US-EU plan meeting to keep spotlight on Ethiopia ahead of G-7

US-EU plan meeting to keep spotlight on Ethiopia ahead of G-7

A site for internally displaced persons in Mai Tsebri, home to 8,500 people who fled their homes when conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. Photo by: UNICEF Ethiopia / CC BY-NC-ND

(Devex)—Humanitarian and development leaders from the United States and European Union are planning a live-streamed roundtable on Ethiopia next week, as pressure mounts on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the Tigray conflict.

A draft preparatory note, seen by Devex, lists two objectives:
• “To mobilize consensus among U.S. allies on the enormity of the humanitarian and human rights emergency in Tigray.”
• “To galvanize bolder action within the UN system for a relief response commensurate with the scope and scale of the crisis.” 

The meeting, the precise date of which is yet to be set, is pitched “as a prelude” to discussion on Ethiopia at the G-7 leaders’ summit on June 11-13. Spokespeople for USAID and the European Commission declined to comment.

Race against time: Mark Lowcock, the U.N. humanitarian chief, is expected to brief the Security Council later this week on the situation in northern Ethiopia, as concern grows over a looming famine. USAID Administrator Samantha Power said last week that more than 5 million people now require assistance.

Who’s there: Power and the EU commissioners for humanitarian and development policy are listed as co-hosts for next week’s event, with national officials, humanitarian, and development ministers from G-7 and EU states, as well as heads of the major U.N. agencies, on the planned invite list.

Who’s not there: Ethiopian government representatives.

Between the lines: The European Commission was an early critic of Ethiopia over the Tigray conflict, which began in November. Brussels is withholding millions in budget support, calling for improvements in humanitarian access and other conditions. But the commission’s position has been weakened by some EU states’ reluctance to cut off bilateral aid.  

With the new U.S. administration taking a harder line on Abiy, EU officials hope Washington can coax a stronger reaction from European capitals. A spate of concerned tweets this week from the likes of France is a sign that effort could be bearing fruit.