Ethiopia: Harnessing Diversity for Sustainable Development and Social Change

Ethiopia is an ancient country with a remarkably rich linguistic and cultural diversity. This diversity includes tangible and intangible heritage, with both traditional and modern cultural expressions, languages and centuries-old know-how in handicraft production. However, poverty, environmental degradation and climate change endanger the country's cultural riches. The Joint Programme's aim was to contribute to the sustainable development of Ethiopia by promoting its cultural heritage and diversity, developing the creative industries and encouraging dialogue about environmental preservation among the country's diverse communities. 

Conscious of the need to take an inclusive approach for development in the Ethiopian context, the programme promoted inter-faith and community-based dialogue, with a focus on the needs of minority, marginalized or disadvantaged groups.

Its chief goals were: supporting new or revised policy frameworks in the field of culture and increasing governance capacity to enforce them; improving conditions for cultural industries and creative communities, with a focus on women and youth; and encouraging inter-faith dialogue to develop strategies for the sustainable protection of the natural environment.

The programme's main achievements were:

  • The legal framework of the cultural sector and the national capacity to protect and manage cultural heritage were reinforced by the elaboration of key legal documents submitted to the Government (e.g. “Cultural Industry investment Code,” “Cultural Industry Development Strategy”).
  • Four proclamations, and their respective implementation regulations, were drafted to protect the four World Heritage Sites (Tiya, Lalibela, Aksum and Gondar Fasiladas).
  • National and regional government authorities were assisted to develop capacity in identifying, managing and protecting heritage and indigenous knowledge. Policy and regulatory frameworks as well as guidelines on the management and protection of heritage were revised and developed. Local communities and grass-roots organizations actively participated in the management, protection and utilization of heritages, including indigenous knowledge. 
  • To build the capacity of the sector, a comprehensive database of handicraft industries was developed. Four Living Cultural Resource Centres were established for training, market promotion and production of cultural products. Women and youth artisans were supported through skill building and entrepreneurship training, provision of work spaces, market linkages and revolving seed money. Trade fairs and bazaars were organized to integrate artisans into the market system, helping them to maximize their advantage and establish linkages with potential clients.
  • The programme promoted better networks between producers and the market, as well as better knowledge of existing resources, demand and potential product branding. The poorest and most marginalized artisans -- primarily women and youth -- significantly increased their production of cultural goods, improved their links to markets and generated much higher income. 
  • Significant progress was made in identifying prevailing and common cultural and religious values; the programme encouraged a participatory approach by bringing together the government, civil society and academia.
  • Extensive awareness-raising workshops, dialogues and festivals were conducted involving many people from all target areas. Toolkits were produced for inter-cultural dialogue. Many stakeholders reported appreciating for the first time their country's intangible cultural heritage and said they were motivated to create further awareness of Ethiopia's cultural riches.


Click for more detailed results from the Joint Programmes in Ethiopia.



The Joint Programme in action


Programme Dates 02 Jul 2009 - 31 Dec 2012
Net funded amount $3,576,632
Participating UN agencies UNDP, UNESCO
National partners Ministry of Culture and Tourism; Ministry of Finance and Economic Development
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