The Human Rights Commission (HRC) welcomes the address by President Edgar Lungu to the Third Session of the 12th National Assembly in which, among other progressive measures, he called for an inclusive democratic system of governance and respect for human rights.

The Commission noted with a sense of encouragement the Presidential Policy Direction for a conducive governance environment centred on transparency and accountability, inclusive democratic system of governance, the rule of law, human rights and constitutionalism.

It was particularly encouraging to hear the President re-affirming the Government’s unwavering commitment to amending the Public Order Act, Chapter 113 of the laws of Zambia. The amendment of the Public Order Act is one of the strategic measures outlined in the Seven National Development Plan (7NDP) aimed at creating an inclusive democratic system of governance.

The Commission however notes with regret that the Government has on numerous occasions expressed the desire and commitment to amending the Public Order Act, but no progress seems to be made towards achieving that noble objective of enhancing the promotion and protection of the democratic and constitutional right to freedom of Assembly.

It is therefore the expectation of the Commission that various stakeholders will this time around carryout the Presidential Policy Direction to amend the Public Order Act. The Amendment of the Public Order Act and its fair administration is an integral part of an inclusive democratic system of governance, respect for human rights, rule of law and constitutionalism.

The Commission will continue engaging various stakeholders in a quest to improve the administration of the Public Order Act in order to enhance the promotion and protection of the fundamental right to freedom of assembly.

The Commission wishes to also welcome the reminder by the President to all stakeholders to work towards mainstreaming the rights of Persons with Disabilities. The mainstreaming of the rights of Persons with Disabilities is central to the theme of Leave No One Behind as espoused in the 7NDP and the Sustainable Development Goals. It is a critical part of an inclusive system of governance and it must be taken seriously if Zambia is to achieve Vision 2030 of becoming a prosperous middle-income nation.

As the President rightly observed, Zambia has made notable strides in the promotion and protection of the rights of Persons with Disabilities to the extent of ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, domesticating the Convention through the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 and developing the National Disability Policy of 2015. There is however need for concerted efforts by various stakeholders towards ensuring that the legal and policy measures adequately translate into improving the well-being of Persons with Disabilities.

The Commission also noted that the Presidential Address stressed the need for promoting Economic, Social and Cultural Rights such as access to safe clean water, food, decent housing, electricity, quality education, health services and decent jobs in line with Vision 2030. As the theme of the Presidential Address stated, there is need for working together to achieve Vision 2030, and the Commission remains committed to playing its constitutional mandate in this regard.

[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]

Mweelwa Muleya

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The mission of the Human Rights Commission is to promote and protect human rights for all people in Zambia through investigations of human rights violations, rehabilitation of victims of human rights abuses, education of communities and advocacy for policy and legal changes influenced by evidence based research

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