Human rights critical to delivering on the Budget’s wellbeing promises

Human rights critical to delivering on the Budget’s wellbeing promises

May 31, 2019

Human rights, including social rights, can reinforce and sharpen the Budget’s wellbeing promises, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt says.

By Paul Hunt, Chief Human Rights Commissioner

Wellbeing for every New Zealander will be fully realised when government creates an environment in which everyone can enjoy a safe, decent, dignified life with equal opportunities for all.

Explicit human rights, including social rights, such as the rights to a decent home and a reasonable standard of living, can help us reach this goal.

The crucial first step is to explicitly name and discuss human rights, including social rights, in the specific context of the government’s wellbeing agenda. This will help to ensure the government delivers its national and international human rights promises to everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Human rights, including social rights, are all about the wellbeing, dignity and equality of every individual and community, including Māori, Pacific, ethnic, religious and sexual minorities, disabled people, women, children and those living in poverty.

The May 30 Budget is encouraging because it recognises that access to a decent home, good healthcare and public health, inclusive education, respectful social security, and a safe environment are vital for the dignity and wellbeing of every individual and community in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Human rights can help to deliver the Budget’s promises.

New Zealanders will expect Ministers to hold their agencies accountable to ensure they deliver effectively and efficiently to everyone in New Zealand, especially those who are disadvantaged, including those living in poverty.

I’m pleased that the government will continue to fund Whānau Ora.  When rolled-out effectively, Whānau Ora is consistent with a human rights-based approach towards individuals, whānau and hapu. Māori are best suited to determine and deliver their own solutions.

Similarly the Commission is encouraged to see the recommendations of the Waitangi Tribunal in Tū Mai Te Rangi! in the budget allocation. Co-designing solutions with Iwi will I believe contribute to reducing rates of reoffending and address the overrepresentation of Māori in the prison system. 

The introduction of a link between welfare and a living wage (indexing) will help to lift children and families out of poverty.   

I am pleased to see a focus on generating meaningful and sustained employment for beneficiaries, consistent with the right to decent work.

Over the next weeks, the Commission will analyse the budget more fully. For example, although we welcome increased investment in the Office for Disability Issues, we wish to examine more closely the full impact of the budget across the lives of disabled people.

Finally, I welcome the first increase in funding for the Human Rights Commission in 12 years. As the country’s apex human rights institution, we have a statutory mandate under the Human Rights Act to promote respect for all human rights through our enquiries and complaints service, advocacy, research, and providing legal advice. Our first funding increase since 2007 will help our work towards a safe, dignified life for everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Human Rights Commission made a Submission to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Budget Policy Statement 2019. It argued that including human rights considerations and measurements in the budget framework would help create a society free from divisive disparities of wealth. It will also help the government honour its national and international human rights obligations.