A number of civil society organisations including the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) this week participated in the SADC People’s Summit which is being hosted in Lilongwe, Malawi, from the 17th to the 27th of August 2021, under the theme “Elevate Justice and Equality.”
The SADC People’s Summit is a forum of civil society organizations and social movements from the Southern Africa Region that is held as an alternative space to advance a people-centric agenda on the sidelines of the Extraordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government. This year’s People’s Summit is held within a context of unsustainable sovereign debts in the region that have compromised livelihoods especially for women, youths, children, and people with disabilities.
During the Summit discussions focused on the unsustainable extraction of public resources and continued losses of revenue through Illicit Financial Flows. This has resulted in countries losing out from their natural resources especially mining host communities who only bear the brunt of environmental degradation that results from the extractives.
Further to the increasing challenges that indigenous farmers in the region are facing which include land grabs and displacement of traditional settlers, the climate change variability has resulted in droughts, floods, cyclones, and extreme temperatures which have resulted in food insecurity for most countries in the region.
Another concern raised by the citizens during the summit is the limited participation in governance issues due to shrinking political and civic space which continues to compromise the quality of governance by limiting participation to a few political and economic elites.
Some of the challenges that were noted in the conversations were the continued threat to the region’s stability which is being caused by the failure to address issues in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, and Lesotho.
Given how the region continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the summit noted with concern the continued lack of coordination of the pandemic at the regional level.
The plight of women and youth was noted as manifesting mostly from Gender-Based Violence and Growing unemployment which continues to render these strategic groups vulnerable and unable to positively influence the growth and development of their countries.
Given these challenges, the summit called for action which includes an appeal for unconditional debt cancellation given the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 especially on the informal economy including cross-border traders, the summit made a call for countries to open their borders for cross boarders to travel freely and enhance markets linkages for all (especially women and youth).
To promote Human Rights, Governance, Peace, and Security, the summit recommended the need to revive the SADC tribunal as well as the need for a strong stance on denouncing and acting to resolve the massacre of unarmed civilians in Eswatini; and prioritize lasting political solutions on the Eswatini impasse. The conflict in Mozambique was also noted as needing both military intervention but more important dialogue between parties in the conflict for a more sustainable solution.
The summit also made calls for gender and social protection which include the adherence to international commitments in human rights, health, education, agriculture, and adoption of deliberate efforts to allocate more resources towards children, youth, and gender-responsive social protection.
Delegates that participated in the summit also called for urgent action on the management of climate change, natural resources, and the environment. One of the proposals noted in the development of a comprehensive policy framework for climate change and natural resources management that responds to the needs, challenges, and capacities of the region for enhanced adaptation and resilience.
Commenting on the resolutions, Manyara Irene Muyenziwa the founder of a foundation under her name, applauded delegates to the SADC People’s Summit for focusing on issues aimed at addressing the causes and effects of human suffering and poverty in the southern African region.
“As the Manyara Irene Muyenziwa (MIM) Foundation, we applaud CSOs who attended the SADC People’s Summit. We believe in linking local responses to national and international advocacy by providing opportunities for them for capacity building, equality, inclusive health, empowerment, and development. Our call is for the SADC leaders to take heed of the CSOs’ recommendations and unite in their diversity towards promoting a peaceful environment conducive for economic development,” Muyenziwa said.