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UN examines NZ govt's performance on racial discrimination

UN Committee examines NZ government's performance on racial discrimination

Peace Movement Aotearoa

20 February 2012

On 21 and 22 February 2013, the government's performance in implementing the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination will be considered by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the independent expert body that monitors state compliance with the Convention, during its 82nd session in Geneva.

This update has information about the Convention, the Committee, NGO Reports to the Committee, the interactive dialogue between the Committee and government representatives, details of when and where you can watch the interactive dialogue, and where you can find more information. The update is available on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/notes/peace-movement-aotearoa/un-committee-examines-nz-governments-performance-on-racial-discrimination/486796528034388 - please share the link on your page.

International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD, the Convention) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1965, and entered into force in January 1969. The Convention defines racial discrimination as any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or other areas of public life.

It is the oldest, and the third most widely ratified UN human rights convention, with 175 state parties. New Zealand signed the Convention in 1966 and ratified it in 1972.

UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD, the Committee) was the first treaty monitoring body created by the UN to monitor and review actions by states to fulfil their obligations under a specific human rights agreement. It comprises 18 independent experts, appointed by state parties, and monitors how states are putting the Convention into practice. CERD usually meets for two sessions, each lasting four weeks, every year.

Every state party to the Convention is required to submit regular Periodic Reports to CERD on what legal, judicial, administrative and other steps they have taken to fulfil their obligations to eliminate racial discrimination. The Periodic Reports are examined by the Committee, in conjunction with information supplied in parallel Reports from NGOs. As well as the Convention, the Committee takes into account General Recommendations, which it has developed through time to provide more detailed information on specific topics, to assess whether or not a state party is complying with its obligations under the Convention.

NGO Reports to the Committee

Five national NGOs provided information to the Committee: the Community Languages Association, Human Rights Foundation, New Zealand Federation Multicultural Councils, Peace Movement Aotearoa, and the Robson Hanan Trust.

The Peace Movement Aotearoa Report focussed on the lack of constitutional protection for Convention rights, the Treaty and indigenous peoples' rights, foreshore and seabed legislation, privatisation of state owned assets (Mixed Ownership Model) and water, deep-sea oil seismic exploration and drilling, hydraulic fracturing, the Immigration Amendment Bill, and the February 2013 Australia / New Zealand agreement on refugees.

Issues raised in the other NGO Reports include: language teaching in schools and in the community, Operation 8, police use of Tasers, education for children unlawfully in New Zealand, employment discrimination, the Human Rights Amendment Bill, and the criminal justice system and Maori. In addition, there was an individual Report covering a range of child advocacy issues.

Interactive dialogue between the Committee and government representatives

The interactive dialogue will take place in Geneva on Thursday, 21 February and Friday, 22 February (details are included in the section below). The dialogue will focus on the government’s Consolidated 18th to 20th Periodic Report to the Committee, which was submitted in February 2012, and the List of Themes sent to the government by the Committee in December 2012 - the List of Themes outlines issues the Committee is particularly interested in discussing during the interactive dialogue, and together with the Periodic Report, is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/cerd82.htm

The government delegation will be led by Judith Collins, Minister of Justice, Minister of Ethnic Affairs and Minister of ACC.

When and where you can watch the interactive dialogue

The dialogue between government representatives and the Committee will be webcast live at http://www.treatybodywebcast.org - the session start times are 3pm, Thursday, 21 February (NZ time: 3am, Friday, 22 February) and 10am, Friday, 22 February (NZ time: 10pm, Friday 22 February).

Where you can find more information

Updates and information on the 82nd session - when and where you can watch the session, media coverage, and who said what in Geneva are available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/cerd82-sess.htm

Background information on: the International Convention, the Committee, the NZ government and the Convention, the government's Report to CERD, the list of themes sent to the government by the Committee, NGO parallel Reports to CERD, what CERD has said about the NZ government before, the follow up procedure (2008 and 2009), and useful links and other relevant information is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/cerd82.htm

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