This week, the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in cooperation with the Zimbabwean Centre for Applied Legal Research launched the second professional training programme on human rights for Zimbabwe.
The workshop, which takes place in Harare, brings together ministries, government departments, local authorities, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, civil society organisations and academic institutions for five days to study and discuss economic, social and cultural rights. The workshop will be followed up with a two-week combined training and study visit to Sweden in September.
The programme forms part of a larger programme, The Raoul Wallenberg Institute Human Rights Capacity Development Programme for Zimbabwe, funded by Swedish Development Cooperation.
It aims at contributing to increased enjoyment of constitutional rights, through legislation, polices, practices and decision-making being increasingly informed by international human rights standards and mechanisms in Zimbabwe.
Mikael Johansson from the Raoul Wallenberg Institute took the opportunity to meet with some of the participants to hear about their expectations.
What is your role?
I am responsible for implementing our projects in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, where I am the team leader. My role also involves litigating and carrying out advocacy initiatives for the protection and promotion of human rights in the two provinces of Zimbabwe that fall under my mandate.
Why did you apply to this Programme?
The programme presents an opportunity for me to improve my skills in litigating to advance socio-economic rights. The programme brings together key people in government, local authorities and academia thereby creating an opportunity to network and get in contact with key people who are responsible for decision-making in government departments. Certain violations requires one to know key people to contact to get quick remedy.
What are in your view the main challenges when it comes to implementing economic, social and cultural rights?
Constitutional protection of these rights is new in Zimbabwe and there is little knowledge on what these rights mean and what they entail. This applies to government agencies, the judiciary as well as the NGO community. There is also lack of a clear plan of action on how to realise these rights by the government.
What do you wish to achieve as a result of your participation in this workshop?
I work for social change and I believe that after this training, I would have acquired knowledge and skills that will enhance my work. I want to use the skills acquired in the training to make economic, social and cultural rights a reality and not just paper rights by litigating for the realisation of these rights.
What made you apply for this professional training programme?
The City of Harare, being a local authority, is responsible for providing services to the residents of Harare. This means that the City of Harare has a fundamental role to play in the fulfilment of the human rights of residents within its jurisdiction. It is for this reason that I enrolled for this training programme so that I am enlightened on means and ways in which the Local Authority can promote the rights of its residents.
What are your expectations?
From this training programme, I want to be enlightened on the international legal framework on economic, social and cultural rights and I expect to learn how the Local Authority, as a quasi Government institution, and as a duty bearer, can respect, protect and fulfill the rights of the residents of the City of Harare.
What are the main challenges on a municipal level when it comes to implementing economic and social rights?
Financial incapacity. It is the duty of local authorities to provide housing, water and other social services such as clinics to its residents but sometimes the local authority is not able to fulfill this obligation due to financial incapacity. Sometimes it is the residents themselves who fail the local authorities by not paying their dues. In order for local authorities to adequately fulfill their obligations, the residents should play their part.
Conflicting human rights. The local authority is mandated to preserve order within its jurisdiction and ensure that the residents act within the confines of the law. For example, people cannot form illegal settlements or settle on wetlands. If people settle on wetlands for example, they will be violating some environmental rights of others. When the local authority then removes these people from the wetlands, they will be said to have violated their right to shelter.
Resistance from residents and negative perceptions by residents. Residents resist some moves aimed at promoting their rights by local authorities. For example, some residents are resisting the introduction of prepaid water meters yet the move is meant to ensure that once the residents pay for water, then their right to clean and safe water is fulfilled.
What do you wish to achieve as a consequence of having participated in the programme?
Improvement in the respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of the residents by the City of Harare. I will impart the knowledge gained through this programme to the rest of the City of Harare officials. I will also work for improved consciousness of the economic and social rights of citizens.