Human Rights Scorecard Reveals Those Most Likely To Suffer Violations
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says the government must improve outcomes for tangata whenua, disabled people, LGBTQIA+ and low-income earners, including homeless people, who all suffer high levels of human rights violations.
His comments come in response to the release of the latest Human Rights Measurement Initiative (HRMI) Country Report for Aotearoa New Zealand which revealed the people more likely to experience human rights violations than others.
While people from all backgrounds are experiencing human rights issues, the report shows that tangata whenua are most likely to suffer violations, including in key areas like the right to education and the right to healthcare, and are most likely to suffer arbitrary arrest.
“The government has, through Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a requirement to guarantee that the rights of tangata whenua are protected, yet this report shows us the government is consistently falling short of this promise,” says Mr Hunt.
“There has been some important progress in supporting the ability of tangata whenua to practice tino rangatiratanga, through co-governance arrangements and the establishment of the Māori Health Authority. We should see the benefit of these moves in future Country Reports,” says Mr Hunt.
Tāngata whaikaha left behind
Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero says the Country Report underscores the urgency for disabled people and tāngata whaikaha Māori to be fully included in New Zealand’s pandemic ‘build back’ efforts.
“As a population group, disabled people are not doing as well as we ought to be doing, and that's something I don't think we talk about enough.
“The most common complaints we receive are about discrimination on the grounds of race or disability, most typically in employment or education," says Ms Tesoriero.
The Country Report supports recent labour market statistics showing poor outcomes for disabled people including lower incomes and lower rates of employment and access to tertiary education and training.
Earning a living
The right to work scored in the ‘very bad’ category in the Country Report. Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo says such a poor score reflects huge issues with pay inequity based on ethnicity, gender and disability, that employers need to quickly address.
Dr Sumeo says government and employers also need to make big improvements to safety and non-discrimination in the workplace in order to improve our right to work score.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon says the Country Report underlines inequities that remain in the education sector.
“Everyone has the right to education and an inclusive, more holistic approach will ensure greater levels of engagement,” says Mr Foon.
Food on the table
The report shows that New Zealand’s food security has worsened each year since 2015.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Hunt says “we’ve got to ensure whānau and individuals can put adequate food on the table, despite the added international pressures on food supply and the growing impacts of a warming climate.
“New Zealand needs a national food strategy that can guarantee the progressive realisation of the right to food,” says Mr Hunt.
The Chief Commissioner also points out that while the housing data in the HRMI country report is incomplete, the Commission’s own analysis shows that too many people are not having their human right to a decent home adequately met. Experts highlight threats to people who are homeless, including homeless youth.
“The Commission’s Housing Inquiry makes it very clear; we need much stronger accountability of local and central governments to ensure the country doesn’t ever have a repeat housing crisis,” says Mr Hunt.
Basic civil rights
New Zealand’s Empowerment score, illustrating the government’s respect of freedoms of assembly and expression and the country’s levels of government participation, achieved a score of 8.0 out of 10 and performs better than average on a global scale for empowerment rights.
The Chief Commissioner noted the improvement in scores of torture and ill-treatment over the past year, taking New Zealand’s score from poor to fair, but says the Abuse in Care Inquiry and Ombudsman's reports into prisons show we still have a long way to improve this right.