What is the Universal Periodic Review, and why is it important for New Zealand?

What is the Universal Periodic Review, and why is it important for New Zealand?

January 18, 2019

On Monday (21 January) Justice Minister Andrew Little will discuss New Zealand’s human rights record over the past four-and-a-half years at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The Minister’s address will be part of the third review of human rights in New Zealand carried out at the council. These reviews are known as a Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

Since 2006, all 193 countries that are UN Member States are subject to a UPR every four and a half years. The UPR is a peer review process. Specific recommendations on actions New Zealand should take are made by individual governments of other states rather than made by the UN or the Human Rights Council as a whole.

The UPR is an opportunity for New Zealand to take stock of how well we are protecting the human rights of people in New Zealand. It will inform the international community about the human rights situation in New Zealand. It also allows the Government to engage with other countries about specified steps it should take to protect and promote the human rights of New Zealanders. The resulting recommendations are likely to form the basis of the New Zealand’s next National Plan of Action on Human Rights.

New Zealand’s  last review was in 2014, when among the 155 recommendations made to New Zealand participating member states highlighted the need to:

  • Consult on,and develop, a comprehensive action plan to target gender-based violence and violence against women;
  • Allocate adequate resources to ensure the full implementation of measures to prevent violence against women and children;
  • Develop a national action plan for women to address issues such as violence against women, pay equality, the situation of Māori and Pacific women and women with disabilities;
  • To take further steps to advance the human rights of indigenous populations and reduce the remaining social differences for, and discrimination against, Maori          
  • To step up efforts to prevent discrimination against members of the Māori and Pasifika communities in the criminal justice system and, in particular, the high rates of incarceration.

As part of the UPR ‘pre-session’ process held in Wellington and Geneva late last year, the Commission and civil society organisations had the opportunity to raise New Zealand human rights issues with diplomatic representatives of UN Member States. As part of the process, the Acting Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero highlighted a number of significant human rights issues in New Zealand. She said 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. Ms Tesoriero called on the Government to "develop a policy and legal framework in which all our human rights commitments are fully integrated" including "our obligations under the Sustainable Development Goals and the Treaty of Waitangi".

On Monday, a wide range of human rights issues will be addressed by member states in their dialogue with the New Zealand Government. This dialogue is likely to issues such as family and sexual violence, child poverty, constitutional issues, over incarceration of Māori, systemic discrimination and LGBTQ+ issues.

You can tune into the review on Monday around 9pm here, and you can find the presentations civil society gave at the pre-session here