The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) is a public interest organisation that promotes the rights of marginalized and vulnerable communities in areas rich in natural resources through ensuring good governance in the environmental and natural resources sector. Since ZELA’s inception, its primary focus has been the advancement of community rights through legal instruments.
This strategy ensures that communities have adequate knowledge and capacity to demand their rights from mining companies and governments in their role as duty bearers. Over time, ZELA noted that this approach alone would not be adequate in promoting a broad-based response in addressing the multitude of challenges with which communities are often faced when mining activities are concerned.
ZELA has various signature activities and interventions which include, but are not limited to: action and evidence-based or investigative research, advocacy, impact litigation, conflict resolution, targeted environmental law and justice training, capacity building of communities, and social accountability tools and sub-granting.
ZELA’s vision is a just Zimbabwean society in which sustainable and equitable use of natural resources takes place. ZELA firmly believes that both the government and private sector have the duty to uphold the values of democracy and human rights, to be transparent and accountable towards communities which are at the heart of in the extraction and exploitation of natural resources along with the sound management of revenues generated from such activities.
In 2013, thanks to a partnership with the Danish Institute for Human rights and the Social Accountability Institute, ZELA initiated a project entitled Pillars in Practice which makes use of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to share information and compel the State to uphold its commitment to: (1) protect human rights, (2) highlight mining companies’ responsibility to respect human rights, and (3) provide access to effective remedies for victims of human rights abuses.
The Pillars in Practice project gave ZELA the impetus to start focusing on promoting the participation of government and mining companies in addressing the rights of communities in mining areas. Although the focus of the Pillars in Practice project was the mining sector, ZELA is currently developing an intervention with the Danish Institute for Human Rights to be implemented in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission. This intervention seeks to target other sectors of the economy where human rights violations occur. Such sectors include: the agriculture, banking and manufacturing sectors. In addition, the project aims to strengthen ZELA’s work by ensuring that corporations are held accountable for human rights violations stemming from their operations.
ZELA’s new strategic plan (2015 to 2019): a business and human rights programme is centred on advancing its work on business and human rights, identification and research on sustainable investment opportunities along with its advisory role towards government and corporations. The programme seeks to advocate for meaningful contribution to the social sector through the facilitation of expert discussions and capacity building.