Zimbawe: Review of a Human Rights Election Strategy

The workshop to review the Human Rights Election Strategy for the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) was held from 15 to 17 June 2022. This EU-funded effort aimed at strengthening the Commission’s ability to discharge its mandate through the promotion, protection, and fulfilment of human rights in Zimbabwe.

The workshop’s objective was the evaluation (through identifying strengths and weaknesses) and strengthening of the ZHRC’s Human Rights Elections Strategy. The strategy itself is one of prevention and response regarding electoral-related human rights violations. The three-day workshop was attended by twenty-seven participants drawn from the ZHRC, external stakeholders (such as the United Nations Development Programme and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network), and RWI representatives.

In her opening remarks, ZHRC Deputy Commissioner Dorothy Moyo underscored that the review of the Human Rights Elections Strategy was an important organisational milestone.

Relevant political, legal, and institutional landscapes and frameworks have changed. Furthermore, lessons were learnt during the implementation of the Electoral Strategy in previous years. An update for the Commission’s institutional strategies was warranted.

The Deputy Chairperson expressed gratitude towards the EU and the RWI for their financial support and cooperation. Said support helps the Commission’s human rights work in Zimbabwe.

This Election Strategy review is a salutary development coming ahead of Zimbabwean general elections in 2023.

The importance of this review is highlighted not only by the necessity of integrating developments in intellectual and institutional landscapes. The Commission is highly involved Zimbabwean civil society. Among some of its activities: monitoring the enjoyment of the right to participate in public affairs, the provision of legal and regulatory advice to the government, support for policy debate on the electoral framework, and the redressing of violations of human rights and administrative justice issues that occur during elections.

Speaking on behalf of the RWI, Programme Officer Innocent Mawire acknowledged the strong cooperation the Institute enjoys with the ZHRC.

“This relationship has been built up over the years and is based on a mutual understanding of human rights in the Zimbabwean context”, said Innocent Mawire.

The Elections Strategy Review Workshop served as a dialogue platform for elections related issues between the ZHRC and its stakeholders. Participants identified six strategic priority goals upon which the Elections Strategy is anchored. These are:

  • To strengthen the observance of and compliance with human rights by duty bearers in the electoral process,
  • To promote informed citizen participation in the electoral process,
  • To strengthen redress mechanisms for election related human rights violations,
  • To enhance the realisation of citizens’ rights to administrative justice and effective remedies during the electoral processes,
  • To recommend legislative and other measures for the promotion, protection and enforcement of human rights during the electoral process, and
  • To increase Stakeholder engagement and collaboration on human rights and administrative justice during the electoral process.

It was agreed that these strategic priorities will contribute to the overall goal of “contributing to the promotion, protection and enforcement of fundamental human rights and freedoms and administrative justice during the electoral processes in Zimbabwe”.

The workshop further identified salient issues that the Elections Strategy ought to focus on: the need for diversity and inclusion, the role of technology in electoral processes, and the environment and issues of sustainability.

Workshop participants identified activities the ZHRC should implement during, before, and after the election period. These include enhancing stakeholder engagement, increasing contributions towards human rights-related voter education, recommending electoral legislation reforms, monitoring elections for human rights and administrative violations, and reporting on findings to human rights bodies such as the Universal Periodic Review Process.

By the end of the workshop, the ZHRC constituted a small Working Group led by the Director for Monitoring and Investigations. Said working group was tasked with incorporating changes to the Election Strategy during the first two weeks of July 2022. The draft human rights treaty will then be submitted to the full Commission for review and final stakeholder validation.

The workshop was a good step towards developing a more robust ZHRC election strategy. A better strategy will aid the implementation of the Commissions human rights mandate during elections. The new Elections Strategy brings us closer towards increased government compliance with human rights obligations during elections. This, through improved redress mechanisms for human rights and administrative justice violations.

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