Sustained Dialogue Campus Network- Haramaya and Jimma University Projects

Worldwide, university campuses are powerful setting where tomorrow’s leading and trend-setting citizens are being shaped-intellectually and socially. The current pressing issues which surround our world require us to work together across lines of differences at local, national and global levels. And it is believed that tomorrow’s leading and trend-setting citizens are more "tolerant" towards different dimensions of identity. However, in reality there is intolerance and systematic inequities among tomorrow’s leading and trend-setting citizens.

Just like the other universities in Ethiopia, however, there have been several outbreaks of violent conflicts in Haramaya University. To avoid/minimize the violent conflicts and help the university to produce qualified and successful graduates who will help alleviate the world pressing issues by working together, Peace and Development Center (PDC) is implementing a project "Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN)".

Sustained Dialogue (SD) method creates a great opportunity to dialogue about the attitudes that people have towards different dimensions of identity. This dialogue space allows examining once attitudes about others and the backgrounds each represents. Holding a SD meeting with the same group repeatedly further gives the opportunity to reflect on and, over time, change the way we interact with each other. The main principle of the method is that relationships between people or groups can be improved by bring them together repeatedly and by giving them a safe space to dialogue about their pressing issues which leads to the tension and/or unrest.  SD was developed by a veteran US diplomat named Dr. Hal Saunders, inspired by a long career in peace process negotiation in the Middle East. Though the method was used to improve relations among different countries, it has also been proven to be the most successful on smaller confines. SDCN's mission is to develop everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to improve their campuses, workplaces and communities.

The objectives of this project are to build the capacity of Haramaya University students to competently engage in dialogue and increase their dialogue skills and settle their differences peacefully. Thus, the main goal of the SDCN project is to:

1)    Create healthy and open climate for learning at Haramaya and Jimma Universities.

2)    To build the capacity of Haramaya and Jimma Universities students to competently engage in dialogue and increase their dialogue skills

3)    Create mutual respect, understanding and culture of peace Haramaya and Jimma Universities


Human and Democratic Rights and Responsibilities Education- Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State and Gambella Regional State Projects

Philosophers and political scientists have been striving to develop the basic tenets of human and democratic rights since time immemorial. In addition, they are always preoccupied in further improving and enriching human rights doctrines by observing situations in their everyday lives.

Obviously, efforts to disseminate the values and concepts of human rights to the general public in Ethiopian will play a significant role in raising their general level of awareness in regard to their basic rights and obligations as citizens. There is no doubt that such an awareness will help them to be in much better positions to defend and fight any sort of overt and/or hidden acts of violations and degradations committed by individuals, groups of individuals and the state. Therefore, in order to equip the society with the vital weapons required to ensure the respect of their basic human rights, it is quite important for them to first know those rights to which they are entitled as human beings irrespective of their national, ethnic, religious backgrounds and political beliefs.

PDC will organize and conduct training workshops in selected places of the country. The main objectives of the workshops will be as follows:-

1)    To raise the participants’ general level of awareness in regard to the concepts, values and practices of human and democratic of human and democratic rights in Ethiopian;

2)    To equip the participants with appropriate mechanisms and strategies designed to implement or enforce their human and democratic rights;

3)    To create a forum and close collaboration among the participants of the workshops to be able to create a forum to discuss issues related to human and democratic rights in Ethiopia;

4)    To avail opportunities to the participants to exchange experiences with regard to the problems encountered in the practical application of human and democratic rights in Ethiopia and to suggest possible methods of dealing with them and

5)    To provide a background knowledge and opportunities for the participants in sharing experiences among themselves with a view of equipping them in disseminating basic human and democratic rights to their fellow citizens in future


Traditional Elders - The New Generation of Human Right Activists- Amhara, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples and Oromiya Regional States Projects

In recent years, there has been a push to equip and improve the formal justice system in Ethiopia. While such a focus is imperative, it should not be forgotten that a large segment of Ethiopians does not come in contact with formal justice administration when they are in dispute with each other or when they feel their rights have been trampled on. Instead, in every community all over Ethiopia’s diverse landscape there are trusted traditional institutions that people turn to for justice and reconciliation. These traditional justice bodies still enjoy a high degree of acceptability and legitimacy in the eyes of most Ethiopians. The oft-cited strengths of customary institutions for dispute settlement appear to be demerits of the formal justice system.  The traditional justice institutions are cost-effective (indeed, gratis), accessible at any time, proximate in location, familiarity with the sources of disputes and disputants themselves as well as their user-friendliness (in the sense that beneficiaries understand the language, rules and procedures of the traditional system). In fact, one of the main findings of a recent study commissioned by Peace and Development Center/PDC/ was that in the rural areas (where 85% of the Ethiopian populace lives) most people preferred to take their cases to the traditional courts as opposed to the formal ones.

In other words, the traditional institutions are very much alive and at work with administering justice today – yet few capacity-building efforts in the justice sector have focused on equipping these bodies. In fact, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) constitution indeed endorses the idea of support of traditional bodies, with the caveat that it is compatible with fundamental rights (Art. 91.1)

Improvement and updating these institutions is of the essence, because just as there are obvious merits with the customary system, there are glaring weaknesses.  In the study mentioned above, the informants[1] identified the following key needs for a more just traditional adjudication: addressing the serious gender and age discrimination in the participation, decision-making and procedures as well as addressing pre-conceived negative attitudes towards certain groups of society (i.e. an unequal, hierarchical understanding of their communities).  These issues can be tackled through systematic and tailored human rights education that invites the traditional elders to become human rights activists in their own communities. 

The project has the following objectives

  • To infuse human rights awareness in the administration of informal/ traditional justice in three Regions: Oromiya Regional State , Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State  and Amhara Regional State
  • To create new knowledge about  the intersection of human rights and traditional justice; learning where the features of the two concepts converge and where they diverge

  • To contribute towards a lesser degree of  human rights breeches in the adjudication of traditional justice in the above regions
  • To create linkages between traditional elders and human rights activists