Executive summary
He kōrero iti

An action plan for human rights – Mana ki te tangata

This report is the first comprehensive assessment of the status of human rights in New Zealand. It shows where New Zealand does well in protecting human rights and where we need to do better.

This information will form the basis of a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights in New Zealand. The plan will identify priorities and propose strategies and action for improvement.

What are human rights? – He aha te mana tangata?


Human rights recognise and aim to protect the dignity of all people whatever their status or condition in life. They are about how we live together and our responsibilities to each other. In particular, they set a basis for the relationship between the individual and the State.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations on 10 December 1948. The rights in the Declaration fall roughly into two categories; civil and political rights; and economic, cultural and social rights.

Since 1948, the rights in the Declaration have been set out in United Nations’ Covenants and Conventions. Through ratification of these treaties and obligations under the United Nations’ Charter and the ILO Constitution, New Zealand has formally committed to respecting these rights.

This report assesses the extent to which this is reflected in the structures, organisations and processes of government as well as in legislation, policy and practice throughout the wider community.

A human rights approach


The six elements of a human rights approach to assess policy and programmes are:

Conclusions — Ngā whakamutunga


New Zealand meets international human rights standards in many respects, and often surpasses them. The report shows that we have most of the elements essential for the effective protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights. These are:

However, the fundamental right to be who we are and to be respected for who we are – whether a disabled person, Pakeha, Maori, Pacific, Asian, gay, lesbian, a transgender or intersex person, male, female, young or old – is still not a reality for all New Zealanders. This report therefore also identifies areas where we must do better.

The most pressing issues to emerge from the report are:

The report examines a selection of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights identifying where New Zealand is already meeting and even surpassing international standards and where we need to do better.

Equality and discrimination – Te oritenga me te takahi mana


Discrimination is treating people in a way that results in them having less access to their rights and freedoms than others. In some situations, people may need to be treated differently in order to ensure equality. Treating people differently in such circumstances is not unlawful discrimination. Key findings include:

Children and young people – Tamariki rangatahi


Children and young people (under 18) rely on others to fully realise their rights. Children have the same human rights as adults, but they also have specific human rights that recognise their special need for protection. The report concludes:

Disabled people – Hunga haua


While disabled people have the same rights as others, they often find that they live in a world that is not designed for their use. Key findings include:

Civil and political rights – Nga tika mo nga tikanga a iwi me nga tikanga torangapu


Civil and political rights include democratic rights, the right to life, liberty and security of person, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and belief, the right to asylum, the right to justice and the rights of those in detention.

Democratic rights include electoral rights, the right to take part (directly or indirectly) in government, and the right to equal access to the public service. There is a duty to play one’s part in public affairs and to respect the rights and freedoms of others. Key findings include:

The right to life, liberty and security of person is made up of three distinct but strongly interconnected elements. The State’s responsibilities include national security, as well as legislation, processes and structures to protect individual citizens. Key findings include:

Freedom of expression has a special status as a human right because we need it to promote and protect all human rights. Key findings include:

The right to freedom of religion and belief includes the right to hold, to change, and to express one’s religion or belief, and not to hold a belief. Key findings include:

The right to justice requires clear laws that incorporate human rights standards, an independent and impartial legal system, legal processes that ensure equality and fairness, and laws that are known and openly made. Key findings include:

Detention occurs where a person is not free to leave a particular place. People in detention are vulnerable to abuses of State power. Key findings include:

The right to asylum arises when a refugee seeks the right to remain in New Zealand in order to escape persecution in their country of origin. Key findings include: