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UN calls for NZ to build an action plan for all children

UN calls for New Zealand to build an action plan for all children

New Zealand's approach to child rights has come under the scrutiny of the UN with recommendations released today calling for a comprehensive plan to help all children achieve their rights.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child met in Geneva last month to hold the New Zealand government to account over its adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

UNICEF New Zealand Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn was in Geneva to observe the process and agreed that government needs a better plan.

“It is clear that the government has made some progress for children, for example reducing child mortality, and reviewing the Children Young People and their Families Act 1989. But we still haven’t demonstrated that our laws or policies are being designed with every child and all rights in mind.”

“Children’s rights should be a prime organising principle for how we build a better society, not just something we think about later, in a tick the box kind of way.

“Indeed we could right now review the legislation associated with the new Vulnerable Children ministry and ensure it is established from the outset with child rights at its centre.”

The committee’s recommendations pointed out a lack of attention or progress across a range of issues, notably children's employment — which was an article New Zealand had exempted itself from when signing the convention.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 is the key legislation to guide safety in the workplace.

Ms Maidaborn said that although this legislation had been given priority by government, nobody thought to ask what children might need in order for them to be safe in the workplace.

“The committee was clearly very frustrated that New Zealand has made no attempts to clarify our position on child labour.”

“Nowhere in our law is a minimum age given for children to work. The Education Act says children must be at school until the age of 16. Other laws say you can’t work under the age of 15 in hazardous environments. However, the Health and Safety Act makes no mention of children.”

There are many other areas of concern too. The committee calls for New Zealand to agree a measure of poverty and have a comprehensive plan to reduce the number of children living in poverty. It also calls for the Children’s Commissioner's Office to be resourced to oversee this work.

The UN committee recommends that there be more consultation with children in the drafting of laws.

“If we were meeting our obligations under the convention, we wouldn’t do big pieces of review without the voices of children being included,” said Ms Maidaborn

“UNICEF recently co-authored a report with young people entitled Our Voices, Our Rights, where children are asked children about their rights. Very few understood that they had rights, and actually many government officials or members of the public also have a poor understanding of children’s rights in New Zealand.”

Ms Maidaborn went on to say that UNICEF New Zealand called on the New Zealand government to use the UN committee’s recommendations and partner with civil society to build a strong universal rights action plan over the next five years and beyond.

“It will take every section of society, but together we can do this.”


Notes to editors: The full recommendations can be read here: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=1041&Lang=en

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