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Commission launches major report card on human rights

Human Rights Commission
Media release
Embargoed until 5am 10 December 2010

Commission launches major report card on human rights

Poverty, entrenched inequality and discrimination are critical human rights issues in New Zealand according to a major report card Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 released by the Human Rights Commission today.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan says, “The 30 priority areas for action over the next five years will strengthen human rights protections and better ensure the equality and security of everyone in New Zealand”.

The priority areas involve a major focus on economic, social and cultural rights, covering health, education, equal employment opportunities, social security and housing. They include:
• strengthening New Zealand’s constitutional and legal framework
• tackling entrenched inequalities and systemic structural discrimination
• explicitly and effectively implementing civil and political and economic, social and cultural rights.

A key recommendation in Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 is for Parliament to establish a Human Rights Select Committee to strengthen Parliament’s focus on protecting human rights. Other recommendations include reducing child poverty through a coordinated and integrated approach, with a specific attention to Māori children, Pacific and disabled children; increasing the supply and diversity of social housing; and reviewing and addressing the adequacy of core benefit rates.

“What is clear from this report card,” says Ms Noonan, “is that human rights matter. In tough economic times a robust national human rights framework is more important than ever to ensure basic security and a fair go for every New Zealander. Their realisation is vital to our expectations about life, education, health, work, our personal security, equal opportunity and fair treatment, and to our system of government.”

Ms Noonan said “A roof over your head, a fair work environment and social protections when you are unemployed or ill are basic rights. It’s in everyone’s interest that the enduring cycle of poverty be broken.”

In selecting the priorities for action, the Commission recognised that responsibility for respecting human rights extends well beyond central government – to regional and local government, business and community sectors, and voluntary groups and organisations.

“Individuals, community groups and other civil society organisations play a critical role in creating an environment of respect for human rights and harmonious race relations,” says Ms Noonan.

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 confirms that New Zealand continues to meet international human rights standards in many respects, and often surpasses them. It shows some steady improvements since 2004, but also reveals the fragility of some of those gains and areas where progress has been reversed.

“It is clear that there is no room for complacency and that New Zealand continues to face serious human rights challenges. They are challenges, however, that can be met where there is political will and strong civil society commitment and engagement,” says Ms Noonan.

Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 is the second comprehensive report on human rights undertaken by the Commission to assess how well New Zealand meets international human rights standards. It updates the first report, published in 2004.

The Commission has chosen to launch Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 on International Human Rights Day, 10 December, which marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations in 1948. This year the international theme is “Speak up-Stop Discrimination.”


Human Rights in New Zealand 2010 is available on the Commission’s website:click here

[Scoop copies:

Thirty priority areas for action on human rights in New Zealand

Chapter/sectionHeadingPriority area
1International human rights frameworkParliament Strengthening Parliament’s human rights responsibilities by establishing a Human Rights Select Committee and tabling human rights reports in Parliament.
2 Civil societyEstablishing a fund to support civil society participation in international human rights mechanisms.
3Equality and freedom from discriminationSubstantive equality Incorporating a specific reference to equality in the Bill of Rights Act and the Human Rights Act.
4Human rights and the Treaty of WaitangiPathways to partnershipDeveloping and implementing new pathways to partnership between Tangata Whenua and the Crown.
5 Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous PeoplesPromoting awareness of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in New Zealand.
6Human rights and race relationsStructural discriminationInvestigating the extent to which structural discrimination underlies entrenched racial inequalities and developing programmes to address it.
7 LanguagesDeveloping and implementing a national languages policy.
8Democratic rightsRepresentationIncreasing the representation of Māori, Pacific and other ethnic groups in local government.
9Right to justiceEvidence from vulnerable peopleDeveloping more appropriate methods for taking and recording of evidence from vulnerable victims and witnesses in criminal proceedings.
10Life, liberty and security of personProgramme of actionImplementing in partnership with civil society a comprehensive strategy and programme of action to address the drivers of crime.
11Freedom of opinion and expressionSection 61, Human Rights Act 1993Reviewing section 61 of the Human Rights Act to ensure it fulfils its legislative purpose.
12 Human rights and the InternetPromoting debate about access to the Internet as a human right and a Charter of Internet Rights.
13Freedom of religion and beliefGuidelinesDeveloping guidelines for respecting diversity of religion and belief in specific contexts.
14Right to healthCapacityAmending the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 to better reflect the concept of capacity in line with international standards.
15Right to educationHuman rights valuesImplementing the human rights values explicit in the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and Te Whāriki, ensuring that early childhood services and schools respect diversity, are free from violence and enable full participation by children and young people.
16Right to workEqual Employment Opportunities frameworkImplementing a new framework for equal employment opportunities that addresses access to decent work for disadvantaged groups such as Māori, Pacific youth, and disabled people.
17Right to housingHomelessnessDeveloping and implementing regional and national strategies to reduce homelessness.
18 Social housing provisionIncreasing the supply and diversity of social housing.
19Right to social securityPoverty ReductionReducing child poverty through a co-ordinated and integrated approach, with specific attention to Māori, Pacific and disabled children.
20 Adequacy of core benefitsReviewing and addressing the adequacy of core benefit rates.
21Rights of children and young peopleUnited Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child obligationsEnsuring that legislation reflects New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, including recognising the interests of the child, the age of criminal responsibility, protection under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act, age discrimination protections and adoption procedures.
22 ParticipationIncreasing avenues for children to participate and have their views heard.
23Rights of disabled peopleMeasuring outcomesDeveloping a full range of social statistics to ensure key outcomes for disabled people are measured.
24 Implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesEnsuring an integrated and co-ordinated Government response to implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with the full participation of disabled people.
25Rights of womenPay and employment equityTimetabling pay and employment equity implementation with a minimum target of halving the gender pay gap by 2014 and eliminating it by 2020.
26 Sexual and family violenceReducing sexual and family violence through target setting and fully resourcing a national programme of action.
27Rights of sexual and gender minoritiesLegal equalityCompleting the legislative steps required for formal legal equality, including rights to found and form a family, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
28Rights of migrantsEmploymentAddressing barriers to the employment of migrants, and ensuring the rights of temporary, seasonal and rural workers and those on work-to-residence visas are respected.
29Rights of refugeesComprehensive strategyCompleting a comprehensive whole of government resettlement strategy for convention refugees, quota refugees and family reunification.
30Rights of people who are detainedMāori imprisonmentCommitting to specific targets and timelines for reducing the disproportionate number of Māori in prison.


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