Friday, March 1, 2013

Ethiopia makes help difficult for world donors advocating civil society, rights

By William Davison, Correspondent / February 28, 2013 ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA Of the many outreach programs run here by Germany’s Heinrich Böll Foundation, one caused special alarm for an official new Ethiopian agency that is starting to block and restrict the promotion of civil society ideas. The Böll program, “SurVivArt: Art for the Right to a Good Life,” dealt with notions of healthy, intelligent, and successful living, and illustrated differing concepts of home, food, and choice consumer goods – all done through sculpture and video arts. To a Western-oriented eye, it seemed harmless. But officials at the “Charities and Societies Agency” fairly flipped when they saw a word implying “rights” in the program title. "'Why has this got right in it?' they asked," remembers Patrick Berg, the foundation's former Ethiopia director, who just returned to Germany after deciding that the agency and its zealous application of a restrictive new law made meaningful work impossible. Read the full story here.

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