Institut du fédéralisme
Faculté de droit

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Regional conference on federalism and decentralization in the Horn of Africa

Addis Ababa, 25-27 February 2013

The Regional Conference on Federalism and Decentralization in the Horn of Africa was held from 25-27 February 2013 in Addis Ababa with the Institute of Federalism being represented by Prof. Eva Maria Belser.

The Conference was jointly organized by the Ethiopian government, the UNDP and the Swiss Embassy as part of an ongoing programme of regional cooperation that was initiated following the 5th International Conference on Federalism, which was held in the Ethiopian capital in 2010. The aims of the event were to gather regional stakeholders from various disciplinary backgrounds – economics, political science and law – in order to share knowledge and experiences, to identify topics of interest and to discuss opportunities for future collaboration.

Around 100 participants from Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, as well as several international speakers attended the Conference. Prof. Thomas Fleiner gave the opening address which was followed by plenary and smaller group discussions on development and service delivery, ethnicity and pluralism, as well as fiscal federalism and different models of constitutional governance. At the end of the three-day conference, the participants agreed that the exchange of regional experiences, problems and potential solutions was extremely fruitful and should be continued on an ongoing, institutionalized basis.

All of the countries in the region are dealing with ethnic, religious, linguistic and economic diversity and questions linked to power sharing and resource distribution are of utmost importance. Despite the fact that the countries in the Horn of Africa are very different and range from federalist Ethiopia and decentralizing Kenya, to the newly created South Sudan and to Somalia, which is in the midst of the process of state building under difficult conditions, regional cooperation is still viewed as a desirable and useful process. The motivation for common action is also driven by a recognition that the unresolved problems of the countries in the Horn of Africa affect the whole region (through conflict, destabilization, mass migration and its impacts), and that joint solutions, tailored to the East African context must be developed.

The participants in the conference further agreed that they would institutionalize regional cooperation along with measures to foster increased national and the transnational exchange. A major conference is to be held next year to assess progress and obstacles encountered with a wider range of stakeholders from different sectors. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), based in Djibouti, will take the lead in institutionalizing the cooperation programme. The Swiss Embassy and the Institute of Federalism have expressed their readiness to support the development of a regional federalism platform under the aegis of IGAD and other partners.