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Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance

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Youth Lead participants celebrate the end of their youth-led advocacy campaigns.
The Youth Lead activity builds youth civic engagement skills through training and internship programs which culminate in grant-funded, youth-led projects addressing women’s rights, health, and good governance.
Photo: FHI 360

For the past 30 years, Zambia has been a regional model of peaceful and multi-party political transitions, yet democratic backsliding and corruption threaten this relative historic stability. Zambia’s political settlement is increasingly vulnerable, limiting political and economic power to elites and reflecting underlying economic and societal discord which is further disrupted by a high public debt burden. Between these issues, there are opportunities for improved democratic governance and fiscal reforms.

Establishing an accountable, democratic, and well-governed state with an engaged citizenry, civil society, and private sector is an indispensable precondition for countries seeking a sustainable, self-reliant development path. USAID/Zambia’s Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG) office supports Zambia’s democratic traditions and nourishes social and political stability by strengthening citizen participation and sub-national governance structures; advancing respect for human rights; promoting free and fair elections; and improving accountability, efficiency, and transparency in public financial and domestic revenue generation systems. 

USAID works with the government and people of Zambia to build and sustain a democratic, well-governed, and accountable state that can respond to the needs of its growing population, and achieve economic development while protecting citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms.

USAID/Zambia DRG assistance focuses on the following.

STRENGTHENED CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT CHOICES 

DRG supports initiatives to increase knowledge of local government and citizens’ responsibilities and rights, driving increased citizen and private sector participation in planning, decision-making, and monitoring of service delivery and greater citizen satisfaction with sub-national processes and services. Zambia’s youth voice is amplified through DRG’s investment in youth leadership and training. Young people are empowered through skills-training internships, mentorship and grants in entrepreneurship, civic engagement and public management. Through these strategies, DRG helps to foster a new generation of civic-minded Zambian leaders. 

DRG strengthens civil society advocacy and oversight roles. The DRG program increases the capacity of targeted civil society organizations to participate in issue-based reforms, including political and electoral processes, while addressing broader democratic challenges. In the long term, programs in this area will contribute to generating and sustaining the political incentives of the government and the motivation of citizens and interest groups to advance meaningful reform and sustained development progress. This support raises the voices of Zambian citizens and encourages the government to be more accountable, responsive, and self-reliant in the delivery of services to Zambians in need.

INCREASED DEMOCRATIC SPACE FOR FREE SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION

To protect freedom of expression and Zambia’s independent media, DRG increases the viability of Zambia’s independent media, access to balanced information, and improved content of independent media outlets, with a focus on radio broadcasting and social media. With the growth of internet and social media users, DRG’s programs emphasize safer online civic activism and increased confidence in alternative sources of information with improved cybersafety and digital literacy.

EFFECTIVE USE OF PUBLIC RESOURCES

DRG supported programs will improve the responsiveness and efficiency of local authorities and selected deconcentrated line ministries in key service delivery areas, and enhance incremental improvements in public financial management systems at sub-national levels, reducing waste and leakages, and increasing the availability and usability of fiscal information. DRG initiatives also bolster government systems to strengthen public resource management, with a focus on financial and administrative management and domestic resource mobilization, emphasizing viable actions at both national and sub-national levels to increase tax administration efficiencies, and reduce inequities in tax policy. 

DRG develops more robust dialogue platforms for the private sector and civil society to engage with tax authorities, and strengthens their capacities to advocate for their interests.

INCREASED TRANSPARENCY AND CREDIBILITY OF ELECTIONS

DRG supports local partners to reduce polarization in the civic and political landscape to prevent further democratic backsliding, advance respect for human rights, and productively channel political participation and dissent through electoral processes, contributing to a more level playing field for elections. USAID joins other donors to strengthen electoral institutions and key stakeholders while promoting peace and security in the 2021 election cycle and supports ongoing domestic observation efforts. Between election cycles, USAID invests in Zambian efforts for greater political participation of women, youth, and persons with disabilities, in addition to protecting citizens’ right to information and civil liberties during increased restrictions as a result of COVID-19. 

DRG’s support to the Zambia Human Rights Commission, one of the government’s key oversight institutions, protects freedom of assembly through the monitoring of the implementation of the Public Order Act and the investigation of elections-related human rights violations.

Last updated: January 04, 2021

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