Overall human rights situation
The political environment in 2017 in Zambia was dominated by the arrest of the main opposition leader in April and his subsequent detention for four months on non-bailable treason charges until the discontinuation of the Court case in August. Incidents that limited the fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression were reported throughout the year. However, and despite initial concerns, no increase in human rights violations was reported during the 90-day "Threatened State of Emergency" that was declared in July. Corruption was reportedly on the increase in 2017, and a number of high-level public procurement cases featured in the public debate. The government continued to champion women's and girls' rights, including the fight against gender-based violence and early marriages, expanded social protection programmes for vulnerable households, and continued to promote prisoners' rights. While commemorating the 20 years since Zambia's last execution in 1997, the government has shown openness to work towards an eventual de jure abolition of the death penalty.
EU action - key focus areas
In line with the EU Human Rights and Democracy Country Strategy for Zambia for 2016-2020, the EU focuses its action on the advancement of women's and girls' rights, including sexual and reproductive rights and the fight against gender-based violence; on the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights, including children and their right to good education and good health; on the enhancement of transparent governance, including the fight against corruption, improved access to information, and freedom of expression, assembly and association; on 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; as well as the cultivation of an environment of non-discrimination, with a focus on the rights of marginalized groups.
The EU also works to implement relevant recommendations of the EU Election Observation Mission 2016, as well as the objectives of the locally agreed EU CSO Roadmap and EU Gender Action Plan.
EU bilateral political engagements
The EU and the eight resident EU Member States advocated EU human rights priorities and agreed objectives throughout the year in their regular bilateral contacts with Ministries and relevant government authorities, as well as at the "Article 8" Zambia-EU political dialogue that took place in March 2017. The EU engaged civil society organisations, human rights defenders and the private sector in a systematic manner to inform its dialogue on human rights and democracy with government.
The EU also organized and participated in a number of relevant high-level events on human rights with the government and other stakeholders, including in the context of International Women's Day, the Symposium on legal and administrative reforms to address congestion in correctional facilities, the National Consultative Forum on the Political Parties Bill, the World Day against the Death Penalty, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and Human Rights Day.
EU financial engagements
The EU and the EU MS together are major development partners for Zambia. They currently support human rights and democracy via grant support to civil society organisations, to government authorities and the National Assembly, as well as via technical assistance. The areas of support with the highest numbers of combined EU/EU MS projects in 2017 were in the areas of women's and girls' rights and the fight against Gender-Based Violence; Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (health, education, social cash transfers); transparent governance; and anti-corruption.
The EU Delegation supports human rights and democracy in Zambia via the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) as well as via the National Indicative Programme under the 11th European Development Fund. In 2017, EU programmes supported in particular increased access to justice, prisoner's rights, women's rights and the fight against Gender-Based Violence, the rights of marginalized groups, access to health, education and nutrition, transparent governance, and public financial management.
The third Universal Periodic Review process for Zambia took place in November 2017. The Zambian delegation was spearheaded by the Minister of Justice, while the Zambian Human Rights Commission (with support by the EU and Germany) as well as a number of Zambian civil society organisations were also present for the session at the UN in Geneva. Zambia received a total of 203 recommendations, 90 of which were accepted, two will be examined with responses provided no later than March 2018, and 111 were noted.
On 11 December, in the context of Human Rights Day celebrations, the EU organised a public debriefing session on Zambia's Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process that was attended by the Minister of Justice, the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, senior government officials as well as civil society organisations.
Photo © JCP/Bellah Zulu