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Government urged to treat poverty as a human rights issue

Graphic: Professor Paul Hunt addresses those gathered for the Pōwhiri ceremony

Chief Commissioner Professor Paul Hunt has called on the government to help make human rights relevant in the lives of all New Zealanders.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Professor Paul Hunt has called on the government to help make human rights relevant in the everyday lives of all New Zealanders.

Mr Hunt made the comments at the Pōwhiri ceremony to welcome him to his new role.

"Human rights place the well-being, dignity and equality of individuals and communities at the centre of all law, policy and practice," Professor Hunt said.

He noted that poverty is one of the priority human rights issues that must be addressed.

"Almost 30 percent of New Zealand children live in households whose income falls below the income poverty line," Professor Hunt said.

"Poverty is simply a human rights issue. We need to start viewing poverty as an intolerable injustice. At the same time, we need to recognise that by taking a human rights approach to issues such as poverty, we can more effectively address them."

A human rights approach helps ensure the most vulnerable are not overlooked or forgotten when developing solutions, he said.

"It also ensures those living in poverty are actively involved in developing ways of reducing and eliminating poverty."

Professor Hunt said a human rights-based approach would also ensure constructive independent accountability for government initiatives such as those aimed at poverty reduction and elimination.

"Such accountability means not punishing people if initiatives don't work but urgently identifying what would work better."

He expressed alarmed that Māori, Pacific peoples, women, disabled people, migrants and refugees continue to experience markedly worse outcomes across a range of key indicators, such as housing, health, income, employment and education.

Professor Hunt said he would advocate for the government to take a human rights approach as it rolled out its reform agenda, consistent with New Zealand's national and international human rights commitments.

Date: 24 January 2019

Source: New Zealand Human Rights Commission


Image credits

  1. Professor Paul Hunt addresses those gathered for the Pōwhiri ceremony - New Zealand Human Rights Commission