WE, the 43 youths drawn from mining host communities that include Chimanimani, Marange and Zvishavane, environmental law society students drawn from Midlands State University, Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe Ezekiel Guti University, development partners working on research, children and youth issues that include Shamwari Yemwanasikana, Research Advocacy Unit, Africa Institute for Environmental Law convened for the Zoom Webinar on the 27th of May 2020. The virtual workshop was organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association with support from Terre des Hommes and ran under the theme, ‘Making Extractives work for public environmental, health and sanitary services.’
Convening during such a difficult moment of our lives when the COVID-19 pandemic is causing havoc and disruptions throughout the globe. The pandemic has brought to the fore the importance of public environmental, health and sanitary services. Major health organizations advise washing hands more frequently to prevent the spread of coronavirus yet 40% of the world’s population, lack access to basic hand-washing facilities in their homes.
It has become more apparent that as the COVID-19 crisis spreads throughout the world, communities with the least access to essential services like clean water and sanitary services will feel the most dramatic effects. Children and young people from these vulnerable communities are particularly exposed. In health, COVID-19 has the potential to overwhelm fragile public health systems and undermine some of the strides made in child survival, health, nutrition and development over the last several decades.
Appreciating the government of Zimbabwe’s efforts to ensure that young people are not left behind by putting in place frameworks such as the National Youth Policy that speaks to ideals of youth participation, the Constitution of the Republic specifically Section 20 that underlines the role of the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level to make reasonable measures, including affirmative action programmes, to ensure that youths (b) have opportunities to associate and to be represented and participate in political, social, economic and other spheres of life, and Section 81 which elaborates on the rights of children and reiterates the best interests of the child in all matters.
Worried about the COVID-19’s effects on our studies with the newly introduced online learning proving to be a privilege for the few. Coronavirus has increased the uncertainty about the future. Some of the social protection and economic policy responses implemented in the context of the pandemic have failed to consider our vulnerabilities.
Disturbed by the low level of Zimbabwean youth participation in governance processes, a trend highlighted in the Social Capital and Active Citizenship in Zimbabwean Youth Report: Changes from 2012 to 2017.
Noting government’s appetite for investment including the several mining mega deals announced by the régime whose terms are not made public and deeply worried that the citizens have no opportunity to scrutinise the terms and conditions under which these resources are being/ will be exploited.
Concerned about the State’s failure to effectively leverage the country’s mineral revenue for broad based socio-economic development. The underlying problem being lack of transparency, limited citizen participation, poor accountability and high levels of corruption that result in weak linkages between mining and local service delivery.
We now therefore call on the Government of Zimbabwe, investors and relevant stakeholders to ensure the following;
- Consult children and youths on any development processes and ensure that their needs are prioritized whether in budget allocation processes, sanitation and environmental issues.
- Ensure that mineral revenue funds children and youth needs including offering health subsidies for children and young people and establishing income generating projects for the youths to promote their economic emancipation.
- Business enterprises should take into consideration the risks that their operations may pose in children and young people and thus they must ensure they uphold human rights while the State must provide effective guidance to corporates on how they should respect human rights throughout their operations.
- Whenever policy makers make decisions, they should make sure every decision undertaken, treats all children equally, aims for what is best for children, helps children grow in a healthy environment and take children’s views seriously by actioning on these.
Inasmuch as financing for development is a good thing, the Government should take note that employing the Resource backed loans financing model has its own shortfalls hence Zimbabwe must be wary of these. A study by the Natural Resource Governance Institute identified 52 Resource Backed Loans (RBLs) in 14 different countries across sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, with a total value of $164 billion from 2004 to 2018. Two thirds of these RBLs went to countries with a poor or failing score on NRGI’s Resource Governance Index. According to NRGI study, the RBLs are opaque and in only a single case is the key contract document public. Even basic information such as the loan’s interest rate was identifiable in just 19 out of 52 cases surveyed. Thus, the terms of the RBLs must be made public in a child and youth friendly manner, the government should publish contract terms encouraged by the Constitution and the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. Sharing information publicly ensures that the government gains legitimacy while citizens’ trust is enhanced.
Empowering children and youths to become agents of change who are able to raise awareness and seek solutions on those issues that affect them is a worthy cause.
ZOOM Webinar, May 27, 2020