Civil society gains voice on reducing poverty in Zambia

UNDP has helped transform strained relations between the Zambian Government and civil society into productive dialogue on the national poverty reduction strategy and other development issues.

As a result of civil society input, the strategy calls for abolishing 75 District Administrators offices, which have become patronage jobs, and a Presidential discretionary fund that lacks accountability, as well as urging constitutional reform -- all key governance issues.

On education, the strategy recommends higher pay for teachers, incentives for rural teachers, improved teaching materials, curriculum renewal and life skills and HIVAIDS counseling in schools. It also calls for a focus on food security and more investment in agriculture.

Progress began when UNDP helped groups form Civil Society for Poverty Reduction, a broad-based network to participate in poverty reduction strategy discussions with the Government, the World Bank, UN agencies and donor countries.

The network's steering committee includes 26 organizations, including the Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the University of Zambia, the Congress of Trade Unions, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection and the Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Committee.

To smooth the way for dialogue, UNDP arranged for training in negotiating skills and conflict resolution for the steering committee through its Peak Performance Programme.

The training was effective, and more than 80 per cent of civil society inputs were incorporated into the poverty reduction strategy. The Government and the network have both requested additional conflict resolution training, which UNDP is arranging.

"The Government and civil society are moving away from the mutual suspicion of the past," said Besinati Phiri Mpepo, Coordinator of the coalition. For the process to work, civil society must be effectively organized and equipped with essential skills in negotiation and conflict resolution, she noted.

"We look forward to greater cooperation with the Government in ensuring that poverty reduction and overall national development is achieved," added Ms. Mpepo.

Participants learned how to communicate their needs effectively, manage conflicts productively, think in ways beneficial to themselves and the Government and develop healthy relationships with their development partners, said UNDP Resident Representative Olubanke King-Akerele.

UNDP, Oxfam and the German technical cooperation agency (GTZ) provided initial support for the network. With the success of the poverty process, a number of other donors have added their support.

UNDP is helping civil society get involved in other development issues such as monitoring progress on the Millennium Development Goals and formulation of the National Long-term Development Vision.

For further information please contact Elda Chirwa (, UNDP Zambia, or Cassandra Waldon (, UNDP Communications Office.