New Zealand needs to address serious economic and social human rights issues

New Zealand needs to address serious economic and social human rights issues

July 5, 2019

The government’s adoption of 160 United Nations human rights recommendations highlights the need to face up to the serious economic and social human rights issues facing New Zealand, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner says.

Mr Hunt was commenting on the government’s adoption today of 160 of the 194 recommendations that were made as part of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council review into New Zealand’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which takes place every 5 years. All UN member states are reviewed under the UPR process.

While welcoming the government’s response to the majority of the recommendations, he said the recommendations were responding to some significant human rights issues for the country.

“Poverty is a human rights issue. Nearly 30 percent of New Zealand children live in households with income below the poverty line. Couple this with the housing crisis, rising living costs hitting the poor the hardest and systemic discrimination – it shows we have serious human rights issues that need to be addressed,” Mr Hunt said.

These issues have been front-and-centre in the human rights review undertaken by the UN.

“The 160 recommendations that have been accepted should provide a clear road-map for addressing the many serious human rights challenges we face as a country.

“By acting on them we will also ensure that New Zealand complies with its international human rights obligations, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of indigenous peoples” Mr Hunt said. 

In a pre-recorded video address to the UN Human Rights Council session at which New Zealand adopted the UPR recommendations, Mr Hunt urged the government to use human rights to deliver better social and economic outcomes for New Zealanders.

During the video he referenced the Christchurch Mosque Attacks, the challenges relating to structural and direct discrimination, and the damaging impacts of colonisation.

“2019 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years, in recent times, for human rights in Aotearoa New Zealand. The immediate aftermath has generated enormous solidarity and public compassion.

“However, there are a number of serious economic and social rights issues, as well as deep problems of structural discrimination that need to be addressed urgently by the government,” he said in the video address.

“Tangata whenua, Pacific people, our rainbow community, new migrants to New Zealand, and many disabled New Zealanders also face direct discrimination and structural barriers to social inclusion. It’s extremely important that we ensure the human rights of marginalised communities in New Zealand are fully upheld,” he said.

Click here to read the recommendations the Government adopted as part of the Universal Periodic Review.