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South Dublin County - Ethiopian Partnership Project 2006-2011

Ireland’s involvement in developing-world aid and education is widely respected. Normally the domain of charities and NGOs, the involvement of South Dublin County Council (SDCC) in a capacity-building programme in Ethiopia over a five-year period is unique in Irish terms. 

The scale of response in the county to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, led local Councillors to convince the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Development Cooperation and Human Rights, of the potential in a leading Irish local authority establishing a mentoring and capacity-building partnership in Ethiopia. If successful, this pilot project could be extended further by harnessing the energy of other Irish public bodies to the benefit of Ethiopian sister authorities.

Initial study visits, hard work and research led to the identification of two adjoining towns, Butajira and Werabe, as project partners. Agreement of a project structure, targets and financing with Irish Aid was paralleled by the establishment of an internal Council team to steer the project. 





What work would be carried out in Ethiopia, what its values and intentions would be and how it would be managed and monitored with limited presence on the ground in Africa, were serious questions and it took many months to develop practical answers. 

 The key project stages and timeline were as follows:


January 2005

Proposal from SDCC Cllr. John Hannon to the Minister of State, Department of Foreign Affairs, that SDCC would explore the feasibility of public bodies in Ireland engaging in a development-aid role directly with similar bodies in sub-Saharan Africa

April 2005

Six-person, SDCC fact-finding group travelled to Ethiopia (facilitated by the Irish Embassy in Addis Ababa) which resulted in the selection of the two towns of Werabe & Butajira as project partners

March 2006

Conference to develop project themes was held in Dublin attended by senior representatives from the two municipalities of Werabe and Butajira

June 2006

SDCC team conducted the first “Summer School” in the two Ethiopian towns when MoU was signed and which further consolidated the linkage and gave greater clarity to the shape and detail of the project

October 2006

Initial Funding Application submitted to Irish Aid.

January 2007

Funding committed by SDCC to commence project activities

April / May 2007

Visit by members of the Project Steering Group during which a Formal Project Agreement was signed between SDCC and the two towns

November 2007

Project contract signed between SDCC and Irish Aid.

December 2007

First tranche of Irish Aid funding (€150k) was issued to SDCC.

January 2007 to December 2011

Project activities extended over a five-year period.


The capacity-building programme linking capital works to training was agreed and funded jointly by Irish Aid and SDCC as the heart of the project. Municipal works in the areas of water-supply and sanitation, waste collection, educational facilities and public realm improvements were used as opportunities for capacity building in project management, technical skills and administrative techniques. Initially disparate, this wide range of projects were eventually seen to be all rooted in cross-cutting issues of capacity-building and sustainable and integrated urban growth which were also core concerns of South Dublin at home in Ireland.

 Over the period 2007 to 2011, a total of €1,259,360 in programme expenditure was incurred on the ground in Ethiopia. Of this total, Irish Aid funded €960,000, with €299,360 coming from SDCC corporate donations and fund-raising.

 Monthly salary deductions from SDCC councillors and staff were directed towards a second strand of the project supporting the Integrated Holistic Approach – Urban Development Project (IHA-UDP), a community-based NGO in Addis Ababa whose educational and urban regeneration work resonated with SDCC’s own work ethos in community support. Total assistance of €170,300 was advanced to IHA-UDP over the period 2006 to 2012. €94,800 was contributed by SDCC staff and Councillors through salary deductions and the balance of €75,500 from SDCC corporate contribution.

 Twice yearly visits to Ethiopia, organised around a multi-disciplinary task-team, and centring on workshop sessions, technical training, monitoring and evaluation of project activities and social and political cross-fertilisation drove the programme forward over the lifetime of the project.

Traffic was two-way, and visits to Ireland by Dr Jember Teferra (Director of IHA-UDP) and Dr. Shimelis Yigezu (the project’s Ethiopian Manager), were moving reminders of why this support was needed and valued in Ethiopia and reinforced belief in the project from Council management, staff and Councillors at home. 

A Project Conclusion Report is available on the publications section of this website setting out the manner in which the project evolved how it was structured and the detail and scale of achievement of the works carried out and their impact on the Ethiopian communities and municipality staff that were trained and empowered throughout the process.

 Many lessons were learned in the area of the sustainable development of Ethiopian towns and it was hoped to scale-up these insights from the municipal to the regional level as part of a follow-on project and into the future. It was not to be, as events on the ground in Ethiopia and the changed economic environment in Ireland made the project more anomalous to Irish Aid. It became clear in early 2012, despite SDCC efforts to continue, that the partnership had regrettably come to its conclusion.

 Results were achieved, friendships formed and lessons learned on both sides in a complex and life-affirming process which those involved will certainly never forget. Council staff learned as much as they taught, from the generous and thoughtful ethos of their Ethiopian colleagues to all our benefit into the future.

 It is difficult not to conclude that there is a future for such peer-to-peer, capacity-building engagements by the public service in Ireland with counterparts in Ethiopia or other developing nations, and it is hoped that this report will provide food for thought in this area.

July 2013


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