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Aotearoa’s key human rights issues raised with United Nations Member States – Human Rights Commission

Constitutional protections, Indigenous peoples’ rights, and workers’ rights are the key human rights issues Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission raised with United Nations Member States in Geneva last night.

The Commission and other civil society organisations are providing an independent assessment of human rights in Aotearoa at a pre-session ahead of the five-yearly Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Aotearoa, which will be taking place in Geneva on 29 April 2024.

At the review in April, a Government delegation will explain progress on realising human rights in Aotearoa since the last review. Other member states will ask questions and make recommendations. Both the pre-session and the review will be live streamed on UN Web TV.

At the pre-session this week, Acting Chief Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Dr Karanina Sumeo is representing the Commission as New Zealand’s independent human rights institution with “A” status accreditation to the United Nations.

Sumeo last night (11.15pm session, Tuesday 13 Feb NZT) spoke to the positive developments that align with recommendations made at the last review in 2019 such as introducing a national strategy to eliminate family and sexual violence, and decriminalising and making abortion much more accessible.

Sumeo also addressed challenges that remain, including weak constitutional protection of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and human rights.

“Despite repeated recommendations for the Crown and Māori to determine the appropriate constitutional protections of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori rights remain vulnerable to the political climate of the day.”

“We are concerned that the new Government has agreed to remove, review or repeal numerous policies and laws that provide for Māori.”

The Commission called for the Government to progress discussions and action, in partnership with Māori, to determine and implement the appropriate constitutional processes and institutions to recognise, respect, and give effect to Te Tiriti, including through implementation of the National plan of Action on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Commission also recommended that the Government amend the Bill of Rights Act to incorporate all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as set out in the International Covenants.

Sumeo said the Commission was concerned about recent law changes that undermine workers’ rights and their dignity, without adequate consultation.

“The Commission urges the Government to reinstate fair pay legislation and ensure any legislative changes to the legislation undergo usual democratic processes.”

The Commission made other recommendations for the Government to introduce modern slavery legislation with due diligence obligations and pay transparency legislation.

Following the review in April, an “outcome report” will be prepared to provide a summary of the recommendations. The New Zealand Government will then choose whether to either accept or note recommendations.


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