Our work

Economic and social rights

We all have the right to an adequate standard of living so everyone can live a life of dignity and freedom. We undertake a number of projects as the Human Rights Commission to promote economic and social rights.

Economic and social rights are human rights concerning the basic social and economic conditions needed to live a life of dignity and freedom, relating to work and workers' rights, social security, health, education, food, water, housing, healthy environment, and culture.

Current projects

Discussion on the right to housing

Discussion on the right to housing

The human right to adequate housing has been recognised in multiple international human rights treaties. As New Zealand is a signatory to many of these international treaties, everyone in the country has the right to adequate housing. Government is obliged to ensure this right is upheld.

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In-Work Poverty

In-Work Poverty

Research by the Human Rights Commission and the New Zealand Work Research Institute found that more than 50,000 working households live in poverty across Aotearoa. The overall in-work poverty rate was 7 percent before considering rent or mortgage payments. Once housing costs are factored in, the in-work poverty rate increases substantially.

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Latest News

Meet the Commissioner responsible

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Paul Hunt

Paul Hunt has vast human rights experience encompassing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. He has worked with organisations such as the United Nations, including the World Health Organisation, addressing issues such as health and improving economic, social, and cultural rights. Mr Hunt has served on the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1999-2002) and as a Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council (2002-2008). He has been admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales and holds a Master of Jurisprudence from the University of Waikato, where he was a Senior Lecturer in Law from 1992-2000. He has published extensively on a wide range of human rights issues. In recognition of his contribution to human rights, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Nordic School of Public Health in 2008. Mr Hunt comes to the Human Rights Commission from the University of Essex where he was a Professor in the School of Law.

Past Projects

Monitoring Human Rights in the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery from 2010-2016

We are working to ensure fairness and inclusion is embedded in the rebuild and recovery process. It has a specific role to monitor human rights issues and will benchmark this work against international best practice.
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Discussion on maximising the employment potential of young New Zealanders in 2014

Young people are our future wage earners, decision makers and leaders. However, for many young people in Aotearoa New Zealand their right to work is greatly hindered.
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Discussion on improving Equal Employment Opportunities in the public service in 2014

‘What’s Working’ identifies what is working as we strive for fair and equitable employment for all New Zealand workers, across all groups, in the public sector workforce.
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Discussion on human rights of water in 2012

Access to water and sanitation is an inalienable human right, without it human life cannot be sustained. Tthe Human Rights Commission prepared this paper to promote the human rights implications of water in Aotearoa at a time when the supply of water, access to it, and its quality are matters of national interest.
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