Ethiopia Fragility Brief 2021

As a cultural mosaic of over 80 diverse ethnic groups, interethnic tensions, power dynamics, and historical context are central to understanding all aspects of Ethiopia’s political, economic, and social affairs. Faulty democratic structures, declining legitimacy, persistent isomorphic mimicry, and a frail social contract are presently driving Ethiopia’s fragility. These structural flaws manifest most prominently across governance, security, and demographic clusters, rendering these the primary drivers of fragility. While flawed democracy, interethnic conflicts, and growing internal displacement are central to discussions of fragility in Ethiopia, the State’s inability to address ethnic and gendered inequalities, aid dependency, and low environmental resilience cannot be overlooked. Despite high hopes following the appointment of Prime Minister (PM) Abiy Ahmed in 2018, declining authority and capacity has created a vicious feedback cycle, undermining State legitimacy. Projecting to May 2021, scenarios consider political uncertainty related to the indefinite postponement of federal elections, authoritarian security enforcement, and intensifying interethnic conflicts, all against the backdrop of a displacement- and climate-induced humanitarian crisis. Recognizing strong Canada-Ethiopia bilateral relations and significant investment in Ethiopian development, this policy brief is directed to Global Affairs Canada (GAC). Building off of an evidence-based analysis of Ethiopia’s fragility and informed projection of future trends, this brief provides several policy options as entry points for reducing fragility by supporting national peacebuilding strategies, deepening democratic governance, and promoting resilient agricultural development. GAC is well-positioned to address a number of structural causes of Ethiopia’s fragility and support the country’s transition towards greater authority, capacity, legitimacy, and ultimately, State resilience.