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Ethiopia’s Development Encompassing Core Principles of Sustainable Development (Part II)

Part two

By Aschalew Yimer aschaleyimer@gmail.com
Tigrai Onlne - December 29, 2013

As noted by the prominent scholar in sustainable development development divorced from its human or cultural context is growth without a soul. This means that culture cannot ultimately be reduced to a subsidiary position as a mere promoter of economic growth. Ethiopia’s comprehensive development strategy is a case in point in ensuring the cultural liberty and respect of all Ethiopian nations and nationalities.

The Human Development Report 2003 and the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) advocate these principles of cultural liberty and cultural respect in today’s diverse world for similar reasons: ‘The central issue in cultural liberty is the capability of people to live as they would choose, with adequate opportunity to consider other options’. The United Nations Millennium Declaration promotes the following principles and values: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature, and shared responsibility.

The country’s open, inclusive and participatory development strategy are considered as fundamentals for the country’s successful sustainable development initiative. As noted by scholars, ‘when communities articulate their own agendas, they are more likely to achieve positive changes in attitudes, behaviors, and access to opportunities’. The country’s key elements that are incorporated to promote its sustainable development strategy includes equitable and inclusive political processes, national and international governance processes that are effective, responsive, and accountable, supporting engaged citizens and generating inclusive economic growth, sustainable livelihoods and transparent, efficient markets.

As sustainable development scholars advocate that the goal of sustainable development is to pursue ‘regional balanced-development’ suggesting that a large challenge is to strike harmony between the environment and the expansion of science and technology, Ethiopia’s construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over the Nile River initiated in 2010 is considered as having strong sustainability not only to the country but also to the Nile grid countries.

Basically, the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam over the Nile River is one of the major projects that could play major and decisive role in realizing the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan and the consequent advance towards the eradication of poverty. The project is believed to improve the country’s electric and energy needs by providing for between 65 and 87 percent of the entire power supply the country expects to generate over the period of the plan. The dam is being built not only to serve the country’s power needs at the same time it helps to improve living standard of the population by providing economic opportunities.

Most notably, the dam is also envisioned encompassing the spirit of economic cooperation among the Nile basin countries. Among its numerous mutual benefits it provides, curtailing power shortages in the Nile basin grid is one of the core objectives of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. The electricity to be produced by the hydropower plant is to be sold with a reasonably low cost to neighboring countries including Sudan and possibly Egypt.

At the inauguration of the project the late Ethiopia’s visionary leader Meles Zenawi underscored that ‘among the concerns we factored in when we made the decision to build the Nile Dam with our own resources was to avoid any negative consequences for our neighbors and indeed to offer positive benefits for all of them. I would dare to say that nothing can provide a better testimony of our deepest commitment to forge a lasting partnership between all the Nile Basin riparian countries than the building of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.’

The two basic approaches to sustainable development are first, approaching a balance or reconciliation of traditional economic growth with ecological and environmental conditionings, and second, a philosophy or ideology that conceptualizes civilization in a holistic manner. Thus, the environmental and developmental aspect of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in the Nile Basin grid is enormous. When it becomes fully operational, the dam serves as a vehicle that makes the Nile River a permanent mutual bond among the Nile Basin countries. It will provide a valuable regulation of water flow in a period of climate change, improve prospects of navigation and regulate water for irrigation in the Nile valley. Both downstream countries would also benefit through water conservation.

In addition to providing affordable access to electricity to neighboring countries, it will regulate the level of Nile waters for the basin by increasing the amount of water resources available and reduce the wastage from evaporation that has been a serious problem in downstream countries. The dam will in fact ensure a steady year-round flow of the Nile. This, in turn, should have the potential to amicably resolve the differences which currently exist among the riparian states over the issue of equitable utilization of the resource of the Nile water. In addition, reduction of alluvium, provision of water at a fixed and stable rate and reduction of soil erosion along the Nile course are among the advantages the dam provides for downstream countries in the basin.

Nile Basin experts have underlined that the sediment from the Ethiopian highlands has negative impacts on downstream countries of the Nile. The sedimentations are the main critical problems in water resource management in the Nile Basin. The Dam thus will greatly reduce the problems of silt and sediment that consistently affect dams in Egypt and Sudan, particularly acute problem at Sudan’s Fosseiries dam which has been experienced reduction in output.

Ethiopia’s sustainable development is not only focused on using its natural resources to generate power to its citizens and neighboring countries, the country is also striving to build a "climate resilient" economy by 2025. Recently, a wind farm billed as the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa has launched in Ethiopia, a potentially crucial step for the continent's renewable energy industry. The €210m (£179m) Ashegoda windfarm consists of 84 hi-tech turbines towering above an arid region where villagers herd cattle and ride donkey-drawn carts as they have for generations. The project, outside Mekelle in Tigray state, about 475 miles north of the capital, Addis Ababa, has a capacity of 120MW and will produce about 400m KWh a year. It was completed in phases over three and a half years and has produced 90m KWh for the national grid.

The Ashegoda wind farm development is appreciated by a number of international organizations including Greenpeace. Ruth Mhlanga, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, welcomed the Ashegoda windfarm development. "We need an increase in renewable energy access on the continent, so the fact Ethiopia is investing is really good," she said, adding a cautionary note that measures are needed to ensure the use of more local manufacturing and expertise.

Throughout the past years Ethiopia has built two smaller wind farms near Adama, south-east of Addis Ababa, with a capacity of 51MW each. It urgently needs new energy to boost its economic growth. A study by Chinese firm Hydrochina confirmed the high potential for wind power in the northern and southern parts of Ethiopia, particularly in the Somali region, with a huge estimated wind energy potential of 1.3m MW.

Endogenous and self-reliant

The article emphasize that as Ethiopia is striding with the optimism and energy of a fast-growing country, creating more jobs, sending more children to school, expanding healthcare, and providing electricity, clean water, sanitation and roads. It also heralds as Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular is enjoying the emergence of a new generation of leaders, the end of the continent's debt crisis, business-friendly policies, and new technologies, the spread of peace and strong the potential to withstand the global downturn.

Ethiopia is one of the notable countries of the continent that are manifesting their economic growth is attracting businesses and investors from Africa and abroad, and the continent's middle class is expanding. By 2015, about 100m African households will have incomes greater than £2,000 a year, roughly as many as India today.

As stipulated by the prominent scholar in sustainable development, as there is no universal development model which leads to sustainability at all levels of society and the world, that development is an integral, multidimensional, and dialectic process that can differ from society to society, community to community, context to context Ethiopia is making progress delineating its own strategy considering the country’s human and ecological context as well as regional cooperation. It emphasizes on its local settings shifting solely from the Western-led development focusing more on local culture and participation that are crucial to an understanding of sustainable development. 

Africa’s so-called ‘New Leaders’, notably the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, President Museveni of Uganda, and President Kagami of Rwanda, have forcefully put forward an argument that they are pursuing a democratization strategy that will minimize the potential for divisive violent conflict.

Not surprisingly they have provoked a critical response from human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch, for example, argues that Museveni’s development strategy, referred to as a “movement system”, is nothing more than “old wine in new bottles”. Similarly the progressive federalist constitutional structure crafted in Ethiopia by EPRDF led government has been described by critics as the façade of an authoritarian and bureaucratic regime.

Supporters, however, have argued that the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been successful in holding the country together while also allowing space for the expression of ethnic diversity as well as creating development in the country. They commend the success of the current leadership, pointing out that ‘there are few precedents in today’s world for transforming a deeply traditional, authoritarian, underdeveloped and severely damaged country’. What these ‘right’ INGOs should consider is at least to re-think exactly what they are trying to impose as it will never work in Ethiopia’s land.

If they are genuine to support on the country’s human and economic development efforts, the current achievements of the country illustrates a ‘human rights’ strategy should be non-partisan, objective, and among others should be adjust to the specific context in which it is operating. As Jon Lunn has noted, there is a prevailing “international legal absolutism” evident among these organizations. Specific historical or political considerations that might be required to address the particular local realities of countries in complex transitions are subordinated to the “global justice agenda”. This might help them to re-think their motives.

It is similar to media watchdogs as well to reconsider their current approach to dictate media policy in countries like Ethiopia as it is important to note the impact liberal ideology has had on ways in which media policy is constructed and the need to re-conceptualize the role of the state in media development. In the 1960s, Samuel Huntington suggested that open institutions such as a free press were ‘luxuries’ transitioning states could ill afford. In short, he argued that the potential disruption of mass public participation was simply a risk that countries struggling to modernize need not take. On top of that, the promise of political and economic liberalization has proved almost as fruitless in most parts of the world.

Additionally, there is a tendency in rich countries for domestic media environments to be seen as something of an ideal, exemplifying the population’s openness and freedoms. As most people are well aware, the reality is more complicated. Rich countries do not have perfectly competitive marketplaces of ideas.

It is obvious that there is also a tendency of journalists and human rights organizations to ignore the local realities and rather push their own ‘international justice’ agenda that is counter-productive.

Given the asymmetrical power relations between the human rights organizations with substantial lobbying power in rich countries and developing countries with leadership that is regarded as ‘weak’ it is easy to see how local initiatives or arguments for slower media liberalization fall on deaf ears. Thus, foreign ‘experts’, often in line with rich countries, are increasingly defining and dominating processes such as ‘truth’ and ‘justice’. As John Lunn describes, this approach is unfortunately something we are all familiar with.

It is remembered that during the colonial period, Africans (and other colonized) were often viewed as children who were not ready yet for self-government. In the modern world, a similar characterization is creeping back in. Locals are seen as lacking the capacity or maturity to govern themselves.  

As Ethiopians what we ask is tolerance as we have explored our viable development alternatives that could lead us to win poverty and underdevelopment though differs with the neoliberal model. As also Africans, we do not need political dictation. We are rising. What we need from the international actors is financial aid and technological infrastructure to implement a program at sustaining the growth and international presence of the African media rather than imputes of ideological thoughts.

My message to the media watchdogs is that whatever the rhetoric about promoting freedom of expression their activities on the ground are often muddled, contradictory and sometimes hypocritical. I just want to remind them that in places like Iraq US and other occupying troops from rich countries have shut down media outlets. Paradoxically, they were replaced by hate speech media in initiatives to create a space for promoting news. These media watchdogs were declined to make criticism against the wrong-doer, because a number of reasons might be suggested but undoubtedly it was because these INGOs are not non-partisan, objective and scientific, in short.

Ethiopia’s Development Encompassing Core Principles of Sustainable Development (Part I)

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