Aotearoa New Zealand’s National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

What is New Zealand’s National Plan of Action (NPA)?

Every four years, countries that belong to the United Nations are asked to declare what they are doing to improve human rights. This process is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). In 2013, it was New Zealand’s second opportunity to participate in the UPR process and have its human rights record assessed.

The United Nations Human Rights Council made over 100 recommendations for New Zealand to act on. The New Zealand Government accepted 121 recommendations and rejected 34 in May 2014 and committed to work with the Human Rights Commission, non-government organisations and civil society to develop a National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to respond to and address these.

NPA Webtool

New Zealand’s Human Rights Action Plan (NPA) is a free interactive tool which monitors human rights in New Zealand. The NPA tracks our Government’s progress implementing recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in real-time and gives everyday New Zealanders the opportunity to understand, examine and keep an eye on our human rights progress. The NPA webtool is publicly available here.

Who's involved

The Human Rights Commission is the lead agency for the coordination and development of the National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (NPA).

The preparation of the National Plan of Action is mandated by the Human Rights Act 1993. The Act requires the Human Rights Commission to develop the NPA on behalf of New Zealand in consultation with interested parties; it is New Zealand’s plan, not the Commission’s plan.

Therefore, a cross-agency and collaborative approach with the state sector, local government, Iwi, civil society and business is essential.

What does the NPA deliver

The process will require government agencies to identify tangible, achievable actions (including actions that are already underway or planned) that will progress the UPR recommendations accepted by government. The Commission will also identify the key civil society stakeholders who should be involved in creating and monitoring these actions. We will help government agencies to test proposed actions with civil society and seek their expertise and input on how to successfully address the identified issues and monitor progress.

The NPA will set out a small number of concrete, achievable actions with timeframes and clearly identified agencies that are accountable for delivery. It is expected that these actions will be resourced and reported on. The Plan will identify how those actions will be monitored and reported on. An indicators framework that will measure the outcomes from those actions and progress against treaty body recommendations will also be developed.

The process and timeframe

The Plan is to be completed by 30 June 2015.

The process for developing the NPA is as follows:

  • Identify and capture what actions the government is taking or intends to take where it supported the recommendations of the UPR or submissions made to the UPR process.
  • Ask what civil society groups the government is working with in tackling these issues.
  • Identify how these actions are or will be monitored and reported. These monitoring mechanisms will differ depending on the willingness and capability of the civil society groups.
  • Engage with business and civil society to see if the actions identified are the right ones and how progress might be measured.
  • Prepare a draft action plan for testing.
  • Facilitate workshops with relevant government agencies and civil society groups to test and finalise the action plan early this year.

What are the focus areas of the NPA

They currently fall into four themes but these may change after discussions with government, civil society and business.

The four themes are looking at:

  • how human rights issues are managed within the policy and law making processes
  • New Zealand’s growing diversity and its impacts on our society and race relations
  • issues raised in respect of inequalities and discrimination in New Zealand
  • tackling violence and abuse in New Zealand.

An additional programme of work is proposed in relation to business and human rights, looking at the actions business can take to contribute to improved human rights realisation.

Citizenship

The Inquiry uses the term ‘citizenship’ to convey a sense of belonging and participation in society. This wider lens of active and full citizenship is applied to three aspects of most significance for trans people: official documents issued by the state, the situation of New Zealand citizens born overseas, and privacy-related rights.

A strong case is made for trans people to be able to obtain official documents that reflect their gender identity. The effect of current law and policy is that many trans people do not have, and cannot obtain, official documents that contain consistent information about their gender identity and sex. The report recommends changes to current law to simplify requirements for change of sex on a birth certificate, passport and other documents. The Inquiry advocates a threshold that should apply across all official documents.

Most trans people experience difficulty having their rights to privacy respected. For many, disclosure resulted in discrimination and other threats to their security. The Inquiry found that the current law provides an adequate basis for trans people to assert their rights to privacy of personal information and for agencies holding such information to be clear about their responsibilities to protect it. Inconsistencies in practice require attention.

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