International Report Calls for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to be Included in New Zimbabwean Constitution
Report released by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the National Constitutional Assembly and Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.
Harare, Zimbabwe, August 2009 - A new report launched by three organizations in Zimbabwe and the United States calls for the inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights in the new Zimbabwean Constitution. These rights, if incorporated, could be an integral part of a new constitutional order in Zimbabwe that helps transform the country away from a legacy of colonial exploitation and authoritarian government.
The report, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe: Options for Constitutional Protections, is being released by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the National Constitutional Assembly and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic. In the report, the organizations call for the new Zimbabwean Constitution to include a fully justiciable Bill of Rights with provisions protecting the rights to work, food, housing, adequate standards of health, education, and culture.
“With constitution-making efforts now underway, it is critical that we begin an active campaign for a Declaration of Rights that includes fully justiciable economic, social and cultural rights,” said Dzimbabwe Chimbga, Project Manager for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Zimbabwe’s current constitution is widely recognized as an undemocratic and inadequate document. A frequent criticism of the current constitution is that it does not protect economic, social, and cultural rights.
This report, drawing on calls from civil society and the Zimbabwean public to incorporate economic, social and cultural rights into the new constitution, notes that enshrining such rights will promote a culture of accountability and responsive governance, and demonstrate Zimbabwe’s commitment to take the expressed aspirations and concerns of its citizens seriously.
“While rights may first invoke images of courts and cases, the advantages of including economic, social and cultural rights in a justiciable Bill of Rights extend beyond the benefits accrued by those who are successful in courts of law,” states the report. “Entrenching these rights in a constitution can give voice to the collective hopes and aspirations of a country, encourage individuals and groups to actively confront societal ills, provide guidance to political leaders and promote accountability and transparency in government.”
Susan Farbstein, a clinical instructor with the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, added that incorporating economic, social and cultural rights would also help Zimbabwe take a step toward meeting its obligations under international law.
“The rights to food, work, housing, education, and others are guaranteed in numerous international instruments to which Zimbabwe is a party, including the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” said Farbstein. “Zimbabwe is bound to ensure that its citizens enjoy the full range of rights protected under these treaties. That includes the right to the highest attainable standard of health, the right to be free from hunger, the right to adequate education, and many other rights prescribed by international law.”
To view a copy of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Zimbabwe: Options for Constitutional Protections, please click here.