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Hobbs Speech: Int Human Rights Day

By Acting Foreign Minister Marian Hobbs

"Today we celebrate International Human Rights Day, commemorating the adoption on 10 December 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

"There have been many important statements about human rights in the 54 years since then, but none have outshone that Declaration either in substance or in form. The world has changed a lot since that era at the end of World War II and the onset of the Cold War. But the concepts set out in the Declaration remain true and always immediately relevant. It remains the beacon by which people everywhere can be assured of their fundamental rights – rights which cannot be set aside in any circumstances.

"The recognition that all human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent, and interrelated has continued to spread. It’s sad to say, however, that while some of the major situations of human rights abuse from those days have been resolved, new ones continue to arise. Sometimes these are gross and flagrant violations that shock the world community – such as policies for ethnic cleansing, causing death and widespread misery. Sometimes the effects of authoritarian governments’ policies are slower to impact on their people, as happens where economic and social policy decisions are taken without regard to the basic needs of the people, leading in extreme cases to famine and disease.

"New Zealand is a strong advocate of the standards for human rights set down by the United Nations in a range of legal conventions. The government takes very seriously our obligations to give effect to those standards here at home. At the same time, we take an active part in UN debates aimed at promoting and protecting human rights and the rule of law internationally. This year, for instance, we worked hard to secure the adoption of a new legal instrument against torture. We recognise, too, the important human rights dimension to poverty and inequality and this will be reflected in new approaches to our overseas development efforts.

"In all of this, a key factor remains the active engagement of individuals and groups throughout New Zealand who are motivated to stand up for the principle set out in the first article of the Universal Declaration. It states that 'All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.' Let’s all be glad that we can be part of celebrations around the world today which unite us in our aspiration to make it a better home for all people."

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