New Zealand needs to take a human-rights based approach

New Zealand needs to take a human-rights based approach

December 13, 2018

Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero will highlight significant human rights issues in New Zealand with United Nations member states in Geneva this week.

Every five years, United Nations member states hear about the human rights issues facing New Zealanders and then make recommendations to the New Zealand Government about what needs to happen to address these issues.

Ms Tesoriero says that while progress has been made since the last review, New Zealand still needs to bring aspects of its human rights legislation and policy into line with international obligations.

“There are a number of areas where positive change has occurred. These include updated pay equity legislation, progressive reforms to family violence legislation and the soon-to-be-enacted Child Poverty Reduction Bill,” Ms Tesoriero says.

“This progress should be celebrated. However, there remains a lot to do across several key areas, including improving access to housing, reducing our rates of family violence and child abuse and reducing structural inequalities for Māori, Pacific peoples, disabled people, women, migrants, refugees and Rainbow communities.

“At this United Nations review, the Commission is recommending that the Government develop a policy and legal framework in which all our human rights commitments are fully integrated. This should include our obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Treaty of Waitangi. We consider this approach is required in order to reduce current disparities and improve human rights outcomes,” Ms Tesoriero says.

“The Government is undertaking comprehensive reviews and inquiries in several social sector areas. This provides a unique opportunity to place human rights in the centre of future policies, laws and services.”


The pre-session is taking place between 11 and 14 December 2018 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The Human Rights Commission will be presenting between 9pm and midnight Thursday 13 December (New Zealand time). The Human Rights Commission will be presenting alongside other New Zealand civil society organisations.

Pre-sessions are a standard part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). They enable National Human Rights Institutions, such as the Commission, and civil society organisations from the countries being reviewed to talk directly with representatives of the United Nations (UN) member states conducting reviews.

The pre-session is being held before the New Zealand Government delegation, headed by Justice Minister Andrew Little, presents its UPR report to the UN on 21 January 2019.

At the pre-session, the acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero will make a statement to, and receive questions from, delegates of UN member states in attendance.

While in Geneva, the Commissioner will also meet with delegates from permanent missions, including New Zealand’s permanent mission to Geneva. The Commissioner will also have bilateral meetings with UN agencies on other matters relating to international human rights monitoring.

In October, the Human Rights Commission also facilitated an in-country pre-session in Wellington. The pre-session was attended by representatives from over 30 diplomatic embassies, who heard from a panel of 13 civil society organisations, each addressing a diverse range of human rights challenges facing New Zealand. The process was observed by over 60 civil society attendees. 

A list of the panel organisations, as well as copies of their advocacy fact sheets and presentations is available here.

The full Human Rights Commission submission on New Zealand’s third universal periodic review is available here.