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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2009

UNGA Third Committee, Item 69 b  Human Rights Questions

Statement by NZ Permanent Representative Ambassador Jim McLay, 27 October 2009

New Zealand speaks today to reaffirm its commitment to the freedom and equality of all human beings, as embodied in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As one of the world’s oldest democracies, New Zealand has dedicated itself to the task of building a truly free and equal society, where all individuals and communities are free to live to their full potential.  

That enterprise is ongoing; and is as complex as it is important; and so, we value the contribution and partnership of the international community.

Since the adoption of the Declaration, all member States have freely entered into obligations to promote and protect of the human rights of their people.  

And, in the decades since the adoption of the Universal Declaration, international attention has contributed improvements in many human rights situations around the world.    

New Zealand therefore welcomed the opportunity to participate, this year, in the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review process.

In addition to that UPR process, this General Assembly has an important role to play in monitoring and highlighting human rights abuses.   

Speaking out to express collective concerns can give hope to the many who have been silenced; and taking action on those situations, here in the United Nations – exposing them to international scrutiny - can sometimes give substance to that hope. 

And so, today, I express the views of my government on just some of the most serious human rights situations around the world, where dialogue and cooperation have so far failed to yield results on the ground. 

Time prevents a focus on every human rights problem, but, without being selective and acknowledging cultural and other differences, some are of particular concern to New Zealanders.

Mr Chair:

The self-imposed, international isolation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has only exacerbated the human rights and humanitarian situation of its long-suffering people.  

Every year, evidence mounts of systematic, widespread and grave violations: public executions, torture, cruel and inhumane detention, prevention of freedom of expression, and denial of the right to travel – even denial of adequate food. 

We call on the DPRK to allow access to the UN Special Rapporteur on the DPRK as an essential first step in establishing a dialogue with the international community. 

New Zealand will continue to do what it can to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable by providing humanitarian assistance through UN agencies and the International Red Cross, and will do so without political conditions.

On a positive note, New Zealand welcomes the establishment of ASEAN’s Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights as a potential step in the right direction.

In that region, New Zealand closely follows the poor human rights situation in Myanmar, including restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly, as well as discrimination against ethnic minorities. 

We urge Myanmar to ensure that next year's elections are free, transparent and inclusive, and call for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate and unconditional release – indeed, for the release of all political prisoners. 

While we welcome the access provided to the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Myanmar, we believe it is now time for the international community to see that tangible steps result from that high-level dialogue.  

The ongoing human rights situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is deeply worrying. 

New Zealand supports calls for greater protection of civilians, and for an immediate end to all violence, all rocket attacks, and settlement building. 

The ultimate goal must be a return to negotiations directed towards a two-state solution – Israel and Palestine, living and cooperating, side-by-side, in peace and security. 

Most immediately, we join others in calling for easing border and movement restrictions into Gaza to allow entry of essential goods.  

We accept that the issues raised in the Goldstone report require serious consideration, and we reiterate our call that all parties – and by that we really mean all parties – should urgently undertake independent investigations into the human rights and other issues in the lead-up to and during the Gaza war.

New Zealand is concerned at human rights violations following Iran's June presidential election.

Likewise, it is unacceptable that Iran carries out discriminatory policies against ethnic and religious minorities, including the Baha’I; and the application of the juvenile death penalty - contrary to international law - is particularly distressing to my government.

The rights of women is an issue of enduring priority for New Zealand. 

In its 30th anniversary year, we can and must do more towards fulfilling the objectives of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. 

New Zealand has continuing reservations about Afghanistan’s Shia Personal Status Law.  

While we acknowledge recent amendments to that law, we urge that more work be done to ensure that this and other legislation are consistent with Afghanistan's commitments under the Convention.

New Zealand was one of those countries that cautiously welcomed Zimbabwe’s power sharing agreement between the MDC and ZANU-PF.

We are concerned at the slow progress of political reform and call on all parties to adhere to the spirit and substance of the Global Political Agreement. 

The need for a government committed to political and economic reform, human rights and the rule of law has never been greater.

As a longstanding friend of the people of Fiji, we are deeply concerned at the deteriorating human rights situation in that country. 

Since the overthrow of the elected government in 2007, Fiji’s military regime has revoked the Constitution, censored the media, targeted church and indigenous leaders, restricted freedom of expression, association, and assembly, and seriously undermined the independence of the judiciary. 

We reiterate the calls made by Fiji’s friends and neighbours in the Pacific Islands Forum, and also in the Commonwealth, to return to dialogue with the international community and to hold early and free elections.

Mr Chair:

The United Nations was established, in part, in response to the genocide, the crimes against humanity, and the humanitarian abuses of the preceding years. 

In 1948, member States declared that: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.  

New Zealand is proud to have included its name in that original Declaration; and is equally proud of its human rights record since then; but is under no illusions as to the extent of the task still at hand. 

In the 61 years since the Declaration was adopted, New Zealand has remained firmly committed to its ideals, both domestically and internationally; and here, today, it reaffirms that commitment.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT