The National Advocacy Platform (NAP) under the State of the Union (SOTU) governance programme in Malawi, on 23rd March 2016 held a National Citizen Conference on Human Rights and Governance at Hotel Victoria in Blantyre.
The conference was held to assess the human rights and governance situation in Malawi in recognition to the African Union (AU) theme for 2016 ”The African Year of Human Rights with a Particular Focus of the Rights of Women”.
Over 90 delegates drawn from civil society and citizen groups attended the one-day conference. Mrs. Margaret Ali, the Executive Director for Save the Children Fund Malawi graced the occasion as Guest of Honour.
During the forum, key priority issues were identified by sector that will inform the drafting of the 2016 Grand Petition (ll) to be used as an engagement tool as the platform tracks the domestication and implementation of AU Charters and protocols. The Conference also helped to generate a plan for Sectoral Engagements for the SOTU programme.
Following incisive and engaging discussions, the NAP called upon the Malawi Government, the African Union, Political parties, the Malawi Police Service, Religious Leaders, Private Sector and the Civil society to put in place measures that promote, defend and support the human rights programmes for the benefit of ordinary citizens.
Recommendations arising from the conference included;
Compliance and Accountability: There is need for authorities, duty bearers and all stakeholders to ensure that there is total compliance and accountability in formulation and implementation of development programmes.
Human and Peoples Rights: Government and all stakeholders should eliminate and deal with all violations of human rights including arbitrary arrests, killing of albinos, political violence, and other human rights abuses.
Democracy, Elections and Governance: Government, political parties and other stakeholders should nurture and embrace a culture of democracy and respect for freedoms enshrined in legal and policy instruments.
Health: Access to quality health care services is a human right. Patients need to be accorded their rights by providing the necessary human resource, food, drugs and equipment in all the hospitals.
Food Security: Sustainable means of ensuring food security such as irrigation and increased investment need to be put in place before the next farming season.
Women Rights: Effective programmes and interventions must be put in place to politically and economically equip women and girls advance their rights. Women need to be involved in decision making, “Nothing for Women without Women”.
Corruption: Fight against corruption must be independent to ensure that all cases of corruption are concluded. It is a major catalysts of human rights abuses and violence as it affects social service delivery in education, health and other sectors.
Children and Youth: Over 65% Malawi’s population is young people below the age of 24. Child rights abuses must be combated. Youth poverty, illiteracy, and political abuse pose a greater danger to the Malawi society, hence the need to place children and youth at the center of development.
Environment Conservation: Environment degradation and climate change are hindering the enjoyment of human rights for poor sections of the society. Reports of heavy-handedness and abuse by the Malawi army in the forest reserves need to be propped and stopped.
Human rights and good governance is key to achieving development goals. The NAP urged the Malawi government and the African Union (AU) to effectively implement Project 2016 on human rights with a special attention to the rights of women and girls.
The meeting concluded that for Malawi to advance, human rights and good governance must be adopted as strong tools for fostering equality and justice for all citizens. The rights and freedoms enshrined in various national and regional instruments need to be realized for the benefit of citizens.
CSOs and citizen groups present, committed to engage the authorities and various stakeholders to ensure that human rights are a priority focus in democratic and development processes.