FORUM FOR SOCIAL STUDIES
P.O. Box 3089, Addis Ababa
Policy Dialogue on Poverty
To the Ethiopian Diaspora Community
The Forum for Social Studies (FSS) has prepared a variety of public debates and consultations on the problem of poverty and poverty reduction in Ethiopia as part of its Policy Dialogue series on Poverty (see next page). The first program for 2001 will be a public discussion of the experiences of civil society groups (NGOs, etc.) working with the poor in various parts of the country. The program is open to government officials, civil society organizations, the business community, the poor themselves, the donor community and the media.
Since 1999 the IMF and the World Bank have mandated that all low-income countries wishing to get loans or debt-relief have to formulate and implement a poverty reduction strategy program (PRSP). PRSP, which is initially meant to cover three years, is supposed to be "country-owned", and participatory in preparation and implementation. The donors expect the government to involve civil society, the poor themselves, the private sector and the donor community in preparing and implementing the PRSP. The objective of PRSP is to determine the poverty reduction measures that the country plans to implement, and to identify the policy reform programs and institutional changes the government must put in place to achieve poverty reduction. PRSP also requires that policy makers set measurable indicators to monitor the impact of the PRSP initiative, and disseminate information to the public on poverty diagnostics, policy options and goals to facilitate broad-based participation.
However, though the intention behind the PRSP is a laudable one, we cannot assume that it will be realized in practice unless the public and civil society in particular takes firm measures to intervene in the PRSP process. The Ethiopian government has submitted to the two donor institutions an interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (I-PRSP) and is preparing a final PRSP, which is to be completed by December of this year (copies of the I-PRSP may be obtained from the World Bank or its website). We are not certain at this point whether the government will seek the participation of the broad public and the poor in the finalization of the Paper. It is therefore important that civil society makes its voice heard and contributes its share to make the task of poverty reduction a sound and effective one. More specifically, civil society should debate the dynamics of poverty and provide concrete proposals for its reduction. FSS has repeatedly emphasized that poverty is the most critical problem facing this country and that unless urgent measures are taken by Government and civil society to reduce its depth and magnitude the very fabric of our society will be threatened.
FSS is organizing a Policy Dialogue series on Poverty to encourage civil society, the poor themselves, the private sector, the media and the public at large to intervene in the PRSP and the policy making process. The recommendations of each public forum will be submitted to decision makers in the form of Consultation Papers. FSS is inviting Ethiopians in the Diaspora to participate in this debate by sending us their comments, views and recommendations. We will be happy to publish in our Consultation Papers series the viewpoints of the Diaspora community on this important national concern.
FSS is an independent policy research institution concerned with the development challenges facing the country. Its main objective is to promote the democratization of the decision-making process by encouraging public debates of development policy issues. Since its inception in 1998, FSS has held numerous open forums in which civil society, Government, and concerned stakeholders have come together to discuss important policy initiatives.
Tentative Program for the Year 2001
The following is a tentative schedule of FSS' program of public debates, consultations and research on the problem of Poverty and Poverty Reduction. The first five programs refer to individual Workshops to be held in the evenings and the sixth a day-long symposium to discuss the findings of a research endeavor on the subject. Each public debate will be followed by the publication of a Consultation Paper that will be distributed to the government, donors, civil society groups, the business community, the media, etc. Speakers will be expected to address policy issues and to comment specifically on the interim PRSP document. A press briefing will be prepared both in English and Amharic to be handed out to the media at each public forum. FSS will make efforts to encourage the media to promote debate on the problems of poverty and poverty reduction.
1. Subject: Civil Society Groups and Poverty Reduction I. Date: 23 March 2001. Venue: Semien Hotel. Speakers will consist of representatives of indigenous NGO groups working with the poor.
2. Subject: Civil Society Groups and Poverty Reduction II. Date: 27 April. Venue: To be announced (TBA). The panelists will be speakers from the Ethiopian trade union organization, women's groups, and professional associations. Language: English and Amharic.
3. Subject: Listening to the Poor. Date: 27 July. Venue: TBA. The speakers will be poor people from various sectors. Poor people will also be invited to attend and give their comments and opinions. Language: Amharic
4. Subject: Poverty and the Private Sector. Date: 28 September. Venue: TBA. Selected speakers from the business community will discuss the role of the private sector in poverty reduction. Businessmen from many sectors will be invited to attend, make comments and give their opinions. Language: Amharic.
5. Subject: Government, Donors and Poverty Reduction. Date: 26 October. Venue: TBA. Specialists from the federal and regional governments and donors engaged with poverty programs will be given a chance to address the issue of poverty and poverty reduction. Language: English.
6. Subject: Poverty Policy Analysis. Date: 8 December. Venue: TBA. A one-day symposium to discuss the findings of a research effort on poverty and government policies related to poverty management. Some 5 to 6 research papers will be discussed in the symposium and their policy implications examined. Language: English.
Copies of the I-PRSP will be distributed to speakers, the press, and selected discussants.