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NZ rejects international recommendations on inequality

20 June 2014

New Zealand rejects international recommendations to address inequality

New Zealand should reconsider its decision to reject key human rights recommendations at the United Nations Human Rights Council, said Amnesty International.

The human rights organisation made the call following the formal adoption of the report into New Zealand’s human rights record, which took place in Switzerland last night.

“While we welcome the New Zealand government’s engagement with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, the rejection of key recommendations to address social inequality is deeply concerning,” said Amanda Brydon, Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International New Zealand.

“Unfortunately New Zealand has failed to show the world and our own people that the Government is willing to close the gap when it comes to human rights protection in our own country.”

The Government accepted 121 of the recommendations made by States during New Zealand’s review process in January and rejected 34.

Of the 34 that were rejected, a significant number offered specific advice on strengthening New Zealand’s legal protection of economic, social and cultural rights that would guide genuine solutions to addressing New Zealand’s poor performance on issues such as child poverty.

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.

“Unfortunately, despite commitments to do so, the Government isn't doing its utmost to address this, as by accepting some recommendations while rejecting others they are simply taking a band aid approach,” said Amanda Brydon.

“We will be watching closely and calling on the Government to continue the Constitutional Conversation and take concrete action to further address these issues by taking a human rights approach to ensure our children and our people’s well-being.”

With New Zealanders today celebrating World Refugee Day, New Zealand’s failure to protect the world’s most vulnerable by now officially rejecting the recommendation to rule out the transferal of asylum seekers to detention centres in third countries is also cause for grave concern.

“Amnesty International has repeatedly highlighted the deplorable system of offshore detention, in facilities such as Manus Island in Papua New Guinea where asylum seekers are held in cruel and degrading conditions, that the New Zealand government would even consider this an option is shameful,” said Amanda Brydon.

“The stance taken by the Government in dismissing these important recommendations really brings into question New Zealand’s leadership role in the protection of human rights.”

“With New Zealand’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council drawing closer, the UPR process was a key opportunity to prove that New Zealand is committed to putting human rights protection at the centre of everything to 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 was again reviewed in January 2014.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted the outcome of New Zealand’s UPR at 9.00am on Thursday 19 June in Geneva, Switzerland.

ENDS

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