Michael Tsegaye

Clients Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid, Royal Norwegian Embassy, Embassy of Sweden, Embassy of the Netherlands, Canadian International Development Agency
Value €40 million
2011 to 2016
Country Ethiopia

Through the Civil Society Support Programme we work collaboratively with civil society organisations in Ethiopia to strengthen their contribution to the government’s goal of achieving national development and poverty reduction. We offer grant-funding and capacity development opportunities to civil society organisations from all regions of Ethiopia. The programme prioritises hard-to-reach segments of Ethiopian society, with a particular focus on people affected by social marginalisation, geographic remoteness, under resourcing and neglected development issues. 

Capacity development 

Capacity development services are provided for civil society organisations in technical areas such as policy and issues-based research, communications and enhancing dialogue with government; and in the strengthening of organisational and management systems. Since inception, over 420 organisations (328 through direct and indirect grants and 99 through capacity development support) have been supported through the programme – approximately 16 per cent of the total of charities and societies registered with the government’s Charities and Societies Agency. 

The programme’s reputation for supportive monitoring has been crucial for building and maintaining the confidence of the government and the goodwill of civil society partners. 


Flexible grant instruments provide funding opportunities for organisations at local, regional and national levels. They are intended to encourage innovation and creativity in civil society organisations, helping to develop capacity and foster collaboration with various stakeholders, including the government. To date, the programme has invested close to €14 million in civil society organisations across Ethiopia. Partner surveys have demonstrated the potential of the programme to reach almost five million Ethiopian people. 

Supporting coalitions for change 

Support is being provided to coalitions of civil society organisations and smaller community-based organisations, helping them to work with local government and other state agencies on collaborative projects to improve service delivery and social development outcomes for hard-to-reach sections of society. 

At federal, regional and sub-regional government levels, the programme is seen as a key actor working nationally and regionally to support a stronger, credible civil society that is able to partner with the government to change the lives of the poorest people for the better. The government is also articulating a growing interest in finding joint solutions for emerging challenges, such as girls’ education and migration. 

Evidence of coalition-building around specific issues has included promoting the ‘voice’ of people affected by deep discrimination because of social caste; improving the access and safety of education for rural girls, and working with them to reduce forced migration; working with prison authorities to improve the lives of prisoners and their dependents; and strengthening policies and practice to protect highly vulnerable children. 

Supporting change for women and girls

Particular emphasis is placed on supporting gender equality, and on reducing violence against women in Ethiopia. To date, almost 30 per cent of the grants awarded have direct benefits for women, including strengthening their livelihoods, supporting girls to remain in school, and supporting the rights of women prisoners and their children. Through an innovative capacity development initiative, run collaboratively between civil society and the Ethiopian government's Women’s Associations, the programme is delivering a transformative approach to reducing violence against women. As a result, the programme has been asked by the government to examine ways in which civil society could play a greater role in this important area. 

Inspiring change

There is growing awareness in Ethiopia that the programme has moved from being primarily an active observer of the process of change in civil society-government relations, to being an actor within it.

Civil society organisation leaders attribute civil society’s growing confidence in part to the programme’s principles, presence and support. According to a senior region-based civil society leader, 'The Civil Society Support Programme came at just the right time. In 2011, civil society was in chaos; we could only see the negative side of the Government’s Proclamation. But by the programme helping us to build our confidence and find our way through, we and other organisations across the country are in a much stronger position.'

There is evidence that, through careful relationship building, dynamic leadership and committed staff, a growing number of civil society organisations are able to work on sensitive issues because local government now engage proactively with civil society.


The way the programme delivers its vision for civil society is seen as something that comes from the heart. This is very inspiring.’

Civil society organisation in Ethiopia 

‘The Civil Society Support Programme’s guiding principles have put humanity back into development.’

Civil society organisation in Ethiopia