Prepared by Dianne Glenn.
New Zealand’s Second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – (2013-2014)
I attended the Auckland consultation on Thursday 18 April – one of six meetings around New Zealand, 18 April – 10 May for civil society stakeholders to provide feedback on domestic human rights issues. The UPR is a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC), which reviews the human rights record and practices of all UN member states every 4-5 years. NZ’s first review was completed in 2009. During the second cycle, NZ will update the HRC on the implementation of its 2009 UPR recommendations and human rights developments that have emerged since then.
MFAT, which has international responsibilities, has taken over reporting to the UN, from the Ministry of Justice, which is nationally focussed. The UPR is being drafted May-June and available for public comment July – September. Any questions on the NZ Government report can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. A second stakeholder/shadow report is being prepared by the NZ Human Rights Commission with submissions due in June. Feedback or enquiries for this report can be sent to MichaelW@hrc.co.nz
I was fortunate to arrive 30 minutes early and was welcomed by the facilitator Martin Wikaira from the MFAT Maori Policy Unit. I had his undivided attention for some time so was able to inform him of work I am undertaking for the NCWNZ Working Group on Women with Disabilities in preparation for the CEDAW NGO Alternative Report. I was able to talk to him about disadvantages experienced and discrimination against women with disabilities and their high incidence of domestic violence and familial abuse, low education achievement, employment and poor economic status. I had time also to tell him of other groups of disadvantaged women and specific issues concerning BPW NZ such as Pay Equity and underage marriage occurring within immigrant communities. However, as others arrived I indicated that a Wellington member of BPW NZ (Angela McLeod) would provide the information about Pay Equity and Shakti Asian Women’s Council would be arriving to speak about underage marriages.
At the meeting after introducing ourselves and who we represented including our main issue(s), facilitator Martin Wikaira, said “We’ve come to hear your pain”. He worked on the first Government UPR and then quoted his mum “it is okay to understand from the gate – but you need to get into the kitchen”. Any of you have worked on a marae, will know that it is in the kitchen that most problems and issues get discussed and frequently “sorted”. The Government Report will include follow-up on the previous report.
Human Rights Commissioner Michael White discussed the Human Rights Framework in NZ and referred to the UNICEF Report that illustrated that children’s issues were not featured to in the first UPR reports. No assessment completed – monitoring needs to be done. The HRC is preparing a “Plan of Action” on Human Rights with a monitoring mechanism. The HRC will be using the Christchurch earthquake as an example of failure of following human rights procedures. Data collection and the Constitutional Review will feature in the HRC Shadow Report along with violence, abuse and bullying; inequalities in achievement rates in both health and education; inaccessibility and equality in the aftermath of the ChCh Quake. They will also be looking for any gaps in the Government Report – this is the NGOs’ opportunity to make further comment. HRC is limited to 10 pages – with 7 of substance. Will be vailable on the HRC website. www.hrc.co.nz
Martin Wikaira then identified main issues to be discussed, with Women with Disabilities first up. (I had a last train to catch!). Rather that report here all the issues I raised, I have prepared a comprehensive report which I have submitted to MFAT, and it is on the BPW NZ website. I also raised the issue of brain injuries caused by assault, which is not covered by AAC because it is not an accident, and not being provided for in the health system – a big gap in resources, funding and agencies to rehabilitate or provide ongoing care.
Other topics included but were not limited to Underage and forced marriage, with cultural marriages performed by celebrants and not registered; Justice – lack of access to justice, access to lawyers other than duty lawyers, legal aid and the Family Court Review; Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) – must ensure that cultural attitudes and practices are subservient to human rights.
A worthwhile exercise – now we all await the draft Government and HRC Universal Periodic Review Reports. Watch out for them from June to September and take part by commenting.