Regional Autonomy of Policy-Making and Implementations in the Ethiopian Federation: A Comparative Study on the Formulation and Implementations of Urban Policy in the Amhara and SNNPR States since 1991

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Addis Ababa University


After the collapse of the Derg regime in 1991, Ethiopia had adopted a federal political system. However, some group of scholars and individuals argue that, regional states of the Ethiopian federation are so far not yet become platforms for policy innovations by asserting that, regions are merely limited to the implementation of centrally designed policies and laws. The objective of the study is to investigate regional autonomy of urban policy-making and implementations in the Ethiopian federation taking the Amhara and the SNNPR states comparatively. The study provides answers for the core research question: - Are the Amhara and SNNPR States autonomously adopting and executing urban policies? It also examines the roles of citizens and other stakeholders in both policy-making and implementation schemes. The study is a descriptive and explanatory research conducted qualitatively using a variety of data sources such as primary and secondary data that involves plenty of legal documents. Structured and semi-structured interviews, FGD’s as well as field observations were also employed. In doing so, in both regions, different sections of the population were purposively nominated for interviews and FGD’s. Among others, members of regional and local officials, concerned public servants and experts, representatives from CSO’s, residents from urban and peri-urban areas, youths and women were involved in the process of the study. On the other hand, as a framework to analyze the theme under study, core theoretical and conceptual approaches about federalism, regional autonomy and public-policy are briefly reviewed. In addition, the experiences of sub-national autonomy of policy-making and implementations in the American, Swiss, Indian and South-African federations are also dealt. After the adoption of the federal system, indisputable socio- economic, political and infrastructural developments are witnessed across the country in general and in the Amhara and SNNPR states in particular. Politically, inter alia, regions have their own legislatures, executives and judicial organs. Among others, regions are constitutionally authorized to make their own socio-economic development policies, strategies and plans. The study found that, both regional states have autonomously adopted urban policies in the form of proclamations, regulations, directives and GTPs. However, due to the existence of one dominant party-EPRDF- that centralizes power by means of ‘democratic-centralism’, regions are so far not yet fully exploited their constitutional mandate of policy-making. In fact, the experiences of the Amhara and SNNPR states reveals that, policy-making at the regional level has been commenced though not yet fully exploited. Moreover, after the establishment of the National Planning Commission, better opportunities were created for the involvement of regions in the adoption of socio-economic development planning at the national level. Post-1991 federal polity of Ethiopia has also witnessed horizontal urban growth and development. In this regard, Bahir-Dar city of the Amhara region and Hawassa of the SNNPR had been horizontally expanded and becomes very gorgeous for residence, investment as well as for local and international tourist attractions. In both cities, significant infrastructural developments have been witnessed for the last two decades. Likewise, a variety of job opportunities were created for a significant number of unemployed citizens. However, the existing very ambitious horizontal urbanization schemes of both regional cities brought adverse impact on the land tenure rights and the livelihood of the suburb agrarian communities. The existing compensation strategy is unfair to effectively rehabilitate the livelihood of expropriated households. Above all, implementation discourses of horizontal urbanization and land expropriation are characterized by lack of transparency, accountability and participatory approaches. In sum, both the Amhara and SNNPR States autonomously adopted urban policies in the form of adopting urban laws, regulations, directives, plans and programs. However, the roles of citizens and other stakeholders in both policy-making and implementation schemes is still inadequate. In both regions, there are no adequate institutional systems for the active involvement of citizens and other stakeholders in the process of policy-making and implementation schemes. Regional and local officials usually fail to effectively communicate and to create adequate public awareness and participatory approaches before the adoption and implementations of policies in general. Among other factors, the existence of a single dominant political party system affects regional autonomy of policy-making. Therefore, the study in its last section provides some recommendations to better enhance regional autonomy of policy-making and implementations. Generally, the study is imperative for government officials, practitioners, citizens as well as for researchers who wants to conduct research in relation to regional autonomy of policy-making and implementations.



Policy-Making and Implementations