New Government urged to keep its human rights and Te Tiriti promises

New Government urged to keep its human rights and Te Tiriti promises

October 29, 2020

The Human Rights Commission is urging the new Government to keep its human rights and Te Tiriti promises which are central to the wellbeing of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said successive governments have made these promises over many years. 

“Now it’s time for the Government to take these commitments seriously and do everything in its power to deliver for everyone.”

The Commission has highlighted a selection of these promises in Ko Ō Tika, ko Tō Reo/Your Rights, Your Voice, and urges everyone to revisit and scrutinise them with the Government set to be sworn in.

Hunt said the Commission’s call to action highlights the human rights issues that are among the most important in the everyday lives of individuals and communities throughout New Zealand.

“Human rights place responsibilities on governments. They also place responsibilities on individuals to embrace diversity, support vibrant communities and not be racist or homophobic.” 

“For many years, our governments have signed up to human rights and promised to deliver. Now we need them to honour human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

“With a new Government being formed, it is important politicians are asked how they will keep decades-old promises,” said Hunt.

The call to action features 39 issues from all four Human Rights Commissioners, including a decent and affordable home, the minimum wage to become the living wage, more employment opportunities for disabled people, a national action plan against racism, public officials to take account of the human rights promises made by successive governments, and advancing the growing partnership between the Crown and hapū and iwi.

The Commission wishes to foster national conversations on key human rights issues, including civil, political, workers’, social and cultural rights, the right to a healthy environment, and indigenous rights, including Te Tiriti.

“The government must be asked how they will deliver human rights which are central to everyone in the country having the opportunity to reach their full potential,” he added.

Hunt said human rights belong to everyone and are based on fairness, respect, equality, freedom, wellbeing, whanaungatanga (kinship), kaitiakitanga (stewardship), community and responsibility

“The Commission is here to do all it can to help you and your whānau. We want you to enjoy a life of dignity in safe communities free from discrimination. That’s the human rights promise governments have made over many years – let’s keep them to their solemn commitments,” said Hunt.

Click here to read the report.

Click here to read an accessible version.

Statements in support

Public Service Association

“We welcome today’s call by the Human Rights Commission. These are rights for all new Zealanders to uphold alongside the government providing leadership. Workers rights are human rights, and the goals and aspirations of the union movement intersect strongly with those of disabled advocates, Maori campaigners, and all those fighting for racial and gender equality,” said Kerry Davies, PSA National Secretary.

“PSA members are campaigning hard to achieve pay equity for all, regardless of gender or ethnicity. When Maori or Pasefika workers endure significantly lower wages, it pulls down wages and conditions for everyone else as well. All New Zealanders benefit from equality and pay transparency, both to improve the lives of those currently underpaid and to give every worker a strong, united starting point for improving our lives.”

“Disabled, unwell and older people are too often treated as incurring expenses to be minimised, when they should instead be seen as valuable members of our community whose care and support deserves investment. The health workers who provide this care and support are themselves undervalued, so any reforms to our health and disability system must prioritise the needs of both groups. We view them as inseparable from each other.”

“We urge all New Zealanders to take seriously this call to action by the Human Rights Commission. We all deserve to live in a country where no one is left behind, and if we act together we can make this vision a reality.”

Child Poverty Action Group

“Child Poverty Action Group welcomes all 39 calls from the Human Rights Commission; together they create an exciting vision for Aotearoa. In particular, we join the Human Rights Commission in urging the government to make sure everyone has access to a warm, dry, safe, decent home; free early childhood education; government systems that work for Māori; and a welfare system that ensures a secure and dignified life for everyone. These actions would go a long way to fulfilling our collective responsibility to our tamariki and the realisation of their rights, and would ensure the government is a champion for children and their families so they can access the resources they need to thrive,” said CPAG Executive Director Laura Bond.

Citizens Advice Bureau

“Human rights underpin the dignity and well-being of all people and are commitments NZ made and championed as a nation.  These include the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food, clothing and housing.  These shouldn’t be too much to expect in a country like NZ.  However every day, the CAB helps people experiencing homelessness and deprivation.  We see poverty and hardship in our communities. Therefore the CAB fully supports the Human Rights Commission’s call for the new government to prioritise and deliver on the human rights commitments that successive governments have made and which are so fundamental to ensuring the well-being of everyone,“ said Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Bureau Kerry Dalton.

Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand

“Like homophobia and racism, ableism has no place in our society. Disabled people are not second class citizens; we are intersectional and we are entitled to the same rights as all citizens. As signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) the New Zealand Government has committed to upholding disabled people’s rights. We echo the HRC in urging the Government to uphold its human rights and Te Tiriti promises,“ said Chief Executive of the Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand Prudence Walker.

Community Housing Aotearoa

“Too many families in New Zealand are living in inadequate housing. Every day we see the disconnect between the idea of a right to a decent home and the reality. That’s why we strongly support the Human Rights Commission’s call for the government to uphold its human rights promises.” “A warm safe dry decent and affordable home, as well as accessible houses, transport and public places are fundamental human rights. The new government must honor its previous commitments to deliver on these rights,” said CEO of Community Housing Aotearoa Scott Figenshow

Alzheimers NZ

"Alzheimers NZ welcomes the call by the Chief Human Rights Commissioner for Government to keep its human rights promises and says those same promises must also apply to New Zealanders living with dementia.

Alzheimers NZ says it’s not widely known or well understood that people living with dementia are often denied their basic human rights because of the all too common assumption that someone with dementia is ‘incapable’.  This is far from true.

But unfortunately, successive governments have never actively supported the growing numbers of people with dementia (numbers are expected to nearly triple in coming years).

We really hope this Government, with its focus on kindness, understanding and inclusivity, will transform that.

We hope this Government, which has already acknowledged the need to address dementia, will heed the call of New Zealanders living with the condition – a group referred to by the UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, Rosa Kornfeld-Matte, as among the ‘most vulnerable of the vulnerable’.  And that was before the current Covid-19 crisis, which impacted people living with dementia significantly.

The human rights of New Zealanders living with dementia should be one of the first areas of focus for a new Human Rights Commissioner for Older People.

Alzheimers NZ also welcomes the calls for a community-based health system for everyone, the upholding of people’s dignity, accessibility, respect for those deprived of their liberty, a better approach to family violence, and improved information collection."

YES Disability Resource Centre

The YES Disability Resource Centre, and its numerous projects (I.LEAD, Disabled Parenting NZ, Project Employ, I.Drive) express our full support and endorsement of this initiative and its recommendations.

We would like to express particular support and endorsement of the below listed recommendations proposed by our Disability Rights Commissioner, Paula Tesoriero:

  • Respect for disabled people by upholding our dignity and celebrating our contributions
  • Give disabled young people a fair go in our education system
  • Make houses, transport and public places accessible so everyone can use them
  • Services respect and work in partnership with tāngata whaikaha
  • More and better employment opportunities for disabled people
  • Better services for those experiencing violence and abuse
  • Make the health and disability system work for all disabled people
  • Public information provided in ways, such as te reo Māori,  NZ Sign Language, and braille so that everyone can understand
  • Collect better information about disabled people so services can be better designed for them