The Authority  for Civil Society Organization(ACSO)

The ACSO is a national body established to oversee civil society organizations and their activities.

Create a conducive environment for the full-exercise of freedom of association in accordance with the stipulations of the FDRE Constitution and international agreements ratified by Ethiopia;

Ensure maximum public benefit by supervising organizations carry out their activities in accordance with their registered objectives;

Build CSO capacity to achieve their set goals and objectives efficiently.

Foster a culture of philanthropy and volunteerism in the society;

Encourage and support organizations to make sure that they have internal governance systems which ensure transparency, accountability and participation;

More than 165 CSO's are Disabilities organizations

Put in place mechanisms to strengthen positive working relations between organizations and the government;

More than 415 CSO's are Professional Associations.

Support the civil society organization self-regulation and self-administration system.

From 4938 ACSO registered organizations More than 4395 organizations are local, and more than 543 organizations are Foreign Organizations.

After the reform (2019) more than 2974 new CSO's are registered based on Proclamation no 1113/2019

Historical Background

Ethiopia has a long history of traditional community-based organizations (iddir, equb, debo etc…).[1] However, according to some documents the emergence of formal civil society organizations in the 1960s, during Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign. In the last years of the Emperor, a growing number of modern CSO s were established; including trade unions, professional associations, and relief organizations. In the period between 1960-1975, some historical records indicated that CSOs were named as Charites and associations and registered in the then government institution via the Ministry of Interior under the proclamation number 321/1967. When the militaristic Derg[2] regime deposed the Emperor through brutal coup d’état and hold sway the country, it has fully striped the right to organize and form an association. Consequently, this irresponsible action reversed all progress towards CSOs and barred any kind of CSO registration. Nonetheless, RRC (Relief and Rehabilitation Commission) and Children Commission gave some sort of recognition to indigenous and foreign CSOs that focus only on charities and children-related issues.

In the socialist Derg regime (1974-1991), registration and issuance of licenses to indigenous and foreign CSOs were completely halted. However, the 1984 famine that claims the lives of many Ethiopians compelled the regime to sign a general agreement via RRC with a limited number of foreign charitable and humanitarian organizations. Before they became operative in the country, the foreign charitable and humanitarian organizations were required to present a legality certificates from their homeland along with proper documentation to commence the work.  Though RRC was not given a legal base to register foreign CSOs, it has coordinated its function throughout the country particularly in the famine hotspot areas.

Since the collapse of the Derg regime in 1991 and seizure of power by EPRDF, CSOs started to blossom again due to unbolting the country’s political space. In addition to this, the government enabled CSOs to expand the radius of operation from relief to rehabilitation and then to participatory development programs.  To this effect, between 1991 to 1995 registration of CSOs was accomplished through the government institution-Ministry of Interior. In 1995, proclamation number 4/1995 officially granted the legal right to FDRE Ministry of Justice for registration of religious institutions, philanthropic organizations, NGOs, and associations. Ministry of Justice continued the aforementioned functions by further proclamation number 471/2006 up until 2009.

In 2009, the Ministry of Justice conducted study-based structural reform and came up with the idea of establishing a separate implementing agency particularly for handling charitable organizations and associations. The momentum gained acceptance by the lawmakers and proclamation number 621/2009 was issued with a new mandate and separate implementing entity called “Charities and Civil Societies Agency.”


[1] Iddir is for a funerary association, Equb is for credit groups and debo is for agricultural labor

[1] Derg is the Militaristic and socialist government that ruled the country for 17 years (1974-1991)

As per proclamation number 621/2009 the agency was primarily established with the following vision; underpin charitable organizations and civil societies to play their part in the country through holistic growth, development, and democratization process for the maximum benefit of the public. However, the agency was operating below the expected standard and drifted away from the given mandate. Moreover, the proclamation was criticized for halting the activities of organizations based on their source of income. Worth mentioning, following the 2005 Election in the country the ruling government-issued repressive CSO Law in 2009 which exacerbated the already tense relationship between CSOs and government.

Pursuant to the new reformist government takeover of the leadership in April 2018, high priority attention was given to this sector. As a result, the CSO proclamation number 621/2009 that severely hampered CSOs functions was annulled and replaced by more permissive and amenable CSO proclamation number 1113/2019. The new Proclamation also shifted the name of the Agency considering the newly expanded spectrum of role, from “Charities and Civil Society Agency” to “Authority for Civil society Organizations (ACSO).”

The proclamation aims at respecting the right to association enshrined in the Ethiopian Constitution and thereby ensuring maximum public benefit. The reformist government takes up this constitutional right as prime attention in the formulation of the new CSO law. Thus, this new CSO law brought about a new era for CSOs with a plethora of opportunities. Add to that, the current government fully acknowledge the indispensable roles played by CSOs and consider CSOs along with the other three prominent development actors (government, private sectors, and higher academic institutions) as an engine of change and development in the country to bring about growth and transformation plan (GTP) of the government into reality, and prosperity reachable to the nation.

ACSO currently working in line with the new CSO Law and ensure the exercise of constitutional rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly through establishing a system of accountability, transparency, and efficient operation to the maximum public benefit. ACSO enabled CSOs to contribute their fair share to the holistic development of the country through creating a conducive environment for registration and operation of CSOs, building the capacity of CSOs, and facilitating the smooth working relationship between CSOs and government entities.  Furthermore, the Agency has put in place three new distinct functional departments to spearhead towards achieving its objectives. Volunteerism empowerment department is mainly responsible to cultivate and accelerate the culture of voluntary activities to surge deep down into the public through a systematic and well-organized manner. Research and development department to conduct research and analysis related to CSOs role, challenges, and opportunities and come up with study-based output for policymakers to make informed decisions. Whereas strategic partnership and cooperation team works on linking the Agency with potential partners for technical and strategic cooperation that boost the efficiency of the Agency.

All in all, the Authority is in very good shape structurally, functionally, and administratively to properly effect the lofty responsibilities bestowed on its shoulder.

Our Mission

Building a vibrant and thriving civil society sector that plays a pivotal role in democratization and holistic national development in nurturing the culture of volunteerism and in ensuring maximum public benefit by fully realizing the freedom of association and undertaking the necessary monitering and support.

Our Vision

Thriving civil society sector that ensures the holistic development of the society.

Our Values

  • partnership and team work;
  • Transparency and accountability;
  • Honesty and integrity;
  • Profesionalism;
  • Responsiveness;
  • Humanity;
  • Innovativeness/ Dynamism;