Understanding policy dynamics in the multi-actor and multi-level forest governance of Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been experimenting with new forms of forest governance since the early 1990s in order to curb the enduring problem of deforestation and to balance social, environmental, and economic goals. The new governance initiatives, on one hand, enabled the process of sharing forest management authority between central and sub-national units of government located at different administrative levels - as a multi-level governance. At the same time, it stimulated the involvement of non-state entities from market and civil society organizations such as community cooperatives and NGOs in to the governance process - as multi-actor governance.

Most previous studies conducted on the new system of forest governance in Ethiopia focused on understanding and characterizing policy implementation at local level and devoted little attention to the macro and the meso-level policy-making processes that provide the political and legal basis for local level policy outcomes. Therefore, this study examines the institutionalization process and the performance of multi-actor and multi-level forest governance in Ethiopia. This will be addressed (i) by analyzing the longitudinal change and continuity in forest policy making processes since the initiation of the new governance; (ii) comprehending the empirical performances of the new policy arrangement by examining the extent to which the new policy discourses are translated in to social practices. Departing from the conventional accounts that tend to proclaim advancement or stagnation, this study hypothesize that the institutionalization processes and performance of the new policy initiatives is undulating between the interface of ‘new’ and ‘old’ governance arrangement.

Governance analysis at multiple levels will provide comprehensive scientific and policy relevant information on whether, how and why new policy initiatives are progressing or stagnating. This information will serve as critical steps to start proposing alternative policies or suggest better way of making policies. Data will be collected using semi-structured expert interviews, participant observation, informal conversations, group discussions, analytical workshop, and documentation analysis at national and two regional states of Ethiopia.

PhD defence and thesis