In Malawi, amidst a narrowing of civil society space, there are increasing threats and harassment of human rights defenders, the media and academia and rising political violence as Malawi heads to 2019 elections. The so-called Cashgate corruption scandal in 2013 and subsequent rising corruption resulted in the withdrawal of budget support, which has eroded public confidence in the Government and its ability to provide services for its people.
Malawi faces a wide array of human rights challenges including rising inequalities, poverty and recurrent food insecurity. Violence, and discrimination against women and girls is commonplace, rooted in a lack of gender equality, and harmful cultural norms, exemplified by one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, high rates of maternal mortality, physical and sexual violence. Malawi’s prisons are severely overcrowded and there is very limited accountability for human rights violations perpetrated by the police.
Violence and discrimination against other groups including persons with albinism and the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community is also widespread including an increase in hate speech against the latter. Since 2014, at least 150 crimes have been reported against people with albinism, including killings, abductions, grave exhumations and threats. The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism called for a more committed implementation of the Government’s Response Plan including the strengthening of preventative, protection and accountability measures (A/HRC/34/59/Add.1).
The role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights:
The Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) was established in 1998 as the first OHCHR regional office following the Secretary-General’s 1997 reform agenda on mainstreaming human rights. It has since evolved with a mandate to deliver technical assistance on the promotion and protection of human rights in 14 countries including: Malawi. During the previous cycle, four Human Rights Advisers were deployed to the Resident Coordinators offices in Malawi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Zambia.
In Malawi, a Senior Human Rights Adviser was deployed in 2014 and has strengthened the UNCT’s advocacy on human rights, its engagement with the UN Human Rights mechanisms, and its programming on human rights.
In May 2015, Malawi accepted a recommendation under the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review, to issue a standing invitation to the UN Special Procedures. It accepted another recommendation to “take effective measures to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons from violence, and prosecute the perpetrators of violent attacks.”
The Office of the High Commissioner has identified the following thematic priorities for its Malawi programme in 2018-2021:
- Strengthening rule of law and accountability for human rights violations;
- Increasing implementation of the international human rights mechanisms` outcomes;
- Enhancing and Protecting Civic Space and People’s Participation;
- Early warning, prevention and protection of human rights in situations of conflict and insecurity;
- Integrating human rights in sustainable development;
- Enhancing equality and countering discrimination.