protects their identity.

Ethiopia as a state party to the ACHPR since 1998, has been discharging its obligation to implement the right to development for its pastoralist people. In this regard, the FDRE Constitution recognizes the right to development of the Ethiopian people, including pastoralists. It specifically stipulates that 'the Peoples of Ethiopia as a whole, and each Nation, Nationality and People in Ethiopia in particular, have the right to improved living standards and to sustainable development' (FDRE Constitution Art 43(1)). It also guarantees the right to participation of Ethiopian nationals in the development and implementation of policies and projects (FDRE Constitution Art 43(2)). Hence, Ethiopian pastoralists both as people and as nationals have been granted with constitutional right to development.

Furthermore, the FDRE Constitution requires that any development program (including pastoral development) should take into consideration the National Policy Principles and Objectives (NPPO) (FDRE Constitution Arts 85-92). The economic, social, cultural and environmental objectives provided in the Constitution, are crucial in furthering the Ethiopian peoples' quest for development, in general, and pastoral people's, in particular.

In the economic field, the government has been providing special assistance to Nations, Nationalities and Peoples that are least advantaged in economic and social development as per article 89(4) of the Constitution. It has also been promoting the participation of the people at all levels in the formulation and implementation of national development policies, strategies and programs. As pastoralists have been on the margin for a long time, such constitutional stipulation is very significant for their development, as the usual top-down policy interventions are neither desirable nor acceptable.

Regarding culture, in a similar vein, the government assumes the duty to support, on the basis of equality, the growth and enrichment of cultures and traditions that are compatible with fundamental rights, human dignity, democratic norms and ideals and the provisions of the Constitution (FDRE Constitution Art 91(1)). It also has been supporting, to the extent its resources permit, the development of the arts, science and technology. In the pastoralist context, any development initiative has been designed not hinder the development of a pastoral culture, way of life, art, science and technology. Due attention have been given to nurturing indigenous knowledge and enhance pastoralists' experience in arts and sciences.

Moreover, all development projects should be environmentally friendly and the government should ensure that all Ethiopians live in a clean and healthy environment. The design and implementation of programs and projects of development in particular should not damage or destroy the environment (FDRE Constitution Art 92(2)).

As part of the development program, people have the right to full consultation and to the expression of views in the planning and implementation of environmental policies and projects that affect them directly (FDRE Constitution Art 92(3)). Hence, any development program in the pastoral societies have been designed in line with the environment, so that it will be sustainable.

All these NPPOs are cardinal constitutional principles which guide the Ethiopian state and people in the implementation of the Constitution, laws, policies and strategies. Adhering to these constitutional principles is of paramount importance not only in fulfilling the constitutional aspirations of liberty and equality but also in achieving development and prosperity, including in pastoral areas.

Although it does not have a legal force, the African Union's Policy Framework for Pastoralism, developed by the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture (2010), sheds light on the kind of pastoral policies African states need to adopt. The policy framework urges African states to consider pastoralism as a viable way of life, and the rights of pastoralists should be given primary consideration in the design of pastoral policies (Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture 2010). As a member state of the African Union, Ethiopia has been taking this policy framework into account in the design of its pastoral policies.

The African pastoral policy framework gives direction for the design of pastoral policies which is consistent with pastoralism as a way of life and the pastoralists' quest for development. In this regard, Ethiopian pastoralists have been utilizing their right to development in a manner which advances their rights as enshrined in the ACHPR and the FDRE Constitution.


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