Chief Human Rights Commissioner urges Government to treat poverty as a human rights issue

Chief Human Rights Commissioner urges Government to treat poverty as a human rights issue

January 24, 2019

The new Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt has called on the Government to ensure human rights are made relevant in the everyday lives of all New Zealanders.

Mr Hunt made the comments at his Pōwhiri this morning in Wellington, which officially welcomed him as the new Chief Human Rights Commissioner.

“Human rights place the well-being, dignity and equality of individuals and communities at the centre of all law, policy and practice,” said Mr Hunt.

One of the human rights issues that needs addressing is poverty.

“Almost 30 percent of New Zealand children live in households whose income falls below the income poverty line.”

“Poverty is simply a human rights issue. We need to start viewing poverty as an intolerable injustice. At the same time, we need to recognise that by taking a human rights approach to issues such as poverty, we can more effectively address them.”

A human rights approach helps ensure the most vulnerable are not overlooked or forgotten when developing solutions.

It also ensures those living in poverty are actively involved in developing ways of reducing and eliminating poverty.

“The disabled community has a mantra, ‘Nothing about us, without us’, which is also relevant to other disadvantaged groups,” Mr Hunt said.

A human rights approach would also ensure constructive independent accountability for government initiatives such as those aimed at poverty reduction and elimination.

“Such accountability means not punishing people if initiatives don’t work but urgently identifying what would work better,” said Mr Hunt.

He is alarmed that Māori, Pacific peoples, women, disabled people, migrants and refugees continue to experience markedly worse outcomes across a range of key indicators, such as housing, health, income, employment and education.

Mr Hunt said he would be advocating for the Government to take a human rights approach as it rolled out its reform agenda, consistent with New Zealand’s national and international human rights commitments.