Dr David Okello Correspondent
Last week, Zimbabwe joined the world to celebrate the International Human Rights Day under the theme “Our Human Rights, Our Freedoms, Always”. The commemoration took place a few days after December 10 – the date set aside by the international community for all to take time to reflect
and examine our roles and contributions.
This year’s commemoration was especially significant as it coincided with the launch of a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of two International Covenants on Human Rights: The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This development is timely and will no doubt accord opportunity for everyone to examine and reflect on the various multi-sectoral efforts towards the enjoyment of rights and freedoms since endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more than 50 years ago.
Since that time, member states of the UN, including Zimbabwe, recognise the crucial contributions of international human rights and freedoms to building peaceful, secure, inclusive and tolerant societies.
Zimbabwe has made tremendous strides in living the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I am aware that Zimbabwe submitted a Universal Periodic Review Mid-term Report to the UN Human Rights Council in compliance with the country’s reporting obligations. This is noteworthy, and will assist the nation to examine successes and challenges on the ground.
Zimbabwe has done tremendously well.
Further, positive developments in the country, in particular the establishment of the Gender Commission and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission will all contribute to the overall human rights discourse in the country.
Zimbabwe, with the support of the UN and development partners, has also achieved some noteworthy gains.
One of the important developments on universal human rights was the promulgation of a people-centred and progressive constitution which provides the highest potential to promote the rule of law and the respect for human rights and equitable access to justice for all Zimbabweans.
In addition, Zimbabwe is signatory to many key international treaty bodies and has consistently been reporting on progress.
These treaty bodies are: Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; Convention on the Rights of the Child; International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Challenges remain and cannot be ignored. However, these are by no means insurmountable and are surpassed by the gains recorded over the past 50 years.
The gains to date should encourage all of us to continue working tirelessly to ensure that respect for all human rights and freedoms remain at the core of our values, standards, cultures and humanity.
Human rights only make sense if they are a lived reality.
The right to health care, food and nutrition, education, water and sanitation, social security, to political participation and the fair administration of justice are all fulfilled for all members of society.
As such, human rights must be evident as outcomes in our national development programmes and they should influence the social contract between citizens and the state.
We, as United Nations, therefore reiterate our continued commitment to work with the national stakeholders in ensuring the realisation of all rights. In line with our commitment under the Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework, we will support the country to achieve its national development priorities and international obligations.
As we celebrate Our Rights and Freedoms, always, through dance, song, drama, and poetry let us take note that rights come with responsibilities – to ensure that no one is left behind.
Dr David Okello is the World Health Organisation representative to Zimbabwe and Acting UN Resident Co-ordinator.