Climate Justice Concerns and Human Rights Trade-Offs in Ethiopia’s Green Economy Transition: The Case of Gibe III

What are you doing? You are talking about green economy to protect human rights. But at the same time this is causing problems on the local people. You are taking away their land, which means their right to food, their right to life […] (Interview Domestic NGO, Ethiopia).

Abstract

In this research article, I emphasize the meaning of procedural rights for just transition to Green Economy. I argue that different justice arguments play a role in the context of Green Economy policies but can be traded-off against one another. Whereas intergenerational and international injustice can be diminished by zero-carbon policies, Green Economy transition processes can exacerbate already existing intrasocietal injustices. This is even more the case if vulnerable societal groups cannot participate and are not adequately represented in repressive political systems. In such cases, installing procedural justice mechanisms and comprehensively considering different justice concerns in Green Economy policies can lead to more sustainable outcomes. My empirical analysis focuses on Ethiopia as a case study placing an emphasis on the hydroelectric Gibe III dam. Empirically, it is based on a content analysis of policy documents and field research comprising expert interviews with governmental representatives, international organizations and civil society.

Résumé

Dans cet article de recherche, je mets l’accent sur la signification des droits procéduraux pour une transition juste vers une économie verte. Je soutiens que différents arguments de justice jouent un rôle dans le contexte des politiques d’économie verte, mais peuvent être interchangeables. Alors que les injustices intergénérationnelles et internationales peuvent être atténuées par des politiques zéro carbone, les processus de transition vers une économie verte peuvent exacerber les injustices déjà existantes au sein de la société. Cela est d’autant plus probable si les groupes sociétaux vulnérables ne peuvent pas participer et ne sont pas correctement représentés dans des systèmes politiques répressifs. Dans ces cas-là, la mise en place de mécanismes de justice procédurale et la prise en compte globale des différents problèmes de justice dans les politiques d’économie verte peuvent conduire à des résultats plus durables. Mon analyse empirique se concentre sur l’Éthiopie en tant qu’étude de cas et met l’accent sur le barrage hydroélectrique Gibe III. Empiriquement, mon analyse se base sur une revue documentaire de documents politiques et d’articles de recherche sur le terrain. Cela inclut des entretiens d’experts avec des représentants gouvernementaux, des organisations internationales ainsi que la société civile.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    Once the Grand Renaissance Dam is in operation, this will be the largest dam in Ethiopia.

  2. 2.

    An additional climate injustice dimension relating to the non-human world is interspecies justice (Nussbaum 2006, p. 327).

  3. 3.

    A second state of emergency was declared in February 2018 after first Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned from office.

  4. 4.

    The Grand Renaissance Dam is still under construction but if completed, will be the largest dam in Ethiopia.

References

  1. Atapattu, S., and A. Schapper. 2019. Human Rights and the Environment: Key Issues. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Avery, S. 2017. Fears over Ethiopian dam’s costly impact on environment, people. Conversation. https://theconversation.com/fears-over-ethiopian-dams-costly-impact-on-environment-people-80757. Accessed 24 April 2018.

  3. Beckman, L., and E. Page. 2008. Perspectives on Justice, Democracy and Global Climate Change. Environmental Politics 17 (4): 527–535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bekele, Y. 2018. The Political Economy of Poverty in Ethiopia: Drivers and Challenges. Africa Review 10 (1): 17–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brand, U. 2012. Green Economy—The Next Oxymoron? No Lessons Learned from Failures of Implementing Sustainable Development. GAIA 21 (1): 28–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bratman, E. 2015. Passive Revolution in the Green Economy: Activism and the Belo Monte Dam. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 15 (1): 61–77.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Caney, S. 2006. Cosmopolitan Justice, Rights and Global Climate Change. Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence 19 (2): 255–278.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Carr, C.J. 2012. Humanitarian Catastrophe and Regional Armed Conflict Brewing in the Transborder Region of Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan: The Proposed Gibe III Dam in Ethiopia. Africa Resources Working Group.

  9. Carr, C.J. 2017. River Basin Development and Human Rights in Eastern Africa—A Policy Crossroads. Springer Open.

  10. Clapham, C. 2017. The Ethiopian Developmental State. Third World Quarterly 39 (6): 1151–1165.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Devereux, S. 2010. Better Marginalised Than Incorporated? Pastoralist Livelihoods in Somali Region. Ethiopia. European Journal of Development Research 22 (5): 678–695.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Fairclough, I., and N. Fairclough. 2012. Political Discourse Analysis: A Method for Advanced Students. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  13. FHI. 2018. Freedom House: Ethiopia. https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2018/ethiopia. Accessed 24 April 2018.

  14. Gadgil, M., and R. Guha. 1994. Ecological Conflicts and the Environmental Movement in India. Development and Change 25 (1): 101–136.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. GoE. 2010. Growth and Transformation Plan. Addis Ababa: Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

    Google Scholar 

  16. GoE. 2011a. Ethiopia’s Climate-Resilient Green Economy: Green Economy Strategy. Addis Ababa: Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

    Google Scholar 

  17. GoE. 2011b. Ethiopia’s Vision for a Climate Resilient Green Economy. Addis Ababa: Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

    Google Scholar 

  18. GoE. 2015. Ethiopia’s Climate-Resilient Green Economy. Climate Resilient Strategy: Water and Energy. Addis Ababa: Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

  19. Gupta, A. 2008. Transparency Under Scrutiny: Information Disclosure in Global Environmental Governance. Global Environmental Politics 8 (2): 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Harris, P., S. Chow, and R. Karlsson. 2013. China and Climate Justice: Moving Beyond Statism. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 13 (3): 291–305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Hayward, T. 2007. Human Rights Versus Emissions Rights: Climate Justice and the Equitable Distribution of Ecological Space. Ethics and International Affairs 21 (4): 431–450.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Hiskes, R.P. 2009. The Human Right to a Green Future: Environmental Rights and Intergenerational Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  23. HRW. 2012. What Will Happen if Hunger Comes? Abuses Against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley. New York: Human Rights Watch.

    Google Scholar 

  24. HRW. 2015. There is no Time Left: Climate Change, Environmental Threats, and Human Rights in Turkana County, Kenya. New York: Human Rights Watch.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Human Rights Council. 2018. Report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. United Nations General Assembly, A/HRC/37/59.

  26. Humphreys, S. 2014. Climate Justice: The Claim of the Past. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 5: 134–148.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. ICCPR. 1966. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966.

  28. ICESCR. 1966. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Adopted by General Assembly resolution 2200 A (XXI) of 16 December 1966.

  29. ILO. 1989. Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. Adopted at the 76th session of the International Labour Conference. Geneva: International Labour Organization.

  30. ILO. 2012. Working Towards Sustainable Development: Opportunities for Decent Work and Social Inclusion in a Green Economy. Geneva: International Labour Office.

    Google Scholar 

  31. International Rivers. 2011. Ethiopia’s Gibe III Dam: Sowing Hunger and Conflict. Berkeley: International Rivers.

    Google Scholar 

  32. International Rivers. 2015. Come and Count our Bones: Community Voices from Lake Turkana on the Impacts of Gibe III Dam. Berkeley: International Rivers.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Khor, M. 2011 Risks and Uses of the Green Economy Concept in the Context of Sustainable Development, Poverty and Equity. South Centre Research Papers. Geneva: South Centre.

  34. Khor, M. 2012. Challenges of the Green Economy Concept and Policies in the Context of Sustainable Development, Poverty and Equity. In The Transition to a Green Economy: Benefits. Report by a Panel of Experts to the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, ed. UNDESA, UNEP and UNCTAD, 69–97.

  35. Knox, J. 2015. Report of the Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Relating to the Enjoyment of a Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment: Compilation of Good Practices. Geneva: Human Rights Council.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Kudama, W. 2016. Ethiopia: Gibe III Boosting Nation’s Power Generation. http://www.geeskaafrika.com/26051/ethiopia-gibe-iii-boosting-nations-power-generation/. Accessed 19 April 2018.

  37. Kuehn, R. 2000. A Taxonomy of Environmental Justice. Environmental Law Reporter 30: 10681–10703.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Lie, J., and B. Mesfin. 2018. Ethiopia: A Political Economy Analysis. Oslo: Norwegian Institute of Foreign Affairs.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Mamme, S.A. 2015. The Role of the World Bank in the Dam Projects in Ethiopia: A Case of Inconsistency? Dissertation submitted to the University of Malta.

  40. Mayring, P. 2019. Qualitative Content Analysis: Demarcation, Varieties. Developments. Forum: Qualitative Social Research 20 (3): 16.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Mayring, P. 2015. Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Weinheim: Beltz.

  42. Menga, F., and E. Swyngedouw (eds.). 2018. Water, Technology and the Nation-State. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Moellendorf, D. 2014. The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change: Values, Poverty and Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. MoWE. 2014. Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy: Water and Energy. http://www.greengrowthknowledge.org/sites/default/files/downloads/resource/Ethiopia_Climate_Resilient_Green_Economy_Water_Energy.pdf. Accessed 29 June 2017.

  45. Newell, P. 2005. Race, Class and the Global Politics of Environmental Inequality. Global Environmental Politics 5 (3): 70–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Nussbaum, M.C. 2006. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Ocampo, J.A. 2012. The Macroeconomics of the Green Economy. In The Transition to a Green Economy. Report by a Panel of Experts to the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, ed. UNDESA, UNEP and UNCTAD, 16–39.

  48. OHCHR. 2015. Continued detention of Ethiopian journalists unacceptable – UN human rights experts. https://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15890&LangID=E. Accessed 4 Dec 2020

  49. OHCHR. 2009. Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Relationship between Climate Change and Human Rights. Geneva: Human Rights Council.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Okereke, C., and T. Ehresman. 2015. International Environmental Justice and the Quest for a Green Global Economy. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 15 (1): 5–11.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Scherer, L., and S. Pfister. 2016. Hydropower’s Biogenic Carbon Footprint. PLoS ONE 11 (9): 1–11.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Schlosberg, D. 2009. Climate Justice Beyond Equity: The Flourishing of Human and Non-Human Communities. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting; 3–6 September, Toronto, Canada.

  53. Shue, H. 2014. Climate Justice: Vulnerability and Protection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Steffek, J., and P. Nanz. 2008. Emergent patterns of civil society participation in global and european governance. In Civil Society Participation in European and Global Governance: A Cure for the Democratic Deficit?, ed. J. Steffek, C. Kissling, and P. Nanz, 1–29. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Stevis, D., and R. Felli. 2015. Global Labour Unions and Just Transition to a Green Economy. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 15 (1): 29–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Survival International. 2015. Ethiopia: Tribe Starves as Dam and Land Grabs Dry up River. http://www.survivalinternational.org/news/10691. Accessed 26 Aug 2016.

  57. Survival International. 2016. Survival Reports Italian Corporation to OECD over Dam Disaster. http://www.survivalinternational.de/news/11172. Accessed 26 Aug 2016.

  58. UNDESA, UNEP and UNCTAD. 2012. The Transition to a Green Economy. Report by a Panel of Experts to the Second Preparatory Committee Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

  59. UNEP. 2011. Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication. Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme.

    Google Scholar 

  60. UNTC. 2016. United Nations Treaty Collection. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-3&chapter=4&lang=en. Accessed 20 March 2016.

  61. Vanderheiden, S. 2004. Justice in the Greenhouse: Climate Change and the Idea of Fairness. Social Philosophy Today 19: 89–101.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  62. Washington Post. 2018. Abiy Ahmed pulls off an astonishing turnaround for Ethiopia. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/abiy-ahmed-pulls-off-an astonishing-turnaround-for-ethiopia/2018/06/10/6c5dd898-6b3d-11e8-bf8c f9ed2e672adf_story.html. Accessed 15 Feb 2020.

  63. WCD. 2000. Dams and Development: A New Framework for Decision-Making (World Commission on Dams). London: Earthscan.

    Google Scholar 

  64. World Bank. 2016. The Eastern Electricity Highway Project under the First Phase of the Eastern Africa Power Integration Program. http://www.worldbank.org/projects/P126579/regional-eastern-africa-power-pool-project-apl1?lang=en&tab=overview. Accessed 26 Aug 2016.

  65. Wubete, Fekadu. 2017. Ethiopia: Gibe III—Another Milestone for Building Green Economy. http://allafrica.com/stories/201701040514.html. Accessed 29 June 2017.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrea Schapper.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Schapper, A. Climate Justice Concerns and Human Rights Trade-Offs in Ethiopia’s Green Economy Transition: The Case of Gibe III. Eur J Dev Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41287-020-00340-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Green economy
  • Climate justice
  • Human rights
  • Procedural justice
  • Hydroelectric dams
  • Ethiopia