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Letters to the Editor: States adopt resolution on information as a public good


States adopt resolution on information as a public good

UNITED Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) member States on November 18, 2021 adopted by proclamation, the principles contained in the Windhoek+30 Declaration on information as a public good.

The 193 members who met in Paris, Francis, endorsed the draft resolution in adopting the principles contained in the Windhoek+30 Declaration.

Following the endorsement of the principles, the member States called on the Unesco director-general to ensure that support is given to activities that facilitate the achievement of the goals of the declaration.

The member States stressed the growing importance of information as a public good, including the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The 2021 World Press Freedom Day celebrations were hosted in Windhoek, Namibia, under the theme Information as a Public Good.

The Windhoek+30 Declaration will serve as the basis to further advance the ongoing pursuit for a free, independent, and pluralistic media.

Misa served as rapporteur and moderator at the Africa Forum, which was part of this year’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Namibia.

Misa position

lThe adoption of the principle of information as a public good serves as a reminder of the importance of access to information, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

lIn that regard, Misa calls on regional governments to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression and access to information in terms of the Windhoek+30 Declaration.

lThe Declaration recognises the centrality of information as a public good in empowering citizens to exercise their fundamental rights, support gender equality, and participation and trust in democratic governance and sustainable development, leaving no one behind.

lSouthern Africa continues to lag behind in terms of countries that have access to information laws and the Windhoek+30 Declaration should serve as a reminder of the importance of ensuring that information is a public good.

lMisa calls on countries such as Eswatini, Lesotho and Zambia, that are yet to enact access to information laws, to ensure that this is done expeditiously and in the best interests of their citizens.

Misa Zimbabwe

Gender balance lacking in national COVID-19 response and recovery

WE continue to urge gender equality and women representation in COVID-19 response structures at all levels.

We emphasise that the impacts of COVID-19 have been neither gender blind nor gender neutral, and that women have taken the hardest hit.

Therefore, they should be allowed the space to be architects of their own solutions.

We stress that women’s leadership, experiences and perspective are fundamental to the development of a gender-lens response and recovery.

Participation and equal representation of women, as provided in Zimbabwe’s policy and legislative framework cannot be dispensed with in the COVID-19 recovery path.

Not only is this important for achievement of gender equality and democracy, gender machineries and women’s organisations work closely with communities and, therefore, possess unparalleled knowledge and experience on the challenges, women are facing on a day-to-day basis.

Therefore, they constitute the voice of authority when it comes to the design and implementation of gender lens recovery strategies. Thus, we recommend:

lAs a starting point, more women including women’s rights organisations should form part of the steering committees for COVID-19 response co-ordination, such as the COVID-19 national, provincial and district

lThe Zimbabwe Gender Commission, to push for accountability to equal gender representation and balance in such key committees, as envisaged by sections 17 and 56 of the Constitution.

lUrgent publication of analysed sex and age disaggregated data by government on the composition of the COVID-19 taskforce teams throughout the country.

Outstanding issue

We highlight the decrease in infections in schools and learning centres across the country.

While we commend the expansion of the vaccine drive to directly include schools as vaccination centres, we also recognise the increased vigilance and efforts at boarding schools to shore up their infection control systems and surveillance operations.

These efforts remain critical to protecting communicates surrounding learning centres and enhanced community vigilance and slow down the potential spread of infections.

However, we critic the response systems in schools to student presenting with colds and flu- like symptoms.

lWe call upon schools to respect the COVID-19 standard operating systems when students present with influenza-like symptoms.

lWe call upon school management systems to improve their response times and response action even in situations where they may suspect cases are for influenza.

lWe critic schools whose poor response to students’ needs and health related crises, especially among boarders, precipitates parents to withdraw their children from schools in complete violation of infection control measures and the law.

Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe

Voter registration blitz: Lost opportunity

THE Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes with dismay the postponement of the voter registration blitz scheduled to begin on December 6, 2021, which was aimed at “addressing under-registration and affording new voters, who have turned 18, a chance to register”.

Voter registration is arguably one of the most important pre-election activities, as it ensures equitable participation in elections, enhances voter turnout, and impacts on the delimitation of constituency boundaries.

The importance of voter registration ahead of the delimitation process cannot be overstated as true representative democracy will only be achieved through equitable representation.

The voter registration blitz was important, particularly for engaging first-time voters and under-registered areas ahead of delimitation.

COVID-19 has presented challenges to the administration of voter registration as the pandemic has greatly impacted the accessibility of registration centres and the inclusiveness of the process.

The voter registration blitz scheduled for December was an opportunity for Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take advantage of the low COVID-19 infection rates, implement and test the effectiveness of the Zec COVID-19 policy on electoral activities and overcome the challenges imposed by the pandemic.

With murmurs of a fourth wave hitting Zimbabwe after the festive period, the postponement of the December voter registration blitz is a missed opportunity for the electoral commission.

Election Resource Centre

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