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Programme focuses on improving children’s rights

29 October 2004

Five-year work programme focuses on improving children’s rights

A Government action plan to tackle key human rights issues facing New Zealand’s young people has been released today. Coinciding with National Children’s Day this Sunday (31st October), the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) has released the Government’s work programme on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), which examines important issues facing children and sets out what it will do about them over the next five years. A summary of the work plan, written for young people, is also being released.

As a party to UNCROC, the Government reports to the United Nations (UN) every five years, outlining what it is doing to improve children’s rights in New Zealand. It last reported in 2003.

MYD Acting General Manager Justine Auton said a five-year plan was sensible as some of the UN recommendations could not be addressed in a single year. “It shows the Government takes these recommendations seriously and will enable us to better plan and monitor children’s rights issues.”

Many government agencies, including the Ministries of Social Development, Justice, Education, and the New Zealand Defence Force are contributing to the work programme. The Government will report back to the UN back on its progress in 2008.

“All New Zealand children should be able to enjoy the human rights guaranteed to them under UNCROC, and this work programme is an important step in making sure they do,” Ms Auton said. “It’s also fitting it has been released in time for Children’s Day, which is about celebrating our children and doing more to treasure and nurture them.”

Overall, New Zealand continues to make good progress towards improving the rights of children. Advances since 2003 include steps towards ceasing age-mixing in prisons, the launch of a parent support strategy, and work to address minimum age inconsistencies in our laws.

New activities include raising awareness of children’s employment rights and identifying ways to monitor children’s participation in work.

The work programme also responds to children’s issues the UN has identified as needing improvement. These include changing section 59 of the Crimes Act, which allows parents to use “reasonable force” to discipline children; and raising the minimum age of criminal prosecution, currently set at 10 years for murder and manslaughter.

In response, the Government has been actively reviewing section 59 and has launched a parent support strategy promoting non-physical discipline of children. It is also working to improve responses to serious offenders under 14 as part of a review of the minimum age of prosecution.

ENDS

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