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Challenges to Councils to follow Waitakere’s lead

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
15 May, 2007

Chief Commissioner challenges Councils to follow Waitakere’s lead

Waitakere City has become the first Council in the country to place the full text of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in its Council building, acknowledging the importance of human rights.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan and Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey will unveil the text presented on two large plaques at a citizenship ceremony at the Waitakere City Council chambers on Tuesday evening.

“This is a memorable day for human rights in New Zealand. My congratulations and respect go to Waitakere for being the first Council to show their commitment to human rights in this way. This is not just a sign on the wall, it is truly a symbol of the way the Council has taken the very best human rights ideals as a framework for how it treats the many people who live here,” she said.

She added, “But it doesn’t end here. I’d like to think of this as a challenge for every other city and district Council in the country to examine how they can ensure human rights ideals inform decisions and policies.”

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was agreed almost 60 years ago, following the horrors of the Second World War. The nations of the world adopted the UDHR because they believed that ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’and that there needed to be a common understanding of those rights and freedoms.

“The UDHR makes visible the rights and responsibilities of every person in New Zealand and more specifically in Waitakere City it sets a secure framework for relationships between the Council and its citizens”, Ms Noonan said.

The universality of the text was highlighted by a contribution from local iwi Te Kawerau A Maki, who offered a proverb from the great chief Tawhiao.

Part of which when translated reads: “These are the treasured virtues: spiritual power, correct conduct, strength, wisdom, love, goodness, and vitality, (physical and spiritual)”.

The proverb is placed side by side with Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Ms Noonan said the texts worked well together and showed how the essentials of human rights were embodied in the great religions and cultures of the world.


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