The Race Relations Commissioner says the government, private sector, and civil society need to work together to create conditions that make social inclusion a reality.
“Our latest research on COVID-19 has shown how the global virus has led to discrimination and racism for several communities, which tells me as a country, we still have much to do to improve social cohesion,” said Meng Foon.
“Social cohesion creates a climate where everyone feels a sense of belonging. This means people have access to the best opportunities, have their voices heard, and live in communities that are safe and free from discrimination. Social cohesion is a long-term goal and outcome, but we must start the journey today.”
“One of the ways to tackle racism is to encourage the growth of socially inclusive communities. But for it to be meaningful and sustainable, it takes an all of society approach. The government plays a crucial role, but every New Zealander can be part of the solution.”
Currently, the government is leading the development of a National Action Plan against Racism, a comprehensive programme of action to target and eliminate racism across the country.
“This focused action plan will be the first of its kind in our country. It will be a plan for all New Zealanders but will include specific actions for the government to take to reduce racism.”
“I will be working closely with Tangata Whenua and other representative groups to include Pacific, Asian, religious, ethnic, and migrant groups. Unfortunately, racism harms many people, and I will do my best to ensure their voices are heard and reflected in the action plan.”
“This is especially important, particularly in helping to determine what the government should be aiming for and where it should be targeting its efforts,” Foon said.
While the National Action Plan will eventually provide an overall framework to deal with racism, several initiatives are already providing good examples of how we can build social inclusion across our country.
“The Teaching Council of Aotearoa has partnered with the Human Rights Commission to develop an education response under our Give Nothing to Racism campaign,” Foon explained.
“Through the Unteach Racism initiative, teachers are supported to have safe and productive conversations with learners and each other to help combat racism.”
“Resources like these empower teachers to become powerful agents of change in our collective efforts to tackle racism in centres, schools, and across our communities. It’s about helping nip racism in the bud.”
“I'm excited to see the Teaching Council launch this resource with the profession. It will complement the range of work the education sector is already doing such as the Te Hurihanganui kaupapa that is being tested by the Ministry of Education in a small number of communities. Education and communities working together are how we dismantle racism.”
Foon said leadership to improve social cohesion needs to come from all quarters, including spaces that seem unlikely but where racism continues to thrive.
“I’m extremely proud of the work New Zealand Cricket are doing in this space by taking leadership in addressing racism in sports, in and off the field.”
“Whether it’s promoting the importance of accountability and practical measures to create safe spaces on the field, or staying true to their values by making clear that they will not commercially support the endorsement of racist views in the media, New Zealand Cricket is walking the talk and being intentional that racism will not be tolerated. Their support of the Commission’s Voice of Racism resource showed their top cricket players listening and learning about how harmful racism is in New Zealand.”
“This is the kind of leadership I want to see across all spheres of the private sector and civil society. We all need to be deliberate and open-minded in creating harmonious and inclusive communities.”
Foon said New Zealanders need to improve their understanding of social cohesion through honest conversations, lived experiences, and shared values.
“Currently, those most vulnerable to racism are limited in their ability to experience enhanced wellbeing and the enjoyment of their human rights. If we want everyone in Aotearoa to feel they belong, empowered, and fully participate in their communities, then social cohesion needs to become a collective responsibility.”
“It starts in your home, within your whānau, in your schools, groups of friends, communities, workplaces – wherever you can come together and celebrate diversity and promote harmonious relationships between us all. We all have a role to play to ensure no one gets left behind.”