The Political Economy of Environmental Governance in Ethiopia: Exploring Trends, Actors and Drivers

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Addis Ababa University


In the face of mounting environmental crisis, instituting a viable environmental governance system has been one of the arduous challenges in the context of developing countries like Ethiopia. The objective of this PhD dissertation was to explore the political economy of environmental policy and governance in Ethiopia with a focus on historical trends, actors, and drivers. Being a macro level policy research, the study was based on data collected from weredas purposively selected from four regions namely Oromia, Southern Regional State, Amhara, and Addis Ababa city. A mixed research design was employed whereby most of the study objectives were based on bulk of in depth qualitative data generated from communities, experts, government officials, and the private sector, which was also complemented by a range of archival data and policy review. Household survey data was collected from 402 subjects. The findings have shown that environmental policy and governance in pre-1991 Ethiopia had been characterized by a narrow view that equated environment as synonymous with land based resources, which has had a detrimental effect on the institutionalization of environmental mandates, approach of governance and conservation of environmental resources until today. Since 1992, the country has attained a holistic view of environmentalism with formulation of comprehensive environmental policy, and instituted numerous environmental regulatory bodies consistent with the changing narrative in policy conceptualization. However, the policy implementation has been under the influence of historical legacies in many aspects. Thus, top-down approach of planning, state centric actor role and lack of defined modality to engage non state actors, and asymmetry in rural urban dichotomy manifested with inclination towards conservation of land based resources while neglecting urban environmental protection are some of the major drawbacks. Despite proliferation of environmental institutions, the influence of agriculture sector over these institutions has still been prevalent resulting in a meagre executive attention and support. While environmental security is seriously threatened by poorly planned and rarely regulated initiation of development projects, compliance to environmental laws is highly compromised not only by the private sector, but also by the public sector, too. The quantitative findings revealed that the current governance practice was found to be ineffective, falling below the average threshold value. On top of this, environmental governance is significantly determined by sex, marital status, occupation, role in community, agro-ecology, availability of benefit sharing schemes and access to forest resources. An investigation of local community role in park governance has also shown that adherence to the fortress model has been posing a threat to the overriding conservation objective. In general, Ethiopia’s environmental governance, despite its success in achieving broad based policies, has been suffering from practical ineffectiveness, poor policy implementation exacerbated by dominance of agriculture sector and weak institutional existence at lower levels. It is suggested that there is a need to make a balance between growth and environmental care through freeing environmental regulatory institutions from the influence of agriculture sector and other executive branches; creating law based platform for engagement of non-state actors; and making a shift from top-down approach of governance to application of participatory modes which engage local communities.



Environment, political economy, environmental governance, environmental policy, effectiveness