The Raoul Wallenberg Institute, in cooperation with the Centre for Applied Legal Research, is undertaking a planning workshop this week aimed at identifying specific human rights training needs in Zimbabwe. The goal is to pave the way for a series of professional trainings programmes to be rolled out over the next two and half years.
The workshop is the next step of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity Development Programme for the period 2016-2018. The Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law entered into the agreement for the programme with the Embassy of Sweden in Zimbabwe in February of 2016.
“The overall objective of this programme, which is funded by Sida, is to contribute to enhanced enjoyment of constitutional rights in Zimbabwe, through legislation, policies, practices and decision-making being increasingly informed by international human rights standards and principles,” says Mikael Johansson, RWI’s Adviser for Strategic Planning and Quality Assurance, who is representing the institute at the planning workshop.
The workshop has attracted a broad spectrum of stakeholders and participants are drawn from the government ministries, independent commissions, civil society organisations and academia.
At the workshop, Johansson asked Mr. Okay Machisa, National Director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, (ZIMRIGHTS) about his participation.
What made you decide to participate in this planning workshop?
This planning workshop gives ZIMRIGHTS and myself a rare opportunity to meet with the government departments, academia, independent commissions, civil society organisations and traditional leadership.
It is quite key to point out that the five sectors mentioned above have very limited opportunities to work together. The workshop in my view brings together these sectors to collectively identify areas where we all need to work together in as far as human rights are concerned and in that respect create again yet another opportunity for relationship creation and partnerships.
Bringing the five sectors together, will demystify perceptions that government and civil society are enemies and then grassroots are highly going to engage in most of the human rights issues brought by the teams.
What is your expectation of this programme when it is rolled out?
First, to see a closure of the working gap amongst the five sectors indicated above. Second, to demystify the community’s negative perceptions that the above sectors cannot work together. Thirdly that human righs issues brought up by grassroots can be quickly and collectively handled as all partners are in play. Lastly, more lasting partnerships and collaborative work towards ensuring that citizens have enjoyed their rights.
More about the Zimbabwe Human Rights Capacity Development Programme
For the implementtion of the progame, RWI has partnered with the Institute for Peace, Leadership and Governance at Africa University in Mutare, the Faculty of Law at Midlands State University in Gweru, the Herbert Chitepo School of Law at Great Zimbabwe Univeristy in Masvingo and the Centre for Applied Legal Research in Harare.
The Programme has identified two strategies:
• Strengthen institutional capacities for human rights education and research at academic institutions, independent research centres (IRCs )and civil society organisations (CSOs) in Zimbabwe
• Enhance the means and space for academia, IRCs, CSOs and government institutions in Zimbabwe to constructively engage with each other on key human rights reform issues.
In order to give effect to these strategies, the programme primarily focuses on cooperation regarding:
• development of human rights education at academic partner institutions, including programme, course and curricula development and teaching methodology
• development of library resources at academic institutions, IRCs and CSOs
• development and publication of policy-oriented research
• delivery of professional training programmes on various aspects on human rights, which will bring together representatives of academia, IRCs, CSOs and government institutions, to discuss and share experiences particularly on reform relevant issues and how to apply human rights standards in practice.
“It is expected that cooperation in these areas will contribute to participating institutions being better equipped to contribute to reforms and related initiatives for the promotion and protection of human rights and to an increased structured dialogue and joint initiatives between academic institutions, IRCs, CSOs and government institutions on key human rights issues,” Johansson says.
Human rights library, education and research in Zimbabwe
The first workshop held was for librarians, and took place in May. RWI’s librarian Karl-Adam Tiderman held the 3-day workshop at Africa University, close to Mutare, Zimbabwe. The three partner universities sent librarians, and a number of NGOs also sent representatives.
These workshops were on human rights education and human rights research, were two and a half days long each, and consisted of a mix of education and planning future activities that will occur throughout the programme.
Fuentes says the workshops had interesting and refreshing discussions while assisting academic institutions in seeing Zimbabwe’s new constitution – adopted after the 2008 electoral crisis that led to the government of a national coalition – as an “opportunity for a revitalised discussion on fundamental rights and freedoms within the country, and to expand comparative studies and research within the region.”
“The aims of RWI’s activities in Zimbabwe are to start and normalise the discussion, and to support those that are willing to embrace this challenge,” he says.