The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SAHRDN) conducted an Assets and Needs Assessment for Human Rights Defenders in Zimbabwe (the assessment or ANA) between July and December 2020. The assessment occurred during and was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated national lockdown measures. The process adopted the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders’ definition of HRDs. The declaration defines HRDs as individuals or groups collectively working towards the promotion and protection of fundamental rights and freedoms contributing to “… the effective elimination of all violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms of peoples and individuals.”
The following constituted the Zimbabwe HRDs ANA objectives:
- To conduct a detailed assessment in selected cities on the situation of human rights defenders in Zimbabwe with regards to access to support mechanisms and services, identifying the risk and protective factors to enhance their safety and security.
- To assess the level of availability and quality of relevant services provided by human rights defenders-oriented organisations and other relevant service providers in the field of human rights defenders’ protection.
- Identify possibilities for coordinating service provision at the national level and at the regional level to avoid duplication and working in silos.
- Define the best approach for strengthening and offering integrated preventive, protective and reintegration services and improving access to mechanisms, systems and services at the local level.
- To identify the institutions and actors which have a direct and indirect influence on the situation of human right defenders at risk and which SAHRDN will leverage in order to swiftly coordinate rapid protection services.
The assessment adopted a qualitative research design with COVID-19 inspired adaptation regarding methods of data collection. This entailed an extensive media scan and literature review of reports from NGOs, as well as about 15 conversations in person and telephonically with HRDs. The ANA established that Zimbabwe has a vibrant human rights sector with activists who have a proud tradition of human rights defenders, especially since the turn of the new century. Most of the respondents engaged for the HRDs ANA were Directors and senior staff of organisations formed after 2000, with the exception of ZimRights. The youngest organisation engaged for the ANA was formed in 2013. As such, both the respondents and the organisations they belong to had sufficient historical and contemporary bandwidth to adequately answer the questions of interest for the ANA from an expert as well as an experiential and historical base. All respondents were purposively identified either because they belonged to key human rights organisations or were key HRDs in their individual capacities.