New Zealand’s reputation as a global leader in human rights is at serious risk.
According to a report ‘Fault Lines’ which looked at the status of human rights in New Zealand, there are serious fault lines developing in the area.
Co–author of the report, Professor Judy McGregor of AUT says, “A three year study of the six major human rights treaties New Zealand has signed shows we’re better at talking about human rights than walking the talk and implementing our promises made internationally.”
Professor McGregor outlines that New Zealand is slipping behind in areas such as child poverty, gender equality, systemic disadvantage of Māori, and the rights of disabled people to challenge the State.
“For example, we keep telling the United Nations we were the first to grant women the vote, but we still don’t have equal pay for women or pay equity for carers. Nor do we have adequate paid parental leave, and we continue to suffer completely unacceptable levels of violence against women. We say how good we are, but the reality is we’re in trouble.”
The report which was funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation suggests New Zealand needs to take urgent remedial action to retain its point of difference as a human rights leader.
According to the report New Zealand is falling behind other countries in implementing economic, social and cultural rights on the ground, despite our treaty obligations.
It suggests 13 recommendations to help New Zealand retain human rights leadership including a comprehensive rewrite of human rights legislation, a new parliamentary select committee to deal with human rights and the urgent repeal of non-human rights compliant legislation to reinstate the rights of all New Zealanders to complain about discrimination.
The recommendations also suggest a new more proactive role for the Māori Affairs Select Committee in monitoring New Zealand’s response to the United Nations about closing the inequality gaps. More New Zealanders should be nominated for significant UN human rights treaty bodies and journalists need better training in the reporting of treaty body reports which remain largely invisible to the public.