New Zealand Statement to UN Human Rights Council

Foreign Affairs


Whakarongo ake au ki te tangi a te manu, Tui , Tui Tuia, Tuia i runga, Tuia i raro, Tuia I roto, Tuia I waiho, Tuia i te here tangata, ka rongo te pō, ka rongo te ao, Tuia i te here, i takea mai i hawaiiki tangata, Hawaiiki tau tau, otirā, te hono a wairua, ka puta ki te wheiao, ki te ao mārama, Tihei mauri ora.

[My attention is drawn to the cry of the bellbird that has take refuge upon the olive leaves of peace and it is calling "Bind, join, be united as one"
May it be woven above,
Enmeshed below,
Entwined outside.  and within our very beings,
Interlaced by threads of humanity, from your ancestors, and from mine, to all gathered today.
May there be peace in our darkest times, beckoned by a new day and a harbinger of peace and the sanctity of life]

Mr President, Secretary-General, High Commissioner, Excellencies, distinguished delegates, civil society organisations, and friends.

Aotearoa New Zealand is a proponent of peace and reconciliation, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

This is a clear act of aggression; a blatant breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and a violation of international law and the UN Charter by a Permanent Member of the Security Council.

There is no victor in unjustified and unprovoked aggression.

We must be clear.  The Russian government has repeatedly ignored opportunities for diplomacy, negotiation and de-escalation, and has instead chosen aggression. 

We are witnessing the blatant act of a bully, brutally using its unbridled power to achieve goals at odds with international law.  Sadly, women and children are already the innocent victims of this illegal aggression - this cannot be tolerated.

Russia’s actions will have far-reaching and serious humanitarian, security and economic implications for Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the rest of the world.

Our thoughts today are with the people in Ukraine impacted by this conflict, and also those Ukrainians around the world who feel helpless to protect their whānau, their relatives, at this time.

Aotearoa New Zealand repeats our call for Russia to:

  • Act consistently with its international obligations;
  • Cease military operations in Ukraine;
  • Permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life;
  • Take all possible steps to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law; and
  • To return to diplomatic negotiations as a pathway to resolve this conflict.

We must not let diplomacy fail   we must persevere in the pursuit of an outcome that prevents further suffering.  War, Mr President, must Stop!

Let me now turn to other international crises that are of deep concern to New Zealand.

Armed conflicts, including in Ethiopia, Syria and Yemen, continue to cause egregious human rights abuses and humanitarian crises. 

Democratic rights, such as freedom of expression and media freedoms, are being eroded. The military coups in Myanmar and Sudan and lack of free and fair elections in Nicaragua are stark examples of this.

The hard won rights of women and girls have tragically gone backwards over the past year - most notably in Afghanistan. They do not deserve to be forced to abandon the prospect of better education, open and transparent democracy, improved civil and political rights, improved health and livelihoods.

We are seriously concerned about the growing number of credible reports of systematic violations of the human rights of minority groups – including the Rohingya and the Uyghur.

We must continue to shine a light on situations where such violations are taking place. We reiterate our call on China to grant meaningful and unfettered access to Xinjiang for UN experts, and other independent observers. We also urge the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to table its findings as a critical step towards determining the extent of violations against the Uyghur.

Mr President

Human rights embody universal values.  But these values are at risk if we do not accept our collective responsibility to protect and uphold the dignity of all people, individually and collectively, irrespective of the context or situation in which they live.

Mo te iti, me te rahi: for the greater benefit of the most vulnerable and the most diverse.

We are concerned that the COVID 19 pandemic and the climate crisis are exacerbating existing inequalities and undermining the basic human rights of millions, particularly in our Indo-Pacific region.

It is in this challenging international context that we must remember what can be achieved when we work together in partnership. But that expression is about action not words, ‘mahia te mahi hei painga mo te Iwi’: by our actions, our good deeds will be felt by people and that is what matters most.

The Council must be a forum for all states to engage openly on human rights, to share experiences and progress, and to hold each other to account.

The Council is also an opportunity to explore how we can apply more fully, and with greater regard the full suite of tools that enable innovative solutions to address human rights

We increasingly confront more challenging contexts and we must not reside on the fringes of a polarising set of circumstances where there is no bridge, no hope of diplomacy or dialogue to address human rights abuse.

Colleagues: we must exhaust every effort for diplomacy and dialogue.

The system is also most effective when civil society actively engages, and when those groups whose rights are marginalised are given a voice.  The social fabric of a fair and decent society is evidenced by the way we uphold and defend universal human rights.

In this important session of the Council, we are proud to co-lead with Mexico a resolution a on the rights of persons with disabilities.  We will also continue to prioritise engagement on the rights of indigenous peoples, gender equality, democratic rights, LGBTQI rights, ending arbitrary detention practices and the eradication of the death penalty. 

New Zealand looks forward to continuing to work with you all to progress universal human rights and protect the dignity and mana of all peoples.

“Ki te kotahi te kaakaho ka whati, ki te kapuia e kore e whati.”

“We must stand together in our effort to uphold human rights:  we cannot be deterred if we are united.”

Pai Mārire

Thank You


Note to editors: The Foreign Minister’s speech can be found here and begins at 5:41:17: