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New Zealand’s Human rights record in the global spotlight

New Zealand’s Human rights record in the global spotlight

New Zealand will be asked to step up and make strong commitments to the protection of human rights during its second review at the United Nations’ Human Rights Council in Geneva next week, said Amnesty International.

On 27 January, in Switzerland, New Zealand’s progress on issues such as child poverty, violence against women and refugees and asylum seekers will be subject to global scrutiny during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

“This is a key opportunity for New Zealand to show the world it’s committed to closing the gaps in its human rights protection,” said Amanda Brydon, Amnesty International’s Advocacy Manager who will be present at the Review.

“The UPR is such an important way to call governments to account for poor performance on human rights and Amnesty International will be making sure that the full story is told about the state of New Zealand’s human rights.”

While New Zealand is often lauded on the international stage for having a principled approach to human rights the reality is that there are several critical outstanding issues that New Zealand must address.

“On a domestic level New Zealand has failed to ensure our human rights are adequately protected,” said Brydon.

“Not all of our rights are actually part of the law here in New Zealand, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, which are treated as second class rights and means human rights are very rarely at the core of public policy development.”

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of relative child poverty in the developed world, with children frequently missing out on meals, getting sick with third-world diseases, living in poor housing conditions, underachieving at school and feeling marginalised in their communities.

“What Amnesty International is recommending is that the New Zealand government takes a rights based approach to domestic issues such as child poverty,” said Brydon.

“This would mean that New Zealand’s human rights obligations under international law are the focus of an action plan when it comes to meeting the most vulnerable children’s rights to health, education and an adequate standard of living.”

“New Zealand also has an opportunity to step up in helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people by increasing the number of refugees resettled through the UN quota system from 750 to 1000 per annum,” said Brydon.

“New Zealand continues to promise to make New Zealand’s bid for the Security Council a principled one, and the UPR process offers a key opportunity to prove that by committing to put human rights protection at home and abroad at the centre of everything we do.”

BACKGROUND

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a relatively new UN mechanism that aims at reviewing a country’s human rights performance every 4-5 years. New Zealand was under review for the first time in 2009 and will again be reviewed in January 2014.

During the actual review all UN member states can take the floor, ask questions and make recommendations to the government under review. The New Zealand government decides whether it accepts recommendations or not. At the end of the review a final report is drafted, outlining all human rights concerns as well as New Zealand’s stance on the issues mentioned.

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