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Solutions must be a core part of John Key’s UN address

Solutions to the refugee crisis and the protection of civilians in conflict must be a core part of John Key’s UN address

As Prime Minister John Key stands in front of world leaders for the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in New York this week, Amnesty International is calling on him to use the historic opportunity to address the most pressing human rights crises currently facing the world, and urge swift action.

“As New Zealand enters its 10th month on the United Nations Security Council, Prime Minister John Key must address the fact that world leaders have failed to find workable solutions to the most pressing issues of our time, including mass displacement and horrific violence against civilians,” said Grant Bayldon, Executive Director at Amnesty International in New Zealand.

The world currently faces the worst refugee crisis since the United Nations was established in the aftermath of World War II, 70 years ago.

“What is urgently needed is an international commitment to a compassionate response that protects refugees,” said Grant Bayldon.

As world leaders celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, the conflict in Yemen enters its sixth month and descends further into a deadly conflict and spiralling humanitarian crisis.

Yet despite the deaths of 2100 civilians, including at least 400 children, the world has largely ignored this conflict and heard little about its devastating consequences.

“The world can’t sit by and let Yemen turn into another Syria, civilian protection must be prioritised. In its role on the Security Council, New Zealand is in a prime position to push for effective action from the international community to stop the killing of civilians,” said Grant Bayldon.

Amnesty International is calling on New Zealand to express explicit support at the General Assembly for the following steps, which would put the world back on a path towards peace, development, justice and human rights:

Promote a paradigm shift on global refugee protection, which would include the following actions:

o An international summit on the global refugee crisis focused on increasing international responsibility and burden sharing;

o Universal ratification of the UN Refugee Convention;

o The development of robust domestic refugee protection systems: States must increase access to timely and fair procedures to assess refugee claims, grant refugees and registered asylum seekers work rights, and provide access to basic services such as food, education and health care;

o An absolute commitment to saving lives first: States must prioritise saving people over implementing immigration policies;

o Effective action to investigate and prosecute trafficking gangs. States should offer protection and assistance to victims of trafficking and ensure access to refugee status determination procedures and resettlement;

o Fulfilment of all resettlement needs identified by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Amnesty International estimates that 1.38 million resettlement and humanitarian admission places will be needed over the next two years;

o Establishment of a global refugee fund to fulfil all UN humanitarian appeals for refugee crises and provide meaningful financial support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees.

Mobilise the UN Security Council to act when faced with crimes under international law, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes

o As an elected member of the UN Security Council, New Zealand must demonstrate leadership with regards to the protection of civilians and the empowerment of women affected by conflict, for example in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. The Security Council must take more effective and consistent action to uphold international humanitarian law and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

o The UN Security Council has in many situations been unable or unwilling to take effective measures to prevent or stop the commission of crimes under international law due to the veto by the Council’s five permanent members. Amnesty International is calling for the renouncement of the veto right in situations of crimes under international law. New Zealand must continue to express firm support for veto reform and encourage other Member States to follow New Zealand’s leadership.


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