Embassy of The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia



Pictures of Ethiopian old manuscript and various ethnic groups wearing traditional costume In accordance with the agreement reached by the General Assembly of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation held in Mexico City in 1982, culture is defined as a concept which incorporates all intellectual, ethical, physical, technical and other activities that characterise humankind as a rational being. It also involves the ability of man to learn and train himself in moral, technical and other spheres of knowledge. Culture is a wide concept which includes the modes of life, beliefs, traditions and the whole set of the material and spiritual wealth which characterise a certain society as distinct from others.

In the context of the cultures of the peoples of the various nations, nationalities, and peoples of Ethiopia, this definition could be used to incorporate their varied social, economic, political, administrative, moral, religious and psychological conditions. The languages, history, oral traditions, housing, instruments of production, food preparation, eating habits, costumes, ornamentation, aesthetic values and appreciation, beliefs and religious practices are also components of their cultures.

The ritual ceremonies related to birth, wedding and death, principles of mutual co-operation and communal concerns that emanate from kinship, neighbourhood and other types of relationships, as well as traditional ways of social governance, traditional health care practices and many other related aspects of their respective communities are also included. As the concept of culture encompasses varied aspects of wider scope, it plays a major role in the national development process. Nowadays it has become a global conviction that any development program that does not pay attention to culture cannot bear fruit. However, neither the past regimes nor the member of the ruling class were able to accept this reality; and there was never a time when a development policy that considered the culture of the people was put into effect. On the contrary, they promoted policies designed to consolidate political systems that ensured the continuation of their personal powers and welfare. To this effect, they followed a discriminatory policy by seeding enmity among peoples and promoting the domination of the culture of one nation or nationality at the expense of others.

Even though some governmental measures were recently been taken to promote the cultural sector, they fell short of creating a proper understanding of the concept of culture. Instead, these measures were limited to organising a few narrowly envisaged cultural establishments. In relation to the modern political, economic and social establishments and enterprises created in the country, these cultural establishments came very late and this indicates the low consideration that was given to the sector. This low consideration hindered the sector from contributing its part in development programs of the country.

Today due consideration is given to basing every developmental activity on the peoples culture. Therefore, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), which is making efforts to give solutions to the complex problems of the cultural sector has issued proclamation No. 4/1995 to restructure the office in charge of cultural affairs, so that its operation shall be commensurate with a democratic system. However, structural change alone would not bring about the development of the sector. Therefore, it is imperative to have a popular cultural policy that would set the direction of the sector's development. It is also important to note that the sector was denied due attention by the government and the people, who are directly concerned by it, and yet are denied of the right to actively participate in the development of the sector.

Cognisant of the fact it is high time the heritage history, fine arts, handicrafts and folk art (tales, proverbs, popular poetry, dance, songs, etc.,) of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia are collected, registered, analysed and preserved from any form of adulteration, and that these are given equal recognition and right to develop.

Cognisant of the need to abolish step by step the deep rooted causes of poverty, indolence, misconduct, prejudice against women, chauvinism and problems related to family planning and reproductive health, backward traditions that are popularly known as 'harmful culture' and are a deterrent to development and progress, practices that violate human rights and harmful traditional practices causing physical, psychological and moral damage; all practices that defy social values and norms as well as artistic performances, cinema shows and other media productions such as books and press outputs that negatively affect the welfare of the youth and withstand all forms of acculturation.

Instead it is important to create favourable situations that would enable all citizens to participate in cultural and creative activities and fulfil their spiritual needs; to inculcate equality of the sexes, companionship and industriousness, to respect for mankind and work and an initiation into; development and progress; and to promote national, continental and international co-operation on the basis of the equality of all Cultures and mutual benefit.

Considering the necessity of putting into effect the constitutional rights of the peoples of Ethiopia that guarantee equal recognition and respect to the cultures of nations, nationalities and peoples; of bringing about the practical application of article 9/4 of the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia that reads: 'All international agreements ratified by Ethiopia are an integral part of the law of the land', and article 39/2 that reads, 'Every nation, nationality and people in Ethiopia has the right to speak, to write and to develop its own language; to express, to develop and to promote its culture; and to preserve its history'. Determined to take advantage of the conducive conditions created for the development of culture by the democratic and federal system of administration that the country chose to follow and, according to which the opening of central and regional offices to carry out cultural activities is made possible, as well as the decentralisation of trained manpower and finance.

Article 51/3 of the constitution states the federal government 'shall establish and implement national standards and basic policy criteria for public health, education, science and technology as well as for the protection and preservation of cultural and historical legacies.

This cultural policy is endorsed by the Council of Ministers of FDRE on October 1997 and is put into effect.

Cultural Policy

The Necessity of Having the Policy:

  1. In recognition of the positive or negative role that culture could play in the relationship of peoples; with the realisation of the fact that culture is itself the mark of the identity of humankind and the foundation of all human rights; and believing that it is appropriate to ensure that the cultures of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia receive equal recognition, respect, and the chance to develop;
  2. In recognition of the fact that culture is closely related to the daily life and psychological states of people, and that it has a decisive role in facilitating development programs to meet their goal.

Objective of The Policy

  1. To enable the languages, heritage history, handicraft, fine arts, oral literature, traditional lore, beliefs and other cultural features of the various nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia to receive equal recognition and respect; to preserve and conserve these and pass them over to future generations;
  2. To create conducive conditions to carryout scientific research on the languages, heritage history, handicrafts, fine arts, oral literature, traditional lore, beliefs and other cultural features, which as they are constitute the identity of the peoples of the various nations and nationalities; to ensure the prosperity of these cultural elements and to enhance their role in development;
  3. To ensure that all citizens can freely, equally and democratically participate in all cultural activities and to enable them to benefit from the sector;
  4. To create situations favourable to creative artists and researchers working in the cultural sector;
  5. To promote the culture of the different nations, nationalities and peoples, and to develop these in harmony with modern education, science, and technology; and to create culture conscious citizens that are proud of their culture and identity and are determined to preserve these;
  6. To create situations that would favour the development of skilled manpower in various capacities in the cultural sector;
  7. To abolish step-by-step traditional harmful practices;
  8. To enable cultural establishments to play a significant role in the country's programme to bring in peace, development and democracy;
  9. To establish cultural co-operation on national, continental and international levels on the basis of the equality of cultures and mutual benefit.

Contents of The Policy

  1. Ensuring that the languages, heritage history, fine arts, handicrafts, oral literature, customs, beliefs and other cultural elements of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia receive equal recognition, respect and chance of development;
  2. Creating a favourable situation to carry out scientific research and inventory on the languages, heritage history, fine arts, handicrafts, oral literature, customs and other cultural elements of the nations nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and to make them useful in development endeavour;
  3. Creating a favourable situation whereby citizens can equally, freely and democratically participate in all cultural activities and receive the benefits thereof;
  4. Introducing the fact that culture is the basis of all kinds of development;
  5. Creating a favourable situation to the development of the culture of the various nations, nationalities and peoples in line with modern education, science and technology;
  6. Creating awareness that the conservation and preservation of cultural, historical and natural heritage's are the duties and responsibilities of governmental and non-governmental organisations, religious institutions and all Ethiopian nationals;
  7. Facilitating the necessary conditions to conserve and preserve the heritage of the country; to protect these from illicit trafficking and extortion, and to set up a standard that would enable to effect control over the expatriation of heritage;
  8. Making arrangements for the return of all Ethiopian heritage which have been expatriated in various ways;
  9. Providing the necessary professional assistance to the various nations, nationalities and peoples while making their choice of language;
  10. Creating situations whereby creative artists get a conducive atmosphere to the promotion of their career;
  11. Ensuring the opening of cultural establishments and their development;
  12. Creating the necessary situations for the development of skilled man power in various capacities in the sector and to introduce modern methods and applications;
  13. Warding off all cultural activities that could negatively affect the physical, psychological, and moral well being of the youth as well as the dignity and democratic rights of citizens;
  14. Ensuring women's active participation in all cultural activities and guaranteeing them equal right to the benefits thereof;
  15. Enabling cultural establishments to play an active role in all the activities being carried out to fend off harmful traditional practices and attitudes such as indolence, chauvinism, narrow mindedness; prejudice, etc, and to step-by-step eliminate the prevalent prejudice against women and their professions;
  16. Promoting national, continental and international cultural co-operation on the basis of the equality of people's culture and their mutual benefit.

General Strategies For The Implementation of The Policy

1. With Regard to Inventory and Standardisation

2. With Regard to Study, Research and Development

3. With Regard to the Establishment and Expansion of Cultural Institutions

4. With Regard to the Conservation, Preservation and Inspection of Heritage

5. With Regard to the Repatriation and Restitution of Heritages

6. With Regard to Developing Languages and Providing Professional Assistance While Determining the Language for Use

7. With Regard to Initiating and Encouraging Creative Artists & Other Professionals

8. With Regard to Protecting the Right of Property to Creative Works and Other Related Rights

9. With Regard to the Spread of Cultural Knowledge

10. With Regard to Personnel Training and the Modernisation of Work Mechanisms

11. With Regard to Popular Participation

12. With Regard to Cultural Exchanges and Relationships

13. Financial sources

14. Executing Bodies of the Policy

15. Implementation of the policy

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