The 2018 Law, Justice and Development Week (LDJ) Week competition period coincided with presidential and parliamentary elections in my home country of Zimbabwe. I decided to submit my proposal, as the issue of “Rights, Protection and Development” was a topical issue I had already been reflecting on. Additionally, I have a particular interest in how the law and human rights coincide with economic development in developing and vulnerable states.
Despite adhering to a system of constitutional supremacy, the Constitution remains “a paper tiger” for many citizens. Given the predominance of agrarianism, more than 67% of Zimbabweans reside in the rural areas. The provisions of the Constitution remain an abstract and primarily meaningless concept for many. This is concerning for a system premised on multi-party democracy, universal adult suffrage and free and fair regular elections.
Law and Regulation
The popular saying“do not judge a book by its cover” teaches a great lesson which can be summed up in one sentence: It is never what we think it is.
This leads me to why protecting the interests of persons with disabilities (PWDs) is important; many times, they are treated as if all they are is their physical or mental challenges. But they are more than just their disability. Every human being, rich or poor, small or big, non-disabled or disabled has a role to play in our lives, and our ability to treat everyone with dignity and respect cannot be overemphasized. Thus, as I explained in my recent proposal in the World Bank Group’s 2018 Law Student Contest for Development Solutions, lack of equal access and opportunity for PWDs will in the long-run impede the necessary development many of us desire in our world.
Laws that protect and defend the rights of poor people are usually too ambiguous, cumbersome and expensive for them to access justice. In many developing countries, particularly in my home country of Nigeria, informal norms, practices and society govern the everyday life of poor citizens.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, many local journalists suffer attacks, imprisonment or even death for reporting on corruption, public spending or the mismanagement of natural resources. In Africa, at least 41 journalists are spending this World Press Freedom Day behind bars.
While there is a clear recognition by international institutions that corruption and good governance are key to poverty alleviation, there seems to be much less understanding of the importance of an enabling environment, as a complement to training and capacity building, in order for the press to meaningfully contribute to greater accountability and transparency, such as natural resources exploitation.
For example, new oil discoveries in East Africa have the potential to lift millions out of poverty if the profits actually benefit the citizens in that region. The optimism is dashed by the proverbial “resource curse,” that’s plagued the likes of Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, where poor governance, wealth disparity and poverty persist. The fog of secrecy and opacity surrounding oil exploitation deals has also caused concern.