2 Apr 2015

NZ slipping in human rights issues - report

3:23 pm on 2 April 2015

A new report warns New Zealand's poor handling of human rights issues and Parliament's failure to act is harming the country's reputation.

The three-year report, Fault lines: Human Rights in New Zealand, was funded by the Law Foundation and looked at six major human rights treaties signed by New Zealand.

Co-author and former Parliament Speaker, Margaret Wilson, said the report highlighted serious faults in areas such as child poverty, gender equality, systematic disadvantage of Maori and disabled people's rights.

She said there needed to be more focus on how the country implements recommendations made by the United Nations.

Parliament should urgently set up a new select committee to deal specifically with human rights issues, Ms Wilson said.

She said it could be argued that New Zealand has always hidden behind a good reputation, but with more regular reporting happening now, there is more questioning around what the country's international obligations are.

The report, which has made 13 recommendations, has also suggested a more proactive role for the Maori Affairs Select Committee in helping to close inequality gaps.

It also has called for more New Zealanders to be nominated for United Nations human rights treaty bodies and for journalists to undergo better training around reporting.

Human Rights Foundation says report 'not surprising'

The Human Rights Foundation says the report which is scathing of New Zealand's track record is a wake up call, but doubts anything will be done.

The foundation's Executive Director, Peter Hoskings, said the findings were not surprising, but doubted the

Government would listen.

"We strut our human rights record on the international stage, for example in our recent bid for a seat on the Security Council our human credentials were certainly to the fore in that campaign - but unfortunately a bit like our clean, green image the reality's very different."

Mr Hoskings said it was a problem with most governments in New Zealand as improving human rights did not win votes.

However, the Prime Minister's standing by the country's human rights track record, despite the report highlighting serious faults in areas such as child poverty and gender equality.

The report warns the country's reputation as a global leader in the area is at risk, but John Key disagrees.

"I don't think it fairly represents, certainly what we're doing with indigenous rights in New Zealand, if you look at indigenous rights we've got a very, very strong track record."

"The Government's had a good track record of completed Treaty settlements, it's a world leader on that front and it's one of the reasons we did so well in terms of our UN Security Council bid."

But Mr Key said more could be and was being done on child poverty.

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