Swaziland is a modified traditional monarchy with executive and some legislative powers vested in King Mswati III. The constitution, which went into effect in February 2006 and replaced the 1973 Decree, confirms most of the king's powers but provides for an independent judiciary. The most recent parliamentary elections, held in 2003, were not considered free and fair. Political power remains largely with the king and his circle of traditional advisors, including the queen mother. While the civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances in which security forces committed abuses. There were limits on freedom of speech and of the press; restrictions on freedom of assembly and association; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; restrictions on freedom of movement; and discrimination and violence against women and children.
The U.S. strategy for promoting freedom and democracy in the country prioritizes fostering a more responsive, inclusive, and democratic government. The United States continues to encourage the government to implement concrete measures of democratic progress, such as the full legalization of political parties and reforms directed toward meeting Millennium Challenge Account threshold country criteria in the areas of just governance, investing in people, and economic development, in addition to the creation of a road map for policy reform.
Effective governance, legal reform, and increased promotion of women's and labor rights are strategically important as the country makes its transition to a full-fledged democracy. The United States anticipates supporting additional capacity-building programs for parliament, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, and local media, as well as supporting pre- and post-election civic education. U.S.-sponsored awareness campaigns on civic and human rights, especially in rural areas, and support for human rights investigations are also activities that the embassy plans to pursue. Overall, the U.S. government will continue to stress to the king and other officials, via programmatic and diplomatic channels, the need for rule of law through greater transparency, full participation by citizens in the political process, and increased enforcement of human rights protections.
In support of political reform, the United States has brought together local NGOs, civic education organizations, labor union leaders, and other political activists for dialogue. The embassy has also worked with local NGOs in the development of a trainer's manual on the country's constitution and on a program revolving around the constitution and the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In support of good governance, in July 2007 the embassy hosted a U.S. expert on corruption for a week-long speaking tour to address a wide range of government and civic stakeholders. As a result, local activists participating in one forum decided to form a committee to address anticorruption efforts; they continue to work with U.S. officials on this initiative. The U.S. government has also raised the awareness of members of parliament to inclusive democracy through sponsorship of a workshop on the equal rights of persons with disabilities.
In support of freedom of information, in October 2007 the United States sponsored a week-long "Journalism 101" workshop with students and journalists from all local media organizations. Other ongoing activities that advance U.S. priorities include U.S. sponsorship for attendance of overseas courses on democracy promotion and civil society, and bringing qualified speakers to the country to speak and teach on human rights and democracy issues.
In support of equal rights, the United States is providing school fees for orphaned and vulnerable children, as well as children at risk for exploitative labor. U.S. programs also provide life skill training for at-risk youth. The embassy has worked with a local NGO to produce an 18-episode sign language educational video based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Efforts are continuing to ensure that the video is dubbed and made available to the general public through broadcasting arrangements with the national television station.
The United States continues its ongoing effort to increase the private-public sector dialogue surrounding workers' rights. U.S. programs are dedicated to increasing labor law compliance and reducing labor conflicts. A U.S.-funded workplace-based HIV/AIDS education and antidiscrimination program is ongoing. U.S. funds were allocated for the publication of a labor law compendium for use by law practitioners. The embassy also hosted a digital video conference between police and immigration officials, local NGOs, and a U.S.-based antitrafficking NGO that trains police officers to combat trafficking in persons.