New Zealand’s Commitment To Indigenous Rights Under International Spotlight – Human Rights Commission

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Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission travels to the 17th annual session of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) 2024 in Geneva this week.

Tatau Urutahi shared leader, Julia Whaipooti will express concerns to the UN body that New Zealand is backsliding on its Te Tiriti and international human rights obligations regarding Indigenous peoples. Whaipooti will deliver statements to the expert mechanism, engage with other Indigenous rights experts, and support the National Iwi Chairs Forum’s Aotearoa Independent Monitoring Mechanism, which delivers its tenth annual monitoring report for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Whaipooti returns to the UN for the first time since attending in 2018 in a different role. Then she spoke to the panel about over-incarceration of Māori and the proposed Waikeria mega prison. “The issues I highlighted then, remain now,” says Whaipooti. “We’re perceived internationally as leaders in Indigenous rights. However, the lack of any legislative recognition of the Declaration, and the very limited legal protections for Te Tiriti o Waitangi mean that Māori rights are extremely vulnerable.”

Statements delivered by the Commission this week will outline the impact of the Government’s extensive law reform programme, including the disestablishment of a Māori health authority, attempts to repeal legislative protections for Māori representation in local government, and a proposed Treaty Principles Bill.

A country visit by the EMRIP to Aotearoa will take place later in 2024, when the UN Experts will examine for themselves how well New Zealand is meeting its international obligations and will provide advice. The forthcoming visit provides an important opportunity for a discussion about New Zealand’s international human rights obligations in relation to Indigenous peoples, and to raise awareness of the fact that these fundamental human rights are not optional.

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