NZ to seek place on UN human rights body

  • Phil Goff
Foreign Affairs and Trade

New Zealand will seek election to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2009, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

The CHR is the world’s pre-eminent standard-setting body for promoting and protecting international human rights. New Zealand is active as an observer at the CHR but has not been a member since 1971.

“Membership of CHR is highly sought after and requires a lot of planning and consultation. That is why we are announcing our candidature now,” Mr Goff said.

"New Zealand is a principled defender of human rights and has excellent credentials for sitting on the commission. Last year the international NGO Human Rights Watch said we were 'among the few to hold a firm and principled line on many key human rights issues'.

"Membership would give us a unique opportunity to help advance the international human rights agenda. We would aim to play a bridging role in securing consensus where there are divisions on opinion.

“The human rights climate is difficult and constructive solutions need to be found. New Zealand is recognised for its ability to find practical ways forward.”

Mr Goff said New Zealand was fully engaged in international human rights initiatives, and had been chosen by the UN to host a meeting of Race Relations Conciliators from around the world in early February.

"New Zealand currently chairs a working group in New York that is preparing a new convention for people with disabilities. We are also playing a leading role in the process to conclude a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

"The recently published New Zealand Handbook on International Human Rights is a good example of New Zealand’s commitment to providing practical support for the international human rights agenda.

“It was developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to meet demand for a straightforward introduction to a complex issue, and is aimed at international negotiators and people with an interest in human rights.”

Copies of the handbook can be purchased from the Ministry's Information and Public Affairs Division for $20 (Contact: Pat Brown ph 439 8332).