ETHIOPIA: Children's rights in the Special Procedures' reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.



Independent Expert on Minority Issues
Gay McDougall
Country visit: 28 November-12 December 2006
Report published: 28 February 2007

Problems facing women: A forum for Anuak and Nuer women to talk about their lives, issues and concerns highlighted the massive impact on individuals, families and communities, and on women in particular, of the ethnic conflicts, and the incidents of December 2003. The women talked of their despair over the fact that their Anuak sons and other male family members had either been killed or fled to avoid the killing and had not returned. They asked for help to convince their sons that it was safe to return to their communities. Many women face severe practical problems of daily survival, personal security, including the threat of rape, and loss of property in the absence of male members of their families. They spoke of the continuing trauma of their experiences and how their loss has left them in deep despair. (Paragraph 35)

The Gambella Bureau for Women's Affairs noted that surveys had established that women and children had been significant victims of conflict. They were unable to flee and suffered from secondary effects, including loss of property and the support of male family members. In many regions, women traditionally have no customary rights to own or inherit property. Even where males have fled violence, property is commonly appropriated by remaining male members of the husband's family. In cases of divorce, property is generally retained by the husband, despite chapter 5 of the Family Code which establishes shared ownership of common property. The property rights of women generally were highlighted by the independent expert as an area requiring urgent legislative and practical protection. (Paragraph 72)

Language: Amharic remains the official working language of choice in some states, including Amhara, the SNNP and Afar. Under previous Governments, Amharic was the language of primary school education nationwide and thus children from other ethnic groups had little possibility to learn their native language within the formal school system. Under article 5, paragraph 1 of the Constitution, all languages are given equal recognition by the State, and Amharic is recognized as the official working language of the federal Government. However each member state of the Federation may determine its own working language. (Paragraph 49)

Education: Interviews in Gambella revealed that: many children were not in school; the security situation had led to the effective suspension of education for two years in some waredas; schools had been destroyed and lacked materials; teachers had left or were poorly qualified; and there was little information available to the regional government about the functioning of the education system in rural areas, administered by the waredas. While some communities were felt to have adequate access to education, due in part to their disproportionate residence in relatively urban areas, inequalities in access to education for groups including Anuak, Nuer, Majangir, Komo and Opo residing in rural areas were cause for concern. (Paragraph 52)

Student activists: Sources claim that Oromo people are disproportionately represented amongst prison inmates and are often held and convicted based on politically motivated charges. Representatives of the Oromo allege widespread violation of their civil and political rights, including killings and imprisonment of political leaders, journalists and students; restrictions on independent political parties; exclusion of students from universities; and discrimination against Oromo who fail to support the EPRDF ruling party. (Paragraph 77)

It is clear that the continued imprisonment without trial according to international standards of opposition leaders, economists, scholars and university students, represents a violation of human rights obligations and a breach of trust between Government and citizens. Continuation of this situation will contribute to denying the full realization of the admirable initiatives represented in the Constitution regarding equal rights among all ethnic groups in Ethiopia and consequent recognition and protection of language, cultural and religious rights. (Paragraph 96)

As a matter of priority the federal Government should:

− Treat those political opposition leaders, journalists, students and human rights defenders currently detained according to international law and standards of fair and speedy trial, and where no evidence exists for conviction release them immediately; (Paragraph 98)


Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Jean Ziegler

Country visit: 16 February to 
27 February 2004
Report published: 8 February 2005

Malnutrition: Today, Ethiopia is one of the poorest and most food-insecure countries in the world. Nearly half of Ethiopians are undernourished, with 44 per cent living in extreme poverty, unable to guarantee enough food for themselves and their families every day.12 Ethiopians have the lowest calorie intake in Africa, averaging approximately 1,750 calories per person per day.13 At least 58 per cent of deaths of children are directly caused by malnutrition and rates of child mortality increased between 1997 and 2000.14 Half of all children under the age of 5 are underweight and stunted. (Paragraph 9)

Micronutrient deficiencies are also endemic, particularly deficiencies in vitamin A, iodine and iron, which affects the physical and mental growth of Ethiopia's children, women and men.16 More than 76 per cent of rural Ethiopians and 69 per cent of all Ethiopians do not have sustainable access to safe and clean water. Women regularly travel as far as 15 km or more to fetch water for household purposes. The population is estimated to have doubled since 1980 to 70 million, and more than 2 million people are now HIV positive (the third highest absolute number after India and South Africa). The number of literate people has fallen from nearly
80 per cent of adults in 1990 to less than 25 per cent over the last decade. In the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index, Ethiopia ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world, at 170 out of 175.17 Even in years of good harvests, when there is no drought, it is estimated that 5-6 million Ethiopians are chronically food insecure and have to rely on "emergency" food aid programmes to be able to feed themselves. (Paragraph 10)

Street children: Nonetheless, poverty is highest in rural areas, where the majority of the population live. The poorest most food-insecure regions are Tigray, Amhara and SNNPR, although the pastoral regions, particularly Somali, are also increasingly vulnerable. Competition over resources is increasing. In some regions, particularly in the Somali region and more recently the Gambella region, armed conflict situations have also led to high food and water insecurity, particularly for those forced to flee from their homes who are often left without any kind of protection or assistance. Urban poverty is significantly lower than rural poverty, although there are a number of vulnerable groups, such as street children in the streets of Addis Abbaba and other urban centres. (Paragraph 14)

Child marriage: Women are often the most vulnerable to hunger and poverty as a result of discrimination, especially in rural areas. In some regions of Ethiopia, traditional practices such as child marriage, inheritance practices and violence against women contribute to greater poverty and vulnerability of women and children.21 Some marriages occur through abduction, a traditional practice whereby a young girl is raped by a man and his friends and then claimed cheaply in marriage. The Government is now taking action to fight this practice. During his visit, the Special Rapporteur noted the extreme vulnerability and poverty of older single women, often working as servants in the homes of others. Women represent 50 per cent of the agricultural workforce, yet traditionally have no right to inherit the land they work on, and little access to credit, agricultural inputs or extension training. (Paragraph 15)

International obligations: Ethiopia has ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which protects the right to food (art. 11). However, Ethiopia has not yet submitted its initial report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, due in 1995.22 It has also ratified all other relevant major international treaties relevant to the right to food, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art. 6), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (arts. 24 and 27) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (arts. 12 and 14). Ethiopia is also bound by international humanitarian law, having ratified the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1999 and the Additional Protocols thereto of 1977. At the regional level, the Government is committed to the right to food through the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (arts. 16 and 60). (Paragraph 17)

Landlessness: Food aid, whilst essential for saving lives, can also be an obstacle to the longer-term realization of the right to food. While imported food aid is essential whilst relief needs cannot be met through domestic production, it is essential to reduce dependence, purchasing food locally as far as possible to encourage local development over the long term. Government coordination of all food aid is essential, but the institutionalization of food aid within the Government and donor agencies may be an obstacle to the full realization of the right to food. Efforts should be focused on reducing food aid needs by addressing longer-term development needs as well as population policy. Greater investment in longer-term development, including in transport and marketing infrastructure, and building up an effective, independent private sector are essential to overcome local market failure. To ensure food security, transporting surplus crops to deficit areas should be made a priority, rather than developing export markets for surplus crops. Efforts should also be focused on the creation of employment in both rural and urban areas, increasing access to resources for the increasingly landless younger generations. (Paragraph 54)


Special Rapporteur on Toxic Waste
Ms. Fatma-Zohra Ksentini

Country visit: 19 August to 21 August 1997 (Ethiopia) and 10 August to 16 August 1997 (South Africa) and 16 August to 19 August 1997 (Kenya)
Report published: 8 December 1997

No mention of children's rights issues.


Please note that these reports are hosted by CRIN as a resource for Child Rights campaigners, researchers and other interested parties. Unless otherwise stated, they are not the work of CRIN and their inclusion in our database does not necessarily signify endorsement or agreement with their content by CRIN.