About the Human Rights Commission

sign About the Human Rights Commission

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The Human Rights Commission was created to provide better protection of human rights in New Zealand. It works for a fair, safe and just society, where diversity is valued, human rights are respected, and everyone is able to live free from prejudice and unlawful discrimination.

The Human Rights Commission’s job is to:

  • advocate and promote respect for human rights in New Zealand
  • encourage harmonious relations between individuals and among the diverse groups in New Zealand
  • lead, evaluate, monitor and advise on equal employment opportunities
  • provide information to the public about discrimination and to help resolve complaints about discrimination.

There are eight Human Rights Commissioners, the Chief Commissioner, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, the Race Relations Commissioner and five part-time Commissioners.

The Director of Human Rights Proceedings heads up an independent office within the Commission, the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Te Tari Whakatau Take Tika Tangata. The Director decides whether to provide legal representation for people who have complained of breaches of the Human Rights Act, 1993. Proceedings are heard in the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

The Commissioners and the Director must act independently and are supported by staff in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Human rights enquiries and complaints service

The Human Rights Commission offers a free, confidential service for members of the public with human rights enquiries and complaints of unlawful discrimination.

The Commission’s dispute resolution process is limited to unlawful discrimination complaints. However the Commission also addresses broader human rights issues. These include human rights issues other than discrimination relating, for example to disability, housing, education, detention, employment and race relations.

What the Commission does

  • advocates for human rights
  • inquires into infringements of human rights
  • makes public statements on human rights and race relations
  • promotes understanding of the human rights dimensions of the Treaty of Waitangi
  • conducts human rights programmes, activities and education
  • publishes guidelines and voluntary codes of practice
  • receives and invites public representations on human rights
  • brings proceedings and intervenes in court on human rights issues
  • reports to the Prime Minister on how New Zealand complies with international human rights standards and legislation
  • develops the national plan of action for human rights (the first plan was released as Mana ki te Tangata / the New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights on 31 March 2005)
  • provides a service to deal with enquiries and complaints about discrimination
  • through the Office of Human Rights Proceedings offers legal representation at the Human Rights Review Tribunal.

International accreditation

The Human Rights Commission is a member of the Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions and of the International Coordinating Committee of national human rights institutions. It holds “A” status accreditation, which is the United Nations prerequisite for participation in the Human Rights Council. The accreditation, reviewed every five years, requires the Commission to fully comply with the standards set out in the United Nations Paris Principles. The Paris Principles set out the responsibilities, status and functions of national human rights institutions.

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