International reporting

Universal Periodic Review

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a process undertaken by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council. It involves the review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States once every four and a half years.

The UPR is an opportunity for New Zealand to:

  • take stock of how well we are protecting the human rights of all people in New Zealand; and
  • inform the international community of the human rights situation in New Zealand
  • engage with other countries about specified steps New Zealand will take to improve the enjoyment of human rights in New Zealand.

Every country which is a member of the UN has their human rights record reviewed under the UPR.

The UPR is a peer review process. Recommendations on actions New Zealand should take are made by individual governments of other states. They are not made by the UN or the Human Rights Council as a whole. 

New Zealand has undergone two reviews and will undergo its third review during the 32nd Session of the UPR Working Group on 18 January 2019 (see information below).

Mid-term reporting 

On 21 January 2019, New Zealand underwent its third UPR. The review was an opportunity for New Zealand to take stock of how well we are protecting the human rights of people in New Zealand. The government received 194 recommendations on a wide range of human rights issues and accepted 164 of them. 

From July 2021 onwards, all stakeholders are encouraged to submit a mid-term report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, highlighting efforts made to implement UPR recommendations as well as remaining gaps and challenges in the implementation process. As the UN Human Rights Commissioner for Human Rights stated in her letter to the New Zealand government after the review, the mid-term stage constitutes an important opportunity to put in place follow-up tools and mechanisms and to contribute positively to follow-up action. 

In New Zealand’s response to the recommendations in 2019 it indicated an intention to submit a mid-term report in 2021. 

To support and guide stakeholders throughout the UPR implementation and mid-term process, the Human Rights Commission has partnered with Geneva-based UPR experts, UPR-Info to host two online webinars on the mid-term reporting process: 

  • A UPR introductory webinar on the role of civil society in the implementation phase and best practices 
  • A mid-term reporting webinar for CSOs and the NZHRC 

Introductory webinar 

The 2-hour introductory webinar on the UPR took place on 20 April 2021, informing participants about the specific role that groups can play in the mid-term reporting process and best practices. 

Mid-term reporting webinar 

  • This 2-hour mid-term reporting webinar for CSOs and the NZHRC will focus on the more technical aspects on how to make a submission on the UPR.  
  • The webinar will take place on Thursday 21 October at 7:00pm via Zoom. You can register for the webinar here. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.  

Opportunity to provide input on the Human Rights Commission's mid-term report 

The Commission has compiled a framework for responding to some of the key issues it seeks to address in its UPR mid-term report and is seeking feedback from CSO’s on those issues.  The four areas the report will focus on are:  

  • The aftermath of the Christchurch Terror Attacks in March 2019 
  • The impacts of COVID-19 on human rights in Aotearoa 
  • Housing 
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi 

The Commission encourages CSO’s to contribute to the Commission’s report by responding to the questions set out below. You do not need to respond to all the questions set out in the framework. You are welcome to address only those you consider most pressing or relevant to your organisation. 

If you would like to contribute to the Commission’s report, please register by emailing us at [email protected]. After registering, we will send you a form to complete. The deadline for contributions to the Commission’s report is Friday 29 October.  

The Commission notes that contributing to the Commission’s report does not preclude CSO’s from submitting their own reports. In fact, the Commission also encourages CSO’s to submit their own reports if they wish to do so.  

Framework for the mid-term report 

1. The aftermath of the Christchurch Terror Attacks on 15 March 2019 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to the Christchurch Terror attacks:

Equality and non-discrimination 

  • 122.41-122.45 Strengthen measures to combat racially motivated crimes, racial discrimination and hate speech against marginalised groups; 
  • 122.46, 48 Adopt a comprehensive national plan of action to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, including racial and religious hatred.  

The Government responded to the above recommendations with the below: 

“The Christchurch attacks highlighted the importance of inclusivity. The Government is reviewing the current protections against hate speech and will develop a national strategy to address racial discrimination and racism”.

Questions 

  • What specific measures has the Government taken to: 
    • combat racially motivated crimes, racial discrimination and hate speech against marginalised groups; and  
    • develop a national action plan against racism and other forms of intolerance 
      • in accordance with Aotearoa’s human rights obligations 
  • What are some recommendations to improve the Government’s compliance with human rights in these two areas? 

Counter-Terrorism 

  • Pursuant to Recommendation 122.59 to “clarify the definition of “terrorist” and review the Terrorism Suppression Act.” 

The Government responded that it was “assessing whether current counter-terrorism regulatory frameworks are adequate. It will do so considering all persons’ human rights”.

Question 

  • What specific measures has the Government taken to assess counter-terrorism legislation in accordance with Aotearoa’s human rights obligations? 

2. The impacts of COVID-19 on human rights 

Equal employment opportunities 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to equal employment opportunities: 

  • 122.80 Increase employment opportunities for marginalised groups, and notably Māori, Pasifika, women and persons with disabilities; 
  • 122.81 Address discrimination in employment against indigenous persons, individuals belonging to ethnic minority groups, and individuals with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities, and remove barriers to their participation in the labour market in addition to funding further community support services, to include post-learning opportunities; 
  • 122.82-122.87: Continue its efforts to reduce the gender pay gap, promote women to leadership positions, and remove structural or policy barriers that undermine women’s empowerment in employment 

The Government responded to the recommendations above with the following:  

“New Zealand has committed to closing the public service gender pay gap, with substantial progress by 2020, and to ensuring the wider public and private sectors are on similar pathways. The Government set a 50 percent target for women on state sector boards by 2021.  

The Ministry for Women works with private sector organisations to progress change in this sector. The Government is also implementing the Equal Pay Amendment Bill which establishes a process aligned with the existing bargaining framework, to address systemic sex-based pay discrimination in female-dominated occupations”.

Questions

  • What effects have COVID-19 had on employment opportunities in New Zealand, particularly for vulnerable groups? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to address discrimination in employment and other human rights issues during COVID-19?  
  • To what extent has the Government’s responses above (regarding closing the public service gender pay gap and implementing the Equal Pay Amendment Bill) been implemented in accordance with human rights norms, and how effective have these responses been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of COVID-19 on living standards?  
  • In light of the employment-related issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve employment opportunities in Aotearoa? 

Living standards 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to mental health: 

  • 122.89 Continue efforts to further protect of economic and social rights of vulnerable persons, including persons with disabilities 
  • 122.90 Formulate and implement effective policies geared towards the elimination of poverty 

The Government responded to the recommendations above with the following:

“One of the Government’s priorities is to improve all New Zealanders’ wellbeing, including through the Living Standards Framework, a tool to measure, and report on, inter-generational wellbeing. A substantial work programme is in place to reduce child poverty. This includes the $5.5 billion Families Package announced in Budget 2018. Welfare settings are also being reviewed”.

Questions 

  • What effects have COVID-19 had on living standards in New Zealand, particularly for vulnerable groups? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to alleviate the impacts COVID-19 on living standards?  
  • To what extent has the Government’s Living Standards Framework been implemented in accordance with human rights norms, and how effective has its implementation been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of COVID-19 on living standards?  
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve living standards in Aotearoa? 

Mental Health 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to mental health: 

  • 122.94 Enhance mental health policies with a view to guaranteeing that persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities have access to appropriate mental health services, including community-based care, which respect their dignity and human rights. 
  • 122.100 Progress with efforts in addressing disparities in mental health and improve services for vulnerable groups.  

The Government responded to the recommendations above with the following:  

“The Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction report ‘He Ara Oranga’ calls for change, with an emphasis on wellbeing, prevention, early intervention, expanded access to services, more treatment options, community-based responses and cross-government action. In 2019, the Government will respond to the report’s recommendations and decide on actions.5 

“A new model of care is being piloted in prisons. It allows more flexibility in supporting prisoners vulnerable to self-harm and increases therapeutic options.

“Guidelines to better administer mental health legislation in line with human rights obligations are being developed.

Questions 

  • What effects have COVID-19 had on mental health in New Zealand? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to alleviate the impacts on mental health during the pandemic? 
  • To what extent have the Government’s initiatives set out above (e.g. the He Oranga Report, the new model of care for prisons and the mental health guidelines) been implemented in accordance with human rights norms, and how effective have those responses been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of SGBV during the pandemic?  
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve mental health in Aotearoa? 

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to SGBV: 

  • 122.109-43: Strengthen measures to combat domestic, sexual and gender-based violence through adequate resourcing to provide support and protection for victims, and a comprehensive national strategy 

The Government responded to the above with the following:  

We are committed to eradicating family and sexual violence, and creating a system delivering an integrated, consistent and effective response to victims, perpetrators and their families.

A Joint Venture of government agencies was established in 2018 to provide support through an effective, whole-of-government response. A national strategy and action plan are being developed enabling a strategic overview of prevention, early intervention, crisis response and support for long-term recovery.

The new Family Violence Act 2018 provides a modern framework to better prevent, identify and respond to family violence. Legislation will support sector-wide collaboration, for example through information sharing and codes of practice.

Legislation will make important improvements to victims’ experience of court processes, helping to bring more perpetrators to justice. Programmes and services will focus on vulnerable groups more likely be victimised.

Questions

  • What effects have COVID-19 had on SGBV in New Zealand? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to alleviate the impacts of SGBV during the pandemic? 
  • To what extent have the Government’s initiatives set out above (e.g. the system delivering on effective responses to victims and the national strategy and action plan) been implemented in accordance with human rights norms, and how effective have those responses been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of SGBV during the pandemic?  
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve SGBV in Aotearoa? 

Children 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to the rights of children: 

  • 122.103, 104, 146: Improve accessibility and inclusivity of education to all children and increase financial aid for children in difficulty to guarantee their right to further education; 
  • 122.144-46: Strengthen efforts to prevent and address child abuse;  
  • 122.147 Develop a national strategy for the promotion and protection of the rights of all children in implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child;  
  • 122.149-153: Prioritise efforts and legislation to reduce child poverty and advance child wellbeing in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Treaty of Waitangi; 
  • 122.154-55 Continue efforts to combat discrimination and reduce all forms of inequalities and discrimination among children, for Māori and Pasifika children in particular, as well as children belonging to ethnic minorities, refugee and migrant children and children with disabilities

The Government responded to the recommendations above with the following comments: 

The wellbeing of children is a priority for New Zealand. The first Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy will be published in 2019. It will help protect children’s rights, including those under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Violence against children is addressed through work to combat family and sexual violence. A five-year transformation programme will build a more child-centred state care system. The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in Care in Faith-based Institutions is investigating abuse of children and vulnerable adults.

Reducing child poverty is a priority. Under new legislation, ambitious child poverty reduction targets have been announced and annual reporting is required.

Education must be accessible and inclusive. Education strategies for Māori and Pacific people are being updated to enable all learners to succeed.

Questions 

  • How has COVID-19 affected the rights of children in New Zealand? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to alleviate the human rights impacts of children? 
  • To what extent have the Government’s initiatives set out above (e.g. the Wellbeing Strategy and Child Poverty legislation) been implemented in accordance with human rights norms, and how effective have those responses been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of COVID-19 on NZ children? 
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve the rights of children in Aotearoa? 

Persons with disabilities 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to the rights of persons with disabilities: 

  • 122.156 Continue its efforts to extend welfare services and assistance to all persons with disabilities;  
  • 122.157 Continue its efforts in implementing legislation and strategies to promote and protect the rights of children and young people and persons with disabilities; 
  • 122.158 Harmonize its national legislation on the rights of persons with disabilities, especially in relation to inclusive education, with international standards; 
  • 122.159 Strengthen efforts to combat marginalization and discrimination of children with disabilities, especially in their access to health, education, care and protection services;  
  • 122.160 Grant children with disabilities the right to quality inclusive education and increase the provision of reasonable accommodation in primary and secondary education in line with international standards;  
  • 122.161 Continue the development of inclusive education programmes for children with disabilities.  
  • 122.162 Respect the rights of persons with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including by combating institutionalization, stigma, violence and overmedicalization, and by developing community-based and people-centred mental health services which promote inclusion in the community and respect their free and informed consent.  

The Government responded to the above with the following comments: 

New Zealand is working towards a society where persons with disabilities have equal opportunities to achieve their goals.

The Disability Strategy 2016-2026 guides the Government’s work and the implementation of CRPD. New legislation aims to strengthen rights of children, particularly in state care.

The Government is transforming the disability support system and is committed to an inclusive and accessible education system, including through the Disability and Learning Support Action Plan.

The Government is committed to improving the welfare system and also funds programmes to reduce stigma and discrimination associated with mental health issues.

Questions 

  • How has COVID-19 affected the rights of disabled people in New Zealand? 
  • What specific measures has the Government taken to alleviate the human rights impacts of COVID-19 on disabled people?  
  • To what extent have the Government’s initiatives set out above (e.g. the Disability Strategy, Disability and Learning Support Action Plan, improvements to welfare system and funds for mental health) been implemented in accordance with the CRPD and how effective have those responses been in addressing/alleviating the impacts of COVID-19 on disabled people? 
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve the rights of disabled people in Aotearoa? 

3. Housing 

New Zealand accepted the following recommendations at the last UPR that are relevant to the rights to housing: 

  • 122.91-92 Continue efforts to increase the availability of adequate and affordable housing for all segments of society  
    • paying particular attention to low-income families; 
    • ensuring equitable housing for the elderly, persons with disabilities, and all ethnic groups  

The Government responded with the following: 

“Ensuring that everybody has somewhere warm, dry and safe to live is a priority. A comprehensive programme to address housing issues is underway”.

A dedicated Māori Housing Unit works with Māori to improve housing opportunities.

Questions 

  • How has COVID-19 affected the right to housing in New Zealand, particularly for vulnerable groups? 
  • What specific measures did the Government take to alleviate housing pressures on vulnerable groups as a result of COVID-19? 
  • To what extent has the Government succeeded in its responses to the recommendations above (devising a comprehensive programme and a dedicated Māori Housing Unit) and how effective have those responses been in addressing the issues of COVID-19? 
  • In light of the issues that have been exacerbated by COVID-19, what are some recommendations to improve the right to housing in Aotearoa? 

4. Te Tiriti issues 

Te Tiriti o Waitangi 

The New Zealand Government accepted the recommendations of the last UPR22 (among others) to develop, in partnership with Māori, a national strategy or plan of action to align public policy and legislation with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 

The Government responded that “Work is underway towards a comprehensive national plan setting out how New Zealand regulations align with [UNDRIP]” and that it “will take into account Te Tiriti principles and highlight areas for improvement”.

Questions 

  • What specific measures has the government taken since 2019 to progress a comprehensive national plan to align New Zealand’s public policy and legislation with UNDRIP? 
  • To what extent does the national plan uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi and address relevant areas for improvement? 
  • What are some recommendations to ensure the national plan of action aligns with UNDRIP and Te Tirit o Waitangi? 

Third cycle

Review of New Zealand

On 21 January 2019, New Zealand’s human rights record was reviewed as part of the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

The review was based on three documents:

  • New Zealand Government National Report
  • Compilation of UN information
  • Stakeholder summary: The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) summarises reports submitted by the national human rights institute and civil society organisations on the human rights situation in New Zealand. The Human Rights Commission’s report contributes to the summary. The Commission also contributed to a submission by the independent organisations who monitor places of detention in New Zealand (which you can read here).

On 1 April 2019, the Final Report of the Working Group was adopted summarising the proceedings of the review process, the interactive dialogue that took place and the 194 recommendations made to New Zealand.

New Zealand responded by accepting 160 of the recommendations and noting 34 of them and indicated an intention to submit a mid-term report in 2021.

In-Country Pre-session

In the lead up to the review in January 2019, the Human Rights Commission hosted a pre-session in Wellington on 26 October 2018. Thirteen NGOs and the Human Rights Commission outlined New Zealand’s human rights challenges at the briefing session for Wellington-based diplomats representing over 30 countries.

The 13 NGOs present gave detailed presentations on issues such as family violence, youth justice and structural discrimination. To moderate the session and provide training for the NGOs, the Human Rights Commission brought Geneva-based NGO, UPR Info to New Zealand. UPR-Info, which is funded by a host of European Governments, provides services, education and training to ensure cooperation between governments, human rights institutions, civil society, United Nations agencies, and media to implement human rights obligations and commitments.

The visiting Programme Manager, Nargiz Arupova and Programme Assistance, Laura Sinner were in New Zealand for one week. They ran training sessions for NGOs in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington before moderating the UPR Pre-session in Wellington on 26 October. Over 70 people attended the training sessions representing a number of NGOs. As part of the training organisations prepared advocacy fact sheets. Links to some of the fact sheets can be found:

Presentations made by UPR Info can be found here:

Presentations made by civil society organisations can be found here:

Geneva Pre-session

A pre-session for the third review is held in Geneva between 10-13 December 2018. NGOs can travel to Geneva to brief the diplomatic missions based there. More information about the session can be found here.

Second cycle

As part of New Zealand's second UPR the Human Rights Commission was invited to make a submission to the UN Human Rights Council. Click here to read the Commission’s UPR 13/14 submission (Word).

You can also read the UPR annexes to the Commission submission: Commission UPR Recommendations, Submission of the OPCAT National Preventive Mechanism; Submission of the CRPD Monitoring Mechanism, Submission of the UNCROC Monitoring Group; Assessment of steps taken to implement 2009 UPR recommendations; List of Bills that passed all stages under urgency.

NGO's and Civil Society

NGO's and civil society groups were consulted on the UPR and given an opportunity to make a submission to the Commission.

Click here to read the submissions made by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society groups to the UPR.

New Zealand's second Periodic Review

New Zealand’s second National Report to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review took place on 27 January 2014 in Geneva. Justice Minister Judith Collins presented the actions taken by the New Zealand government following the 2009 review.

Click here to read the Government’s UPR report.

Recommendations made to New Zealand

Among the 155 recommendations made to New Zealand overall, participating member states highlighted the need to:

  • In consultation with all relevant actors, 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 the Maori population;
  • 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.

Here is a full list of the recommendations made to New Zealand by the UPR:

New Zealand Government Response to UPR Recommendations

The government formally responded to the United Nations Human Rights Council second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of New Zealand, accepting the “vast majority” of the 155 recommendations.

Minister Collins said “Nearly all countries commended our excellent human rights record and acknowledged the progress we are making in protecting women and children against violence, and recommended these efforts continue.”

A compilation of UN information and its summary of stakeholders’ information is available on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights website.

Here is the New Zealand Government’s response to recommendations arising from its second Universal Periodic Review:

Background

New Zealand’s UPR Outcome Report was adopted by the UPR Working Group on Friday, 31 January. The New Zealand Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Amanda Ellis, responded on behalf of the Government. Ms Ellis noted that all recommendations would be taken on notice and that New Zealand would report back to the Human Rights Council no later than June 2014.

The reason for adopting this approach was to ensure that the international conversation that has taken place on New Zealand’s human rights record is properly linked to domestic implementation and in particular the development of New Zealand’s second National Plan of Action on Human Rights. Adopting such an approach also ensures that stakeholder views can be included in the next steps of the UPR process.

Overall States recognised the high realisation of human rights in New Zealand and commended the Government on its ongoing commitment to improve the realisation of rights for all people in Aotearoa New Zealand. In many areas States considered there was much to learn from the New Zealand experience and  expressly requested our advice and assistance.

Issues and questions raised by States included:

  • violence against women;
  • the rights of children;
  • the gender pay gap;
  • the human rights of Maori;
  • the rebuilding and compensation process in the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes;
  • the human rights framework

Over 100 recommendations were made to New Zealand. Click here to access the official record of the session.

Useful resources for the UPR 13/14

Powerpoint presentations from HRC workshops

UPR and the Canterbury earthquakes

A group of law students at the University of Canterbury under the supervision of Senior Lecturer Natalie Baird are co-ordinating and writing a joint stakeholder submission for New Zealand’s Universal Periodic Review which is taking place in early 2014. Their submission will focus on the human rights issues which have arisen as a consequence of the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes. A short online presentation about their project can be viewed here.

If you are a community or non-governmental organisation and would be interested in getting involved or knowing more about their project, please email Natalie Baird or [email protected].

Queer, Trans and Intersex people consultation

Notes from the UPR video conference for queer, trans and intersex people conducted on 18 April, 2013 can be viewed here.