UN concern over violence in NZ

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 12:18 28/01/2014

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Member states of the United Nations have commended improvements to New Zealand's human rights record, but have expressed concern over levels of violence against women and children.

Some states recommended the Government develop a national strategy to prevent violence and abuse against children.

Justice Minister Judith Collins appeared before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva last night to present a report on New Zealand's human rights progress.

At the review, Collins laid out New Zealand's actions on the recommendations the UN made after a 2009 review.

She also talked about programmes targeted at reducing family violence and the neglect and abuse of children, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage last year.

Collins said New Zealand was seen as a leader in the field of human rights, but she would take the time to "evaluate all recommendations and feedback provided by the UNHRC member states".

This was New Zealand's second human rights review - all 193 UN member countries are required to be examined and report on their human rights performance every 4-1/2 years.

At New Zealand's last review in 2009, the human rights council urged the Government to do more to prevent human rights abuses.

The challenge was for the Government "to reflect these commitments in legislation and policy initiatives and financial decisions", it told then justice minister Simon Power.

In her presentation, Collins said the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families, which was reconvened in 2012 at the request of the UN, had been working to co-ordinate interagency action against violence to children, women and old people.

But both France and Germany called on New Zealand to do more in this area.

Some states also recommended New Zealand do more to minimise discrimination against Maori and other ethnic groups.

Greece praised New Zealand's introduction of "10 marae-based courts and two Pasifika courts for young people", but expressed concern at the level of overrepresentation of indigenous groups in crime statistics.

UN human rights adviser Yannis Fotakis said Greece also welcomed New Zealand's pledge to support the UN Women initiative - a commitment to end violence against women and children.

"But [Greece] remains concerned at the high levels of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence and the large numbers of cases as such, that go unreported."

The Green Party said the review highlighted New Zealand's "shameful" human rights record.

"New Zealand is slipping when it comes to protecting human rights, and the international community is taking note," human rights spokeswoman Jan Logie said.

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"Submission after submission from interest groups raised serious concerns about how we treat our people."

- Stuff

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