Media Release from The Law Foundation
A report on the status of human rights in New Zealand says serious
fault lines are developing and that the country's reputation as a
global leader is at risk.
"A three year study of the six major human rights treaties that
New Zealand has signed shows we're better at talking about human
rights than walking the talk and implementing our promises made
internationally," says Auckland University of Technology's
Professor Judy McGregor, co-author of Fault lines: Human rights in
"The detailed research shows we're slipping behind in areas such
as child poverty, gender equality, systemic disadvantage of Maori,
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."
Funded by the New Zealand Law Foundation, Fault lines was written
by Professor McGregor, human rights lawyer Sylvia Bell and Waikato
University's Professor Margaret Wilson. Each has significant
practical experience of working in human rights.
The report suggests New Zealand needs to take urgent remedial
action to retain its point of difference as a human rights leader.
It is also critical of the level of understanding of Members of
Parliament of human rights treaty obligations.
In addition the report says New Zealanders' strong belief that we
are good at human rights has blinded us to the fact that we are
falling behind other countries in implementing economic, social and
cultural rights on the ground, despite our treaty
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
Maori 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
New Zealand has ratified six international treaties covering
political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, racial
discrimination and the rights of women, children and people with
Fault lines, examines each of the treaties and New Zealand's
engagement in the Universal Periodic Review, an overview of human
rights progress. The report is based on interviews in New Zealand
and at the United Nations, case law, analysis of treaty body
reports and personal observation.
The Law Foundation is New Zealand's major funder of independent
legal research. Professor McGregor says the Foundation's backing
was critical to producing the report.
The new publication 'Fault lines: Human Rights in New Zealand'
is available at