17 December 2018

Zimbabwe: Zim Media United for #SDGs, Human Rights

It was an honour to end the year with a reflective dialogue between the UN team, representative from Zimbabwe's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and editors and journalists from public and private media houses, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists as well as national and regional media associations, practitioners under a befitting theme "#ZimMedia4SDGs: UNiting for Human Rights".

Last year around the same period the United Nations launched a yearlong advocacy on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights together with the media and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

After a year, this week, to be specific on December 10, the UN joined national and local commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As part of the advocacy, the Declaration has been translated into four of Zimbabwe's local languages and the UN is working with Government and the Human Rights Commission to complete translation of the document into the 16 languages recognised by the Constitution.

Over the past seven decades, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has become a set of standards that has permeated virtually every area of international law.

In 30 crystal-clear articles, the Universal Declaration shows us the measures which will end extreme poverty, and provide food, housing, health, education, jobs and opportunities for everyone. A world where every human has the same worth as every other human, not just at birth but for the duration of their entire lives.

Human rights are relevant for all of us, every day. Human rights include our rights to freedom from fear and from want, freedom to speak up, rights to health and education; and to enjoy the benefits of measures to advance economic and social justice.

In the joint endeavour to promote, protect and uphold human rights, rights to development, the UN System cherishes the role of media as Fourth Estate and a force for good.

The Zimbabwe media's progressive and consistent coverage of development and humanitarian issues, results and challenges have increased in frequency, number of stories and consistency over the past years. This is commendable.

As the country gears to turn around the economy and lay the ground for socio-economic transformation, the role of the media in rebranding the country with hopeful and positive messages cannot be overemphasised.

The ongoing Government's media reform will provide for an open yet responsible information sharing, guaranteed by law, and is an essential characteristic of a people-centred democracy and development.

In May 2017 at the UN-Media workshop held in Nyanga, the media houses, editors and journalists committed to becoming SDG champions -- at least to track and report on the progress of one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Some chose to champion climate change, others poverty and others Gender equality. The list goes on. As the UN will continuously work with you as you track, report and analyse progress of the SDGs.

As we move into 2019, I would like the UN and media fraternity to renew our resolve to the commitment to keep the SDGs in the national discourse. In this regard, let's be always innovative and relentless and keep in the public discourse -- the struggles, resilience, and triumphs of the people of Zimbabwe, highlight ongoing Government reform initiatives and policies, and particularly in uplifting the spirit of the youth and women.

If the Government, UN, development partners, the private sector and the media all jointly gear our efforts towards uplifting and supporting the youth and women in Zimbabwe, I have no doubt that Zimbabwe will achieve its Vision 2030 of becoming an upper-middle income country.

The media has critical role to play by giving the youth and women a voice and by providing them with a platform where they can freely share their stories and voice their opinions. Furthermore, media must continue to play an information-bridge between the public and policy makers to inform national budget allocations and development programmes.

The media should also consider profiling successful youth and women in the public and private sector to build role models of progress and success- including those in Government ministries, commissions and parastatals as well as financial institutions, service and manufacturing industries, agri-businesses, mines and tourism.

In addition, media should shed light on how the policies and practices of public and private institutions provide young people and women with equal opportunities.

On a final note -- as you may know, the United Nations has also been undergoing through rigorous reform process. The UN Secretary-General has embarked on a grand reform of the United Nations System since he took office last year to ensure the UN provides more coherent, agile and strategic support to member states in their quest to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals.

This reform agenda will take effect across the board where there is UN operational presence. The UN reform, at the request and support of member states will streamline the whole UN System development operations with focus on results, value for money and wide-system approach to partnership including with the private sector.

It is good to note with appreciation, the Government of Zimbabwe's consistent commitment in the ongoing UN development reform agenda and its solidarity and support to multilateralism.

I look forward for continued media engagement and partnership in 2019 and beyond. The UN stands for media freedom and freedom of information. You can count the UN as partner for development and social transformation in greater freedom.

Bishow Parajuli is the UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe

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