Delivered by Craig Hawke, Permanent Representative of the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations, New York - 6 October 2020

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa, ka nui te honore, ki te mihi, ki a koutou (Distinguished guests. It is a great honour to greet you all at this important event today)

Madam Chair,

I would like to take this opportunity to extend New Zealand’s congratulations on your election as Chair of the Committee. You and the Bureau can rely on New Zealand’s support throughout the Committee’s session.

Our world has been turned upside down by COVID-19.  These are extraordinary times that demand and require an extraordinary collective response.

We are seeing significant health and economic responses to the pandemic. We need to ensure that in framing responses to the crisis, Member States do not derogate from their human rights obligations. Effective responses must be inclusive of, and aligned with, human rights commitments – nationally, regionally, and globally.

In attempting to contain the COVID-19 health crisis, many governments, including New Zealand, imposed a range of temporary measures that restricted civil liberties: for example restricting gatherings and controlling peoples’ movement.

New Zealand is deeply concerned by efforts by some states to use these responses to the pandemic to improperly curtail or prescribe the right of citizens.

All states should be transparent in their pandemic response measures and demonstrate their relevance to public health.

Measures must be temporary, and are only justified where they are necessary and proportionate in light of the circumstances. Measures must not be used as a pretext for infringing human rights.

This is not the time to step away from our commitments to human rights. As the world responds to COVID-19, we must collectively work together to protect our people and their rights.

The data on the impact of the pandemic is sobering. COVID19 has not impacted us all equally. Women, children, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, LGBTIQ+ persons, older persons, and people belonging to other minority groups are disproportionally impacted, both by the pandemic and the responses to it.

The data show greater rates of domestic violence, greater mortality and other health risks, and greater economic insecurity for all these groups. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on injustice, inequalities and racism within our societies. It has heightened social stigma and discrimination against people of particular ethnic backgrounds.

This is a tragedy that we must urgently address.

All around the world, we have seen many examples of people raising their voices, gathering peacefully, and participating in the conduct of public affairs to protest these issues of injustice.

Troublingly we have also seen instances of peaceful public assembly met with repression, including through the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement, arbitrary arrests and detention of protesters, as well as Internet shutdowns.

New Zealand is concerned by these instances. We believe governments need to do more to respond to peaceful protest with empathy and a listening ear.

New Zealand is a country still addressing the legacy of its colonial past. Though progress is being made, inequalities persist in our society.  We are still striving for the partnership our founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, envisaged between Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand and the Crown.

History shows that there is power in the search for shared solutions. In response to COVID-19, indigenous-led initiatives have enabled better outcomes for Māori in New Zealand.

Recognising the diversity of society, embracing the differences, and learning from experience will contribute to more sustainable and inclusive decision - and policy - making processes.

It is with this in mind that New Zealand is committed to building an inclusive society for all: where diversity is valued; everyone feels safe and their human rights are respected.

Madam chair,

As we begin our work in the Third Committee we must stand ready to listen to each other, respect all human rights equally and work together for a better future for all.