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Human Rights Have Important Role In New Zealand

Human Rights Commission
Media Release - 27 May 2004

Human rights have important role in New Zealand foreign policy

New Zealand's national interests, including security and trade, are best served by a foreign policy with a strong human rights perspective, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said today.

"The greatest threat to New Zealand's long-term security and trade came from areas where human rights are not respected and human rights violations are a daily occurrence," she said.

The comments introduced the presentation of a submission by the Human Rights Commission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee.

"As a result of its reputation for respecting human rights domestically and because of its very open economy New Zealand is well placed through its foreign policy to make a constructive contribution to the strengthening of human rights throughout the Asia-Pacific region and globally."

"The New Zealand Government is increasingly active in pursuing the human rights agenda in the international arena. Its role in the development of a UN disability rights convention is evidence of this active focus," Ms Noonan said.

The Select Committee's interest in strengthening human rights in foreign policy was welcomed by the Commission and intersects with the Commission's own international work, which included recent activity in Timor-Leste, Jordan and Palestine.

The human rights framework has an important role to play in determining NZ Aid programmes. "While human rights are recognised internationally as universal and indivisible, universality does not mean blind uniformity in application."

Important changes were also happening in New Zealand's immediate neighbourhood. South Pacific Forum leaders, for the first time, recently endorsed a new vision for the region incorporating adherence to human rights and also specific recommendations on the way forward in the field of human rights.

"We seek a Pacific region that is respected for the quality of its governance, the sustainable management of its resources, the full observance of democratic values, and for its defence and promotion of human rights," the vision said.

ENDS


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