Remarks by Ambassador Stéphane Rey at the opening of the Post-election Review Workshop in Zimbabwe.

Position, 28.03.2024

Honourable Guests, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour to address you today as we convene for the Post-election Review Workshop of the Youth Capacity Building Programme in Zimbabwe. 

This gathering underscores our shared dedication to fostering youth engagement in democratic processes. While I regret not being able to join you in person at the magnificent Elephant Hills Resort in Victoria Falls due to the fast pace of the arrears clearance process which I am co-chairing with the Office of the President and Cabinet, please rest assured that my thoughts are with you as we embark on this significant endeavour.

Switzerland, a nation guided by the principles of Direct Democracy, understands the critical role of youth involvement in shaping inclusive and credible electoral processes. The peaceful atmosphere observed during Zimbabwe’s most recent election stands as a testament to the positive impact of youth participation in fostering stability and progress within a democratic framework.

Recognising the vital role played by the African Governance Architecture, an arm of the African Union, in promoting and supporting youth involvement in political and electoral processes across the continent, we commend their ongoing guidance and support in this regard.

Furthermore, I express sincere gratitude to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and Shalestone Elections and Governance Consultants for their steadfast commitment and collaboration in working with the youth, facilitating meaningful engagement and contribution to the electoral landscape.

Understanding that youth are essential stakeholders in defining inclusive and credible electoral processes, my Embassy, in collaboration with Shalestone Consultants aimed to achieve several objectives through this programme.

Firstly, it sought to raise awareness among youth about the interconnectedness of elections and democracy, emphasising the benefits of their participation in electoral processes. Secondly, it aimed to identify capacity challenges hindering meaningful youth engagement throughout the electoral cycle. Thirdly, it aimed to develop innovative programmes that amplify the youth's voice and dismantle barriers to their participation in electoral processes. Lastly, it aimed to enhance advocacy and lobbying skills among young people to effectively engage with electoral stakeholders.

Implemented through a Train-the-Trainer approach, the programme empowered facilitators to identify and develop cohorts of capacitated youth, ensuring a cascading effect of knowledge dissemination and capacity building. The work undertaken by Shalestone Consultants was instrumental in achieving this goal.

I am aware that the beneficiaries of this programme were diverse, including youth-led NGOs, politically active youth, student representative bodies, youth leaders in various sectors, representatives of the Junior Parliament, and the Zimbabwe National Youth Council. By encompassing such a broad spectrum, the programme fostered a holistic approach to youth engagement in electoral processes. Well done!

As we conclude the second phase of this transformative programme, we gather here today for a two-day review workshop to evaluate its impact and draw lessons for future interventions, not only in Zimbabwe but across the African continent. Indeed, there is something special about the way Zimbabwe works towards social cohesion, drawing on local capacities, amplifying national institutions while getting discrete support without disrupting the local fabric. This is remarkable and fully in line with the New Agenda For Peace promoted by the UN Secretary-General. We now know that global solutions need to rest on local experiences and Zimbabwe will have a lot to share with the international community as it embarks on a Security Council seat bidding. We stand by your side!

This workshop is pivotal as it signifies a systematic assessment of the programme’s impact, providing an opportunity for first-hand experiences from the youth beneficiaries themselves. Their insights will be invaluable in shaping future interventions and guiding the endeavours by my Embassy in Zimbabwe and beyond.

In conclusion, I wish to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all participants for their dedication to this noble cause. Your commitment to advancing democratic values and empowering youth is commendable and serves as a beacon of hope for a brighter, more inclusive future.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations and trust that this workshop will serve as a catalyst for continued progress and innovation in promoting youth participation in electoral processes.

Thank you.