During the first week of June 2016, MELCA-Ethiopia has organized legal workshops in Gambela Nation’s regional state. The legal workshops were organized for high government officials at regional and zonal levels.
Gambella region is one of the few areas in Ethiopia with dense natural forest coverage, many perennial rivers and plain land. Recently the region has become the focus of both national and international media because of the large-scale agricultural investments that are prevailing in the area.
The workshops are intended to raise the awareness and build the capacity of law enforcement organs, the justice body and administrative officials in the government structure with regard to national and international laws, policies, strategies and institutional arrangements as well as international movements and developments in relation to environment and climate change.
The workshop organized for government officials at regional level was officially opened by the vice president of Gambella Nations regional state H.E Engineer Oliero Opiew. In his opening speech Engineer Oliero mentioned that Ethiopia has announced that it is following the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE), which requires government organs and all citizens to be concerned of conservation of natural resources more than ever. He said “Those of us in the government administration and law enforcement structure are more responsible for conservation of the natural resources of the region through strict enforcement of relevant laws and policies of the country. So this workshop is very important to build the capacity of these organs so that they can discharge the responsibility expected of them more effectively and contribute to the effectiveness of the national policy.”
The discussion points for the workshop were arranged in such a way that national and international environmental laws dealing with conservation of nature and governance systems are discussed; policy and institutional arrangements are examined and the real practices and experiences existing on the ground in the region are scrutinized against these national and international arrangements.
In addition to these, the causes and effects of climate change as well as the international politics going on in relation to it, and also what we as citizens of a poor developing country who are vulnerable to the effects of climate change should do were among the issues discussed during these meetings.
Lots of thoughts were triggered and there was a moment of Aaha in all the participants to the regional and zonal workshops. Some of the participants showed they started to feel the pain and reflected it in the following manner:
A high government official at the regional workshop pleaded we (MELCA) have to organize a meeting on which government officials at federal level and regional level, the investors working in the region and community representatives come together and discuss on such issues.
Vise head of the environment, climate change and forest bureau of the region admitted that so far, lands have been given for investment without any Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as required by the law. He reflected that the giving land for investment has been halted for the time being and in the future they will pay due attention to the issue of EIA as a condition for any investment and there is strong hope that this will be put in to practice.
One participant at the zonal workshop reflected that he had never thought of the value of other creatures such as monkeys, snakes and ants for our survival. He said “I always though of such animals as nuisances and their absence may affect our survival in any way. Today is really a day up on which I learned great thing in my life. It is a shift of mind in the way I see nature and value other creatures.”