Collaborative efforts of ENDC, broader community herald a promising future

The Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) has been hugely engaged in studying and exploring global experience with a view to conducting successful National Dialogue that will address the country’s age-long contentious problems. Studying the experiences of others has become a common experience globally and attempts have been made to understand the reasons behind the successes and failures of national dialogues that have been conducted in various countries.

External interference, government interference, lack of inclusiveness and others were among the main reasons for the failures of the National Dialogue conducted in different countries. On the other hand there are also nations that have made successful deliberations citing the experience of Tunisia.

By the same token, discussions have been made with various segments of society including political parties, civil society organizations and other parts of the society. Understanding of historical narratives on contentious issues is among the most important elements to conduct a successful National Dialogue.

Speaking to the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) ENDC Commissioner Prof. Mesfin Araya in the recent past stated that the commission has been established with the objectives of facilitating consultation between the various segments of the society by identifying the root causes of the difference in fundamental national issues and identifying the topics on which the discussion will take place.

He further stated that countries including Yemen and Sudan failed to execute successful National Dialogue because of the interference of external actors. Accordingly, conducting an all-inclusive dialogue that consists of the lower part of the society, religious leaders, civil society and others is crucial.

It is recalled that lately briefing the media, ENDC Spokesperson Tibebu Tadesse stated that the commission has been undertaking various activities to identify dialogue participants and mapping about 1,300 districts across the country in a bid to make the process inclusive and participatory.

He also indicated participants’ identification has been taking place in various districts across the country while the commission has finalized the two activities in 850 districts.

Out of the 130,000 citizens participated in the preliminary activities; more than 14,000 are selected to take part in the agenda collection for the final dialogue. The representatives are drawn from different states and segments of the society excluding Addis Ababa, federal institutions and Diaspora communities.

This in black and white demonstrates the commitment of the ENDC to make the national dialogue a reality and get to the bottom of the existing problem making use of a wide spectrum of effective means.

In a previous interview with The Ethiopian Herald AntenehTsegaye (PhD), Assistant Professor of Intercultural Communication at Addis Ababa University said there is no one blueprint for the success or failure of all national dialogues as every conflict’s context and demand are unique and dynamic. However, there are two central categories of factors that significantly affect the success or failure of the national dialogue; namely the political context factors and the design or process factors. First, the political context in which a national dialogue takes place can affect the likelihood of success or failure.

For example, political will significantly matters. The greater the level of political will and elite agreement on the way forward, the greater the likelihood of successful outcomes and implementation. Added to this, the links associated with other transitional processes also impact the outcome. National dialogue needs to be embedded in larger change processes in order to promote real structural change. If disconnected from other political processes, such as constitution-making. It is likely to be counter-productive. Also, there should be common ground among parties.

“The absence of diametrically opposed political camps can make it more likely to arrive at a common view or shared objectives in dialogue, allowing for the process to move forward. In contrast, drastically different views can exacerbate distrust and stall the process. The other interesting factor is the public buy-in. Public support or lack thereof can enable or constrain progress in the national dialogue process. The degree of buy-in is influenced by the availability of public information, good communication, and media engagement – all of which affect the level of transparency and understanding of the process.”

In principle, national dialogue involves the public at all structural levels, formal or informal, and brings significant actors to the table, going beyond the elites, to deal with issues of discontents and misunderstanding in the course of the nation-building process. In its real sense, for example, civil society leaders, and even external actors, can initiate informal dialogues between key actors, even if they have lesser mandates than one initiated by the state.

These informal dialogues can entail trust-building meetings, negotiations, and consultations that lay the groundwork for formal national dialogue. In practice, however, it is often attempted after exclusive elite-based negotiation formats which have failed or are considered inadequate to prevent further instability as lessons learned from the failure of countries in the current conflict zones.

Ethiopia needs a highly inclusive and bottom-up approach to a national dialogue. Engaging the public and civil society should enforce the Ethiopian national dialogue as the country owns indigenous approaches to dealing with conflicts and reconciliation processes.

Acquainted with immense knowledge and expertise and highly valued within the society, academicians are expected to be frontrunners to the successful conduct of the National Dialogue. It should be remembered that recently the ENDC along with Addis Ababa University (AAU) organized a discussion forum on the role of academia in the National Dialogue at Ras Mekonnen Hall.

Speaking at the forum, ENDC Deputy Chief Commissioner Hirut Gebreselassie stated that the academic community needs to engage to translate their knowledge and experience into various activities that will enable the National Dialogue a success.

More importantly, they are the part of the society that has basic ideological differences on national issues. Thus, they need to interpret their years of knowledge and experience to enable the nation reach a national consensus. Ethiopia has faced a number of challenges that have tested its nation building process throughout history. Similarly, there are pressing challenges that still need to be addressed as a country.

In a similar way, on the subject of the ongoing national dialogue process the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) said it is compiling National Dialogue agendas forwarded from Ethiopians living abroad.

National dialogues are broad-based public gatherings, which are often intended to define key aspects of the political or constitutional future of a country, and are commonly the centerpiece of post-crisis transitions. On top of that national dialogues have become an integral part of the peacebuilding process in post-conflict and post-crisis countries. Despite their role, there is little documentation of the characteristics of these dialogues, their relative success and failure, as well as their long-term contribution to the peace and stability of the countries involved, according to sources.

Ethiopian Teachers’ Association in recent times said it is providing continuous support for the success of the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission’s (ENDC) preliminary activities through identifying education sector participants in the National Dialogue.

Association President Yohannes Benti (PhD) told the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the ENDC with the purpose of expediting participation in the National Dialogue and to work together in different areas.

The association is undertaking different activities to ensure the inclusiveness and fairness of participants’ identification process at district level. Similarly, the association’s branch offices at district level have been highly engaged in mobilizing the education community to the National Dialogue participation.

The association has held fruitful discussions with the ENDC leadership to identify the areas where the commission seeks support and collaboration. Education is amongst the primary sectors that hugely affected by instability and conflicts and not only the schools become damaged but both teachers and students’ necessary documents usually get lost due to chaos.Though different countries have carried out national dialogues; few countries did not succeed due to their failure to make the process participatory and inclusive.

It should be born in mind that the Ethiopian National Dialogue Commission (ENDC) said recently both the state-run and private media have the gaps in building the public’s awareness about its preliminary activities, mentioning the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) is an exception.

While presenting the ENDC progress report to the House of Peoples Representatives, the Chief Commissioner Prof. Mesfin Araya stated that the mainstream media’s coverage of the dialogue processes and progress has so far been inadequate. Yet, the EPA has done commendable jobs in availing timely and accurate information for the public.

Stating the information flow has not reached a desired level, Mesfin pleaded with both public and privately-owned media to discharge their responsibility in awareness creation and to re¬port the ENDC progress. “We cannot reach the public with our sole effort. We need the active engagement of all stakeholders including pri¬vate and community-based media.”

Public media chiefs on their part pledged to give more coverage to the ENDC activities and to ensure the public right to access information.

Editor’s Note: The views entertained in this article do not necessarily reflect the stance of The Ethiopian Herald



Recommended For You