Our people aspire for a free and just society – HH

PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema says the new administration in Zambia is cognisant that a conducive governance environment is a precursor for the country’s political stability, security, economic growth and sustainable development.

He told the world that despite placing the COVID-19 vaccine programme high on the list of mitigation measures, Zambia has only managed to vaccinate about three per cent of its population.

Delivering his maiden speech at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, President Hichilema said it also fosters enhanced transparency, accountability and consultative dialogue.

“With this realisation, our administration will work towards strengthening of oversight and governance institutions and ensure the independence and autonomy of the three arms of government, particularly the legislature and judiciary,” he said. “The fight against corruption will be at the centre of our transformation agenda and this shall be executed with zero-tolerance. We shall also promote free media and an active civil society as they are critical in upholding checks and balances, human rights, liberties and freedoms.”

He said the people of Zambia once again rose to the occasion to usher in a new government through a peaceful election.

President Hichilema said this had enabled Zambia to further consolidate her democratic credentials, which serves as an inspiration on the African continent, where the outcome of an election was determined by those who vote and not those who count the votes.

“We are therefore proud to provide leadership in our country where people aspire for a free and just society and where they aspire for their voices to be heard. We were able to achieve this political transformation even at the time when Zambia was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the midst of deep sorrow following the passing on of our founding father and first Republican president, Dr Kenneth David Kaunda,” he said. “I therefore wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Zambian people, to pay tribute to this iconic leader who was fondly known as KK. It is without doubt that the last remaining steward of liberation struggles has left an indelible mark on humanity. Dr Kaunda’s principles, values and contributions towards the ideals of emancipation and independence did not only spread across the African continent, but across the entire globe.”

President Hichilema said Dr Kaunda’s untold devotion to peace and unity laid the very foundation for Zambia’s stature as a beacon of peace, not only in Southern Africa, but the African continent as a whole.

He said the Zambian government would build upon Dr Kaunda’s profound legacy to live in peace and harmony with one another.

“As we work towards this year’s theme let us remember the important lessons that Dr Kaunda taught us, especially as we work towards revitalising the UN system,” he said.

President Hichilema said the COVID-19 pandemic had had a far reaching socio-economic impact globally, including, disturbing trade flows, supply chains and various economic activities.

He said in addition to loss of lives, the pandemic increased poverty levels through job losses, stressed healthcare systems and worse still, the delivery of education to learners.

President Hichilema said disruption to the education systems, particularly in developing countries, was in part, due to inadequate Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) facilities.

He said in response to the pandemic, Zambia had developed a national preparedness and response plan for COVID -19, which had been used to guide the implementation of mitigation measures for the pandemic.

He said the vaccine programme forms an integral part of the response plan.

President Hichilema said despite placing the vaccine programme high on the list of mitigation measures, Zambia had only managed to vaccinate about three per cent of its population.

He said this was against the country’s target of vaccinating 70 per cent of the eligible population by the third quarter of 2022.

“This clearly highlights the inequitable access to vaccines in developing countries, especially that more than two billion vaccines have been administered worldwide,” he said.

President Hichilema said it was fair to state that recovery from the pandemic hinges upon mass vaccinations before considering other reforms or facilities that tend to fail when countries lock-down their economies.

He said it was gratifying that the session of the General Assembly would consider building on initiatives such as the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX).

President Hichilema said the two initiatives had made it possible for low-income countries, such as Zambia, to access the life-saving vaccines, which would contribute to building resilience and recovery from the pandemic.

He expressed Zambia’s appreciation for the support that had been provided thus far through the COVAX and AVAT facilities, the UN system and various stakeholders.

President Hichilema called for concerted and enhanced global efforts towards promoting investments particularly in local manufacturing capacity and technology transfer on vaccines, related infrastructure, human capital as well as research and development.

He said the government’s high priority was to restore macroeconomic stability, attain fiscal and debt sustainability, promote economic growth, enhance economic diversification and manage the contraction of debt.

President Hichilema said he was confident that the measures would restore macro-economic stability and put the country back on economic recovery.

“To sustain this growth, Zambia will dedicate efforts to guarantee a stable and predictable environment that will attract and protect local, regional and foreign direct investment as well as enhance local participation in the economy. This is a prerequisite for a vibrant private sector led economy and thus create jobs and opportunities for everyone,” he said.

He said to complement the efforts, Zambia had embarked on an ambitious economic and social transformation agenda with a view to creating equitable opportunities and poverty reduction for the people, especially the youth and women.

President Hichilema said to achieve that goal, his administration shall design and implement interventions aimed at inducing enhanced productivity in agriculture, mining, energy, financial services, tourism, technology, health and education as well as support the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises.

He said despite the well thought out interventions, today’s world economy was more complex than ever before.

“Given the numerous global concerns, including pandemics, climate change and illegal human migration, it is imperative that we adapt to these effects of globalisation by fostering key partnerships and deepening integration at all levels. This is critical to ensure that we realise our aspirations of restoring Zambia on a path to sustainable economic growth and development,” he said. “Zambia is aware of the critical role of the United Nations in guiding the world to focus on the sustainable development agenda. In particular, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set the tone and benchmarks for countries to incorporate sustainability in their development policies.”

President Hichilema said the “new dawn government” was committed to realising tangible growth and sustainable development while paying particular attention so that this was not achieved at the expense of future generations.

He said like many other developing countries, Zambia calls for closer cooperation and support for capacity to adopt better, safer, climate change sensitive and modern methods of increased production and productivity.

“Our administration has established a ministry that is the first of its kind in Zambia, the Ministry of Green Economy and Environment, to address this, among other important issues concerning environmental sustainability. This will be crucial to build the ability for implementing climate positive actions,” he said. “I am drawn to the prophetic inscription on the wall of the United Nations plaza, and I quote ‘…they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more…'”

President Hichilema said the words serve as a reminder to the United Nations to work towards global peace and international cooperation.

“Though we have made leaps and bounds, in the area of peace, security and stability, there remain pockets of conflict in many regions of the world where guns have not been silenced. The silencing of guns therefore goes beyond addressing conventional warfare, but also in addressing new emerging threats of our century which include: challenges of extremism and international terrorism, cybercrime, asymmetric warfare proliferation of non-conventional weapons and organised crime,” he said. “As an international community, we need to continue to work together to address the root causes of these global threats through various national, regional and global mechanisms.”

President Hichilema noted that former UN secretary-general, late Kofi Annan laid out an ambitious agenda before the 60th General Assembly, which was still pertinent today.

He said in his report, “In larger freedom: towards development security and human rights for all”, Annan made the case that development, security and respect for human rights cannot be enjoyed in the absence of the other.

He said these were indispensable realities of a well-functioning nation and international system.

“I however, wish to go a step further in asserting that the foundation to sustainable economic growth and development is peace and stability.

Without peace and harmony, development cannot be attained. Zambia will, therefore, continue to support national, regional and international initiatives aimed at promoting peace and security,” he said. “In this vein, Zambia reaffirms its commitment to play an active role in the SADC mission in Mozambique aimed at restoring peace to the Cabo Delgado Province. In addition, Zambia remains committed to the cause of the Lusaka Master roadmap to silence the guns in Africa, an initiative being implemented by all African Union (AU) member states to promote peace and security, which has since been endorsed for extension for a 10-year period from 2021 to 2030. We therefore, wish to call for continued support of the United Nations in silencing the guns in Africa and other continental initiatives.”

On UN Security Council, President Hichilema said Zambia is still concerned with the slow pace of negotiations which have continued without making much progress.

He reiterated the African common position that calls for a more representative and democratic UN Security Council, in which Africa, like all other world region, would be fairly represented.

He said the call for gender equality was now a century-old struggle for women to participate equally with men in society.

President Hichilema said despite the realisation that women’s full and effective participation in all areas of life results in prosperity, women were still, however, involved less in public life and decision-making.

“It is important that we continue to demand for the promotion of gender equality while paying particular attention to the rights of women, girls, children, and the rights of people living with disabilities. For us in Zambia, we will remain committed to the advancement and promotion of women’s rights, and for the first time in the history of our country, our new Parliament elected the first female Speaker to preside over Zambia’s supreme law making organ of government. I further wish to state with pride that Zambia’s Vice-President, as well as the Deputy Speaker of the House are women,” he said. “Consistent with our commitment, Zambia is implementing various initiatives designed to harmonise the development, programming and implementation of economic empowerment efforts targeting women and the youth across the country.”

He said the aim was to eliminate hunger and rural poverty.

“Our government will focus on increasing support for women through creation of employment opportunities and entrepreneurship programs among others. We will also focus on increasing access to secondary education for adolescent girls from impoverished households through financial aid and grant schemes,” he said.

He stressed that the government would remain committed to economic diplomacy and multilateralism, to consolidate global efforts through promoting open and cordial relations with the international community, in order to ensure collective sustainable growth and development.

President Hichilema emphasised that it was the duty and responsibility of everyone in the global democratic community to make democracy work for the people.

“We can do this by delivering democracy dividends through accelerating economic development, balanced distribution of resources and our people accessing opportunities for a better life. This is what will make democracy attractive to our people in the individual countries. This is what will make democracy sustainable and keep away autocratic and heavy-handed alternatives from leadership. This is what will foster a peaceful, prosperous and a more united world,” said President Hichilema.

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