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Call For NZ Action Following UN Resignation

Call For New Zealand Action Following Resignation Of UN Human Rights Head

The resignation of Mary Robinson as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has sparked a call from Amnesty International for the New Zealand Government to work to ensure that the realisation of human rights becomes one of the key goals of the United Nations.

Mrs Robinson, a former Irish President, informed the UN Commission on Human Rights on Monday that she would not be seeking a second term as High Commissioner, saying she believed she could "achieve more outside of the constraints that a multilateral organization inevitably imposes".

"During the 1940s, with the Great Depression and the horrors of war crimes and crimes against humanity equally in mind, New Zealand worked hard to ensure that human rights was central to the new UN system, at times risking the wrath of the Great Powers, said Amnesty's New Zealand director, Ced Simpson.

"Coming from a country with the same population size, and with family ties in New Zealand, Mary Robinson has not hesitated to speak out about serious human rights violations and has been a courageous and deeply committed human rights defender."

"Her announcement is an opportunity to work again to realise the ideal expressed so forcefully by New Zealand in the past by striving to ensure her successor is given the budget necessary to run a comprehensive programme," Mr Simpson said.

"Mrs Robinson has made a distinct contribution in stressing the links between various human rights, lifting the profile of social and economic rights and the right of development. These themes were central to New Zealand Government lobbying during wartime and post-war discussions about the establishment of the UN."

"Through her frequent visits to counties in all regions she has brought the human rights program of the UN closer to the victims of violations. The work of some of the human rights field operations run by her office, such as the one in Colombia, has substantively contributed to the accuracy of UN human rights monitoring and more effective human rights promotion and protection."

"We believe that her resignation should be an occasion for all UN member states to rethink how they are matching their human rights promises at the Commission on Human Rights with their human rights practices when it comes to voting the funds for the human rights program at the General Assembly in New York. No effective, professional world-wide human rights operation, with a seemingly ever expanding mandate like the UN High Commissioner's, can be run on an a $20 million contribution from the UN regular budget, just 2% of the total."

"If human rights are indeed to be central to the UN, as the Secretary General has said and member states have agreed, those member states should substantially increase their contribution to the regular budget to enable her successor to run a properly funded program staffed by professionals who have job security and can carry through the long term planning and programs that the office needs."

For further information contact:

Ced Simpson mobile 021 371 205

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