Remarks by UN Resident Coordinator Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio during the International Human Rights Day Commemoration

Theme: Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights


Your Honour the Vice President, Madam Inonge Wina

Honorable Minister of Justice, Mr. Given Lubinda

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice; Ms. Thandiwe Otenga

Senior Government officials present;

Representative from GIZ and other cooperating partners;

Officers from the Human Rights Commission;

Civil society representatives;

Colleagues from the United Nations;

Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen


Madam Vice President,


I am honored to deliver a few remarks during this year’s International Human Rights Day, appropriately themed “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.”

As the United Nations in Zambia, we were hopeful that the year 2020, which marks a Decade of Action towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would provide renewed vigour and opportunities to attain our development aspirations. Instead, Zambia, like the rest of the world, is beset by the direct and indirect negative impact of COVID-19. 

Today, Zambia is confronted by socio-economic shocks coupled by already existing inequalities which further challenge the country’s ability to Stand Up for Human Rights.

It is very appropriate, therefore, that this year’s International Human Rights Day theme – Recover Better, Stand Up for Human Rights - relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and focuses on the need to build back better by ensuring Human Rights are central to recovery efforts.

Madam Vice President, Ladies and gentlemen-

The COVID-19 outbreak has shown as that we still have a lot of work to do as the United Nations in strengthening the resilience and capacities of country partners to respond better to such complex shocks. Indeed, COVID-19 has exposed the gaps in development programming if we are to attain the common global goals.

At the same time, COVID-19 has forced us to identify innovative solutions and new ways of doing business.  It has also reminded us that to reach the Sustainable Development Goals in 10 years’ time we must apply human rights standards – now more than ever - to tackle entrenched, systematic, and inequalities, exclusion and discrimination.

Today, 10 December, is an opportunity to reaffirm the importance of human rights in re-building the world we want, the need for not only global solidarity but also interconnectedness and shared humanity in Zambia.

Therefore, globally under the UN Human Rights’ generic call to action “Stand Up for Human rights”, we aim to engage the general public, our partners and the UN family to bolster transformative action and showcase practical and inspirational examples that can contribute to recovering better and fostering more resilient and just societies.

The COVID-19 crisis has been fuelled by deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. We must advance measures to close these gaps and bolster human rights efforts to enable us fully to recover and build back a world that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable.

Indeed, the UN in Zambia has worked closely with the Government of the Republic of Zambia to mainstream all human right approaches in the GRZ COVID-19 Multisectoral Contingency and Response Plan to ensure that no-one in left behind. Rebuilding better will also require societies where human rights play a critical role in all aspects of the national recovery plans, from the policies to reduce inequalities to the development of opportunities aimed at improving human lives.

As we celebrate this year’s International Human Rights Day in a period where we prepare for the upcoming general elections, I would like to highlight that the UN, with the support of cooperating partners, strengthened the capacity and credibility of national electoral institutions and processes through its project “Democracy Strengthening in Zambia” to promote transparent, inclusive and peaceful elections that are the cornerstone of democratic governance, rule of law and human rights.

In addition, as the Government is working on its Economic Recovery Programme (ERP) and prepare for the 8th National Development Plan (8NDP), I would like to reaffirm the engagement of the UN Country Team alongside the Government to ensure the fulfillment of international convention commitments as well as the mainstreaming of all human right approaches in all recovery efforts and upcoming national plans and policies. This support is expected to positively contribute to equal rights and opportunities for all in the spirit of leaving no-one behind towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda in Zambia. Amongst many aspects to be considered, we would like to encourage the Government to sustain its ongoing efforts to address these four critical human right dimensions:

  1. End discrimination of any kind: Globally, we have seen that structural discrimination, intolerance and racism have fuelled the COVID-19 crisis. Equality and non-discrimination are core requirements for a post-COVID world.


      2. Address inequalities: To recover from the crisis, we must also address the inequality pandemic. For that, we need to                   promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights. We need a new social contract for a new era.


  1. Encourage participation and solidarity: We are all in this together. From individuals to governments, from civil society and grass-roots communities to the private sector, everyone has a role in building a post-COVID world that is better for present and future generations. We need to ensure the voices of the most affected and vulnerable inform the recovery efforts.


  1. Promote sustainable development: We need sustainable development for people and planet. Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a recovery that leaves no one behind.


I would like to conclude my address by commending the Government in its commitments and efforts to put human rights at the center of its agenda for sustainable development. On behalf of the UN in Zambia, I would like to assure of our continuous readiness and commitment to support the Government and the people of Zambia to promote human rights in Zambia. continue to stand by


I thank you.

Speech by
Coumba Mar Gadio
Resident Coordinator
Coumba Mar Gadio, PhD
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations
United Nations Development Programme