The Constitutional Right to Enhanced Livelihood in Ethiopia: Unfulfilled Promises and the Need for New Approaches

Author:Elias N. Stebek
Position:Elias N. Stebek (LL.B, LL.M, PhD), Associate Professor, St. Mary's University, School of Graduate Studies.
Pages:126-176
SUMMARY

The civilized-uncivilized line of thinking had an element-system interface whereby social conduct was the aggregate of individual moral standards and behaviours. On the contrary, developmentalism tends to reverse this interface and give prime attention to ‘economic growth’. This usually depersonalizes individuals and at times relegates them to the oblivion of anonymity. In spite of Ethiopia’s... (see full summary)

 
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126
The Constitutional Right to Enhanced
Livelihood in Ethiopia:
Unfulfilled Promises and the Need for New Approaches
Elias N. Stebek
Abstract
The civilized-uncivilized line of thinking had an element-system interface
whereby social conduct was the aggregate of individual moral standards and
behaviours. On the contrary, developmentalism tends to reverse this interface
and give prime attention to ‘economic growth’. This usually depersonalizes
individuals and at times relegates them to the oblivion of anonymity. In spite
of Ethiopia’s statistical claims of double-digit economic growth, there are
challenges in the implementation of the right of citizens to enhanced
livelihoods. I argue that new approaches should critically examine the most
effective means of enhancing the (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional)
being of citizens and their (economic, social, political and environmental)
living conditions. Development is not ‘given’ by a ‘Big Brother’, and is rather
the making of citizens themselves through a strong work culture in the context
of an appropriate institutional setting including policy environment. Nor should
development be regarded as hasty campaign because it is an incremental steady
march and attainment. The 1995 Ethiopian Constitution envisages the capacity
enhancement of citizens so that they can bring about development and meet
their needs. New approaches should thus give prime attention to nurturing and
developing the state of being and livelihoods of citizens in the context of
environmental sustainability and the preservation of positive cultural legacies.
Such approaches and conceptions should transcend statistical figures and
reports of ‘accelerated growth’ in construction, the number of universities, etc.,
and instead offer prime attention to the bigger picture of enhancing livelihoods
(including poverty alleviation) and the state of being (i.e., moral character,
quality education, social ties and work ethic) of citizens.
Key terms
Livelihoods, living conditions, well-being, capabilities, state of being,
development, new approaches, Ethiopia
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.4314/mlr.v10i1.5
Elias N. Stebek (LL.B, LL.M, PhD), Associate Pr ofessor, St. Mary’s University, School
of Graduate Studies. I thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments.
An earlier version of this article (titled “Toward New Imaginaries of Development and
Social Justice in Ethiopia”) was presented at the Beyond Development International
Symposium that was held at the University of Warwick, School of Law (UK), April 21-23,
2016.
The Constitutional Right to Enhanced Livelihoods in Ethiopia: Unfulfilled Promises … 127
Introduction
Ethiopia’s Post-1991 pursuits of structural adjustment programs (SAPS)
promoted by the World Bank, IMF and donors focused on privatization,
macroeconomic stabilization and the enhancement of free market. At present,
Ethiopia pledges to pursue the policy of a democratic developmental state.
While Ethiopia’s centrally planned economic policies of 1975-1991 were
informed by an ideology1, the Post-1991 structural adjustment programs (SAPS)
prescribed to Ethiopia by international monetary institutions were based on the
theories of free market economy in its ‘Washington Consensus’ version. The
current economic policy pledges to pursue the experience of successful East
Asian developmental states of the 1960s.2 These states were largely homogenous
and did not resort to massive intervention (a s economic actors) other than their
active regulatory engagement (through a meritocratic and de-politicized
bureaucracy) in the course of empowering and assisting private economic actors
by interacting with them through a synthesis of embeddedness and autonomy.
Development is a process that requires steady efforts, time and incremental
achievements. Yet, claims in the periodic attainment of the pledges should be
accompanied by the enhancement of the livelihood of citizens. This article deals
with the need for new approaches that should critically examine the unfulfilled
promises of the ‘development’ landscape and the developmental state narrative
in Ethiopia with particular attention to the constitutional right of citizens to
enhanced livelihoods which is related with the enhancement of capabilities.
The first section deals with the need for due attention to the well-being of
citizens which should be among the prime targets of development as opposed to
its trade-off as the price toward ‘development’. The section highlights the
constitutional basis –in Ethiopia– which re quires the capacity enhancement of
citizens as a path toward development and well-being. This necessitates caveats
against fixation on reports and statistics of economic ‘growth’ without due
attention to the corresponding outcomes on the being and livelihoods of citizens.
Section 2 highlights the gaps in the attainment of the 2000-2015 Millennium
Development Goals with regard to the enhancement of livelihoods in Ethiopia
and provides an overview of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The
third section briefly discusses the challenges in the attainment of these goals
under the current global order which entrenches sustained underdevelopment
and meanwhile enhances the globalization of conspicuous consumerism. The
1 Even though Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was informed by various theories, most of the
contents in the volumes and other works of Marx, Engels and Lenin ended up in promoting
an ideology rather than theories that are open for discourse and further inquiry.
2 See for example, Meredith Woo-Cumings, ed. (1999), The Developmental State. Cornell
University Press.
128 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 10, No.1 September 2016
fourth section raises ten issues3 under three categories, i.e.: (a) material-
environmental-demographic conditions, (b) socio-political living conditions and
(c) state of being.
It is argued that these three categories of concerns illustrated by the issues
that are highlighted in Section 4 require new approaches for the enhancement of
capabilities and livelihoods of citizens. Each issue raised under the three
categories of concern deserves series of research outputs, and this article is
meant to encourage further academic and policy discourse. As a synthesis of the
discussion in the first four sections, Section 5 suggests a model for measuring
well-being at the individual level which can be scaled up to groups and
communities with a view to obtaini ng insights into actual living conditi ons at
the grassroots. The last section briefly reflects on unexamined ideology as an
impediment to new approaches.
1. Enhancing the Capacity of Citizens as the Path to Well-
being and Improved Livelihoods
The core questions in moral philosophy regarding “the best way to live and the
right principles for our actions4 have been addressed through various
approaches. In the context of well-being and development, the questions involve
“what sorts of things are intrinsically rather than just instrumentally valuable”
and what are ‘the ultimate goals of development’.5 The ‘crude’ commodity
approach “defines fundamental ethical categories in terms of goods and
commodities that are seen as intrinsically good or basic”.6 Even though this
approach duly recognizes the significance of material prosperity in development,
it has the shortcoming of giving “too much attention to commodities turning
them from means to ends”.7 Thus, there is the need to make reference to the
wider dimensions of well-being which include material and other conditions of
human existence.
Stephen Hawking states the apparent importance of money “because it is
liberating for individuals”, and he remarks that “money has helped not only
make [his] career possible but has also literally kept [him] alive”.8 But he note s
3 The issues are illustrative and not exhaustive.
4 Robert C. Solomon, Kathleen M. Higgins (2010), The Big Questions: A Short Introduction
to Philosophy. Wadsworth Cengage Learning, p. 252.
5 David A. Crocker (1997), “Summary of Functions and Capability: The Foundations of
Sen’s and Nussbaum’s Development Ethic, Parts I and II”, in Human Well-Being and
Economic Goals, Frank Akerman et al, editors, Island Press, p. 302.
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 Stephen Hawking, “Our attitude towards wealth played a crucial role in Brexit. We need to
rethink”, The Guardian, 29 July 2016, Available at

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