Speech to the UN Human Rights Council 52nd session

Foreign Affairs

Today, I am proud to reaffirm our strong and enduring commitment to universal human rights and the international human rights system.

Human rights are universal values – values we all committed to 75 years ago - and it is critical that we work together to uphold these values for the people we represent. 

I want to start by acknowledging the people of Syria and Türkiye and the devastating damage caused by recent earthquakes. Our thoughts are with the communities, families and loved ones affected, including refugees and internally displaced people.

Unfortunately, a country in crisis is not a rare occurrence in the 21st century. We’ve all seen this in armed conflicts, widespread violence and situations of risk around the world.

New Zealand has intimately experienced climate crisis and natural disasters with Cyclone Gabrielle on our shores two weeks ago. When we declared a national state of emergency, we did so with the knowledge that we were experiencing an unprecedented weather event. One that has affected a third of our population and resulted in damage not seen for a generation.

As we mark the one year anniversary of Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine, New Zealand continues to condemn, unequivocally, Russia’s actions which have caused immense suffering. As I said in this forum last year – there is no victor in unjustified and unprovoked aggression.

In Iran, the world has witnessed the further erosion of the rights of women and girls, and violent repression of protest activity including the execution of protesters. There has also been further deterioration of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan, with the Taliban preventing girls from attending secondary school and preventing the employment of women working for NGOs. 

Ongoing violence perpetrated against civilians by Myanmar’s military regime including executions and bombings are front of mind too. The findings by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of serious human rights violations committed against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang, China also remains of deep concern.

Mr President, we stand with the peoples of these nations to speak up and defend universal human rights.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of human rights.

Seventy-five years ago we all came together to recognise the fundamental rights and the equal value of every person. The principle that human rights are universal and indivisible is just as important today as it was then. It is incumbent on all of us, every government, to do better to promote and protect human rights for all people. 

When marginalised groups have their rights realised, respected and fulfilled, our societies are stronger, safer and more prosperous.

The world is facing multiple threats and challenges. As I’ve noted, we are seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change in our Pacific region. The scale of humanitarian crises and human rights violations across the globe will continue to increase if we do not collectively fight climate change.

We are also seeing a concerted effort to systemically wind back the rights of individuals who are members of vulnerable groups, including women and girls in all their diversity, the LGBTQIA+ community, Indigenous Peoples, and persons with disabilities. 

Individuals who sit at the intersection of these marginalised groups are particularly vulnerable, and so our responses must include dedicated resourcing to address multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

Mr President, it is now more important than ever to be united.

New Zealand is proud to continue to co-lead resolutions on the rights of persons with disabilities this year with Mexico, both in this Council and in the UN General Assembly. We will also lead a Council resolution on the prevention of maternal mortality and morbidity.

These resolutions are a key indication of our international human rights priorities and our belief that the multilateral system is essential to promoting and protecting human rights across the globe.

Embracing our diversity gives us strength as an international community.

International human rights law embodies universal values: equality, respect, and accountability - they are fundamental to protecting and upholding the dignity of all people, both individually and collectively.

After all, that is why we all signed the Declaration of Human Rights all those years ago.

Thank you Mr President.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.