The European Union says despite its re-engagement with government, it remains committed to committed to promoting civil society organizations as they remain an important component of any democracy.
Speaking during a launch of some projects funded by the European Union in Bulawayo this week, the head of the EU delegation to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Phillipe Van Damme, said the objective of the EU’s support, is to improve civil society organizations’ capacity to effectively participate in Zimbabwe’s pubic policies and programs, which he noted is critical in a democratic society.
Ambassador Van Damme said although the EU re-engaged the Zimbabwean government through the signing of the National Indicative Program (NIP) in February last year, that re-engagement will not result in turning its back on civil society.
He noted that civil society has an important role in the attainment of the United Nations championed Sustainable Development Goals through tackling injustice and inequality and in the monitoring of the implementation of the N-I-P, bringing both the government and EU to account.
But the ambassador also said in as much as civic organizations demand accountability from duty bearers and authorities, they also need to be accountable to their constituents and practice the same principles that they expect others to uphold.
The EU provided funding for five civil society projects grouped in different thematic areas, including enhancing citizens’ participation in policymaking through the strengthening of community-based organizations.
Lizwe Jamela of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, whose organizations is among five recipients of the funding, said ordinary Zimbabweans are not aware of the rights that they enjoy under the Zimbabwe’s constitution.
Jamela said the organization would use part of the funding to raise awareness of the constitution.
Responding to a question from Studio 7 on the sidelines of the meeting about when the EU is likely to consider removing targeted sanctions on President Robert Mugabe and some senior ruling Zanu PF officials, given some views that the measures are no longer effective or relevant, Van Damme said there are some outstanding issues that need to be dealt with.
He refused to elaborate, adding that the EU remains in dialogue with the Zimbabwean government.
The EU along with the United States and other nations have been providing assistance to Zimbabwe since independence.
Relations between Harare and Western countries have in recent years been sour as the ruling Zanu PF party has often accused them of seeking to effect regime change.
Government has also often accused civil society organizations of being agents of that agenda.