New Zealand has a strong history of protecting and promoting human rights at home and internationally.

New Zealand’s International Human Rights Action Plan 2019-2023

Our International Human Rights Action Plan identifies where we will show global leadership and make a positive difference on global human rights issues.

The Action Plan was developed following nationwide consultation, including eight public hui and discussions with over 200 high school students to determine the human rights issues that matter most to New Zealanders. We also consulted over 12 government agencies to ensure the Action Plan aligned with domestic priorities.

New Zealand’s International Human Rights Action Plan [PDF, 351 KB]

International treaties

Atrocities committed during World War II drew the world's attention to the need for collective action on human rights. When the UN Charter was drafted in 1945, New Zealand was one of a small number of countries that successfully lobbied for human rights to be included. This led to the first comprehensive international agreement on human rights – the Universal Declaration on Human Rights – adopted in 1948.  The Declaration stated:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
From Article 1 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 1948.

The Universal Declaration has formed the basis for nine core human rights treaties. New Zealand played an important role in creating many of these treaties including chairing negotiations for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). 

New Zealand is a party to seven of the nine treaties and obliged to report regularly on our progress in implementing the provisions of each convention:

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979
  • Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment  or Punishment, 1984
  • UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
  • International Convention on Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers, 1990 (NZ is not yet party to this convention)
  • UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006
  • International Convention for the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 2010 (NZ is not yet party to this convention)

Read about these human rights treaty bodies (external link) 

Our human rights reports (external link)

MFAT’s role in human rights

We provide advice to the Government on international human rights issues.

New Zealand is an active participant in the two main human rights bodies of the UN – the Human Rights Council in Geneva and the General Assembly’s Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee in New York (known as the Third Committee).

Human rights in our region

We support countries in the Asia-Pacific region as they build their capacity to uphold human rights. This is often done by contributing to the work of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) through the New Zealand Aid Programme. The Office encourages and supports countries to develop human rights institutions, adopt national plans of action to advance human rights, and increase human rights education and awareness. MFAT monitors human rights developments in the region, advocates for the protection of human rights, and liaises with the OHCHR on progress.

Human rights issues within New Zealand are the responsibility of other government agencies.  We work with these agencies to produce New Zealand's reports on progress against each treaty, including our Universal Periodic Review report into human rights.

Universal Periodic Review — a review of our human rights record

Every five years UN member countries report to the UN Human Rights Council on their human rights situation and progress on making improvements. This is known as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR).

In New Zealand, the process is led by the Ministry of Justice and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission with support from MFAT. The public must be consulted when drafting the report. Anyone can make submissions as part of the drafting process as well as directly to the UN. More than 100 public submissions were made to the UN ahead of New Zealand’s review in 2019.

New Zealand's Universal Periodic Review 2019

Read about Universal Periodic Reviews (external link)