Ethiopia has lifted a five-month-long suspension of operations against the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
Authorities in Ethiopia had in July 2021 suspended NRC and the Dutch section of Doctors Without Borders, known by its French name Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), accusing them of “disseminating misinformation” online.
The two humanitarian groups work in its war-hit Tigray region.
NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland said the organisation is ready to resume its humanitarian work.
“We look forward to resuming our many years of humanitarian operations for refugees in Ethiopia, and for people displaced by conflict and disasters. To restart our operations for people in great need, our competent and committed Ethiopian and international staff urgently require the same basic operational freedoms that we enjoy everywhere else in the world,” he said.
The Authority for Civil Society Organizations (ACSO) ordered the suspension at the end of July, citing the advocacy of NRC on humanitarian needs and access in the country, and a number of administrative issues relating to the organisation’s work. The board of ACSO prolonged the suspension at the end of October and asked further questions.
NRC provided answers and explanations to all allegations and questions made throughout the process.
NRC said it was informed that the ACSO board had lifted the suspension on December 31, 2021 and cleared the organisation of most of the allegations.
On July 30 2021, NRC was asked by Ethiopian authorities to suspend all its operations in Ethiopia for three months, pending an investigation into its work. The suspension was extended by another two months in October until January 3, 2022 when the organisation officially received the letter informing them of that the suspension has been lifted.
At the time of suspension, NRC had reached more than 250,000 people in Ethiopia, and was aiming to reach double the amount by the end of this year.
NRC in Ethiopia provides education, clean water, shelter, food and legal assistance to displaced Ethiopians and refugees.
“We are relieved that the suspension that temporarily discontinued our humanitarian work for hundreds of thousands of people in great need has been lifted,” the organisation said.
Mr Egeland said the organisation’s staff look forward to renewing their dialogue with the government and NRC would seek the urgently needed permits, visas and green lights needed to ensure that they properly resume their work and effectively deliver aid.
The Secretary General said the organisation will continue to work with local, national and international partners to provide aid and protection according to international humanitarian law and principles.
“It is heart-breaking that we were unable to reach our target of serving more than half a million in need across Ethiopia in 2021. Now that we have to restart, it will take time to again reach as many people as we did before the suspension. We have lost many of our staff; we urgently need permits for our international staff to return, and we need to be able to pay our suppliers,” said Mr Egeland.