New Zealand Law Society - Poverty a human rights issue, says new Commissioner

Poverty a human rights issue, says new Commissioner

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Poverty is simply a human rights issue, the new Chief Human Rights Commissioner has said.

"Almost 30% of New Zealand children live in households whose income falls below the income poverty line," Mr Hunt said at his welcoming Pōwhiri in Wellington on 24 January.

"We need to start viewing poverty as an intolerable injustice. At the same time, we need to recognise that by taking a human rights approach to issues such as poverty, we can more effectively address them.”

Photo of Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt speaks at his Pōwhiri.

Mr Hunt said a human rights approach helps ensure the most vulnerable are not overlooked or forgotten when developing solutions. It also ensures those living in poverty are actively involved in developing ways of reducing and eliminating poverty.

“The disabled community has a mantra, ‘Nothing about us, without us’, which is also relevant to other disadvantaged groups,” Mr Hunt said.

A human rights approach would also ensure constructive independent accountability for government initiatives such as those aimed at poverty reduction and elimination.

“Such accountability means not punishing people if initiatives don’t work but urgently identifying what would work better,” said Mr Hunt.

“Human rights place the well-being, dignity and equality of individuals and communities at the centre of all law, policy and practice."

Mr Hunt said he would be advocating for the Government to take a human rights approach as it rolled out its reform agenda, consistent with New Zealand’s national and international human rights commitments.