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Vigilance on Human Rights has to "start at home"

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers

For immediate release, 10 December 2008

Vigilance on Human Rights has to "start at home"

In marking Human Rights Day today the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) has issued a caution against any complacency that New Zealand's human rights record is as good as it can be.

"Both the New Zealand Government's record in terms of ratifying or complying with international human rights agreements, as well as the way that basic human rights are respected by New Zealanders in our everyday lives are not as good as they can be – we can do much better," says Rose Henderson, ANZASW President.

"Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action, based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. ANZASW is a proud member of the International Federation of Social Workers and we support the regular statements made by IFSW on global human rights issues, the IFSW's international policy on human rights and its work to support and defend the human rights of individual social workers, social work educators and students throughout the world," says Rose Henderson.

"This year's Human Rights Day takes on special meaning because it is 60 years since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That Declaration embodies a commitment to universal dignity and social justice, and the 30 core rights it contains should never be taken for granted or viewed as some sort of luxury or empty wish-list".

"The year ahead will be an important test for how well we are doing at a New Zealand Government level when, in May 2009, the Government's overall performance on human rights will be examined for the first time through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The UPR is a mechanism established in 2006 whereby the UN Human Rights Council reviews whether or not UN member states are fulfilling their human rights obligations and commitments. In addition to this we have yet to see what approach the new Government will take to unfinished business such as the yet to be signed UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples," says Rose Henderson.

"In November 2009 ANZASW will be hosting the 20th Asia Pacific Social Work Conference, a major international event at which human rights and social justice issues in our region will take centre stage. It will be an important opportunity also to reflect on New Zealand's human rights performance".

"In recent years the negative impact of both economic and social policy on human rights in areas such as childrens' rights and rights to adequate housing, have been challenged in this country. Significant hardship and poverty is experienced by many thousands of New Zealanders. With downward pressures on the economy likely to increase in 2009 we have to be vigilant against any downward spiral in the observance of basic human rights. To do this we will all need to monitor the impact of economic policies or hastily introduced new laws on the right to dignity and justice for all, and ask ourselves: What price human rights?"

"But above all we need to ensure that human rights are lived out in our own individual behaviours every day, in the way that we live as families and as neighbours, in our homes, communities and workplaces and in the way that we respect each other's rights to dignity and social justice. The commitment that new Prime Minister John Key delivered on Election night to support those who cannot support themselves will be an important signal of the way that we apply human rights in our everyday lives in the year ahead".


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