- Overview of the human rights and democracy situation: Reports of incidents that restricted the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression were received throughout the year. Meanwhile, a review of the Public Order Act (as recommended also by the EU Election Observation Mission in 2016) was taken forward this year by the presentation of the Public Order Bill 2019 to Parliament. Reports of corruption continued to increase in 2019. While the government continues to pronounce itself against corruption, in practice there is very limited follow-up and prosecution of cases. According to Transparency International's 2019 Global Corruption Barometer, 70% of Zambians think that their government is doing a bad job at tackling corruption. In 2019, women ́s and girls ́ rights continued to face significant obstacles in Zambia, with a high prevalence of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) and child marriage. The government has demonstrated leadership to reduce early child marriage both within Zambia and the international arena, 164 with the hope to register structural changes in the next few years. Sexual and reproductive health and rights continue to be a key issue, reflected in the country's alarmingly high adolescent pregnancy rate. Poverty and vulnerability continue to be key challenges, and children ́s rights to good education are severely affected in terms of quality. Consensual same sex activity continues to be criminalised. In November, two gay men who had been arrested in 2017 were convicted to 15 years of imprisonment (the minimum sentence) for ‘acts against the order of nature'. There is political commitment to alleviate the conditions of prison inmates, facilitate the protection of refugees and in support of the rights of people with disabilities. In a welcome effort to further domesticate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the government enacted the Mental Health Act in April that importantly repealed the Mental Disorders Act of 1949.
- EU action- key focus areas: In 2019, the EU delegation and the resident EU Member States in Zambia supported the implementation of agreed priorities and objectives of the EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy throughout the year, both at the political level and through their development relations. For the period 2016-2020 the EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy for Zambia has focused its action on the following key areas:
- the advancement of women's and girls' rights, including sexual and reproductive rights and the fight against gender-based violence;
- the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, including children and their right to good education and good health;
- the enhancement of transparent governance, including the fight against corruption, improved access to information, and freedom of expression, assembly and association;
- the promotion of a fair and efficient justice system, including the right to a fair trial, the rights of persons in detention, and the abolition of the death penalty;
- the cultivation of an environment of non-discrimination, with a focus on the rights of marginalised groups.
The EU also works to implement the follow-up plan of the recommendations of the 2016 EU Election Observation Mission (EOM), as well as the objectives of the EU Gender Action Plan and the EU CSO Roadmap 2018-2020, locally agreed with EU Member States and other donors and in consultation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
- EU bilateral political engagement:In the framework of the Zambia-EU ‘Article 8’ Political Dialogue that took place in May 2019, several core human rights and democracy issues were discussed, including women ́s empowerment, sexual and reproductive health and rights, corruption, freedom of assembly and expression, the eradication of political violence and the moratorium against the death penalty.
In the course of 2019, the political engagement of the EU delegation regarding human rights and democracy in Zambia took different forms and included interactions with key stakeholders as part of the ongoing political dialogue (Article 8 meeting; meetings with the president, relevant ministers, the Electoral Commission of Zambia and other senior interlocutors such as the Chief Justice; meetings with CSOs and human rights defenders) as 165 well as the organisation of and participation in different events (e.g.: Human Rights Day), demarches and several other activities organised as part of the delegation's public diplomacy. Moreover, an EU Election Follow-Up Mission was deployed from 27 May to 19 June 2019 to Zambia to assess, at the mid-term point in the electoral cycle, the status of implementation of the recommendations of the 2016 EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM).
The EU delegation and the EU Member States present in Zambia advocated for EU priorities in the field of human rights and democracy throughout the year, inter alia, through the press, radio and social media. They seized the opportunity of National Day speeches, civil society events, launching of development projects as well as of international days such as Human Rights Day to promote relevant issues that fall under the EU priorities in this field.
- EU financial engagement:The EU and the EU Member States are major development partners for Zambia. They currently support human rights and democracy via grant support to CSOs, to the national Human Rights Commission and the National Assembly, the electoral process and institutions, as well as via technical assistance to government authorities.
The EU delegation supports human rights and democracy in Zambia via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and the Civil Society Organisations -Local Authorities Programme (CSO-LA). Key examples of these projects are the nation-wide campaign against the death penalty implemented by the Human Rights Commission; the programme for the promotion of prisoner's rights and their reintegration into society; the programme in favour of the inclusion of persons with disability; and the support to DRC refugees and host communities for the access to services ensuring human rights and dignity. In addition, the National Indicative Programme under the 11th European Development Fund contributes, inter alia, to the support of women's rights in Zambia through the large EU Programme (EUR 25 million) to prevent Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and to provide services to survivors of violence.
- Multilateral context:The third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process for Zambia took place in November 2017. In May 2018, the government released the results of its examination of the 203 recommendations. The government accepted an overwhelming majority (183) of the recommendations, while one was supported in part and 19 were noted (effectively rejected). The recommendations which were noted relate essentially to the abolition of the death penalty (9), the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships (7), access to social services, education and health for refugee and migrant children (2), and the implementation of the Marriage Act establishing the legal age for marriage as 21 years old (1).