Press release: UN to examine New Zealand’s approach to child rights

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Minister of Social Development Anne Tolley leads a New Zealand delegation to Geneva this week to report on the nation’s children and whether their rights are being upheld.

UNICEF New Zealand Executive Director Vivien Maidaborn is also in Geneva as part of the delegation and said the child rights’ agency welcomed Minister Tolley’s attendance.

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“We support the Minister’s leadership and direct involvement in closing the gap between the Convention on the Rights of the Child and New Zealand’s patchy progress to achieve these rights, especially for Māori children.”

“Previous reviews by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) have been extremely critical of successive governments’ progress for children.”

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Ms Maidaborn went on to say this was the fifth such review from the UNCRC but only the first time a minister had led the delegation.

Non-government agencies such as UNICEF NZ, Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa are also in Geneva for the review, alongside Judge Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner.

Ms Maidaborn said that alternative reports, written by community agencies and independent advisors, ensure the UNCRC committee can ask the right questions about government’s activities.

“It’s vital that non-government agencies are in the room to monitor what government tells the UNCRC. The transparency of the process couldn’t be more vital, both for New Zealanders back home and the international community at large.”

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Save the Children, UNICEF NZ and ACYA recently supported young New Zealanders to make their views on child rights known. This resulted in a report published this week entitled Our Voices, Our Rights which will also inform questions UNCRC ask the New Zealand government in the exam.

The UNCROC Monitoring Group have felt that in the past only minimal effort has been made by government to consult with children. These consultations were often adult-led, based around specific policy purposes and didn’t include versions that were child friendly.

UNICEF New Zealand Child Rights Advocate Dr Prudence Stone said 1198 children from all around the country participated in the initiative and some of the findings were alarming.

“Thirty-eight per cent of children who participated didn’t know what their rights were. Only four children knew it was actually their right to know, and that government was responsible for ensuring they had this knowledge.”

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(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.cid.org.nz/news/un-to-examine-new-zealands-approach-to-child-rights/

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The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)… and Aotearoa/ New Zealand

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“A 2003 UNICEF report said New Zealand had the third-worst rate of abuse and neglect of children in the OECD group of developed countries and Helen Clark, the prime minister at the time the law was passed, called the country’s child abuse record “a stain on our international reputation”. (Original story here)

What successive New Zealand Governments, including that of Helen Clark, would claim is that New Zealand has a solid track record of respecting the rights of the child …

However, let’s  look at New Zealand today re child rights.

  • New Zealand has the highest rate of domestic violence in the developed world
  • Between the years of 2007 – 2010 data showed that 1 in 6 Pakeha children (white European), 1 in 4 Pacific Island children and 1in 3 Māori children were living in poverty (figures show that children in homes below the poverty line increased from 22 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2010, and had dropped back only slightly to 27 per cent by 2012). By 2015 child poverty rates were back to 2007 – 2010 highs.
  • A 2003 UNICEF report demonstrated that New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child death from maltreatment (physical abuse and neglect) among rich OECD countries. NZ ranked 25th on a league table of 27 countries with 1.2 deaths per 100,000 children
  • Over one in four NZ adults has experienced childhood trauma or abuse, family violence and/or sexual assault.

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  • NZ Police respond to one ‘family violence’ call every seven minutes. Police say that in 60% of domestic violence cases children are also being abused.
  • An international survey found that one in four New Zealand girls is sexually abused before the age of 15, the highest rate of any country examined.
  • Research shows the police only hear about 20% of all family violence incidents and 10% of sexual violence offences.
  • Rates of child abuse in New Zealand have risen by 32% in the last five years, with instances happening to children who are already in the care of the state.
  • New Zealand’s suicide rate for 15-19 year olds is one of the highest in the OECD and double that of neighbouring Australia.
  • New Zealand was called to task by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in June, 2015 for failing to adequately protect children.  The UN report heavily criticised aspects of law and government programmes which failed to address high child mortality rates, unequal access to services for Māori children and a lack of data around child abuse.

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  • In 2013-14 there were 117 children in the custody of Child, Youth and Family (CYF) reported to be abused; 88 were in the care of a CYF caregiver, 25 were formally placed with their parents but still officially in CYF custody, and five were abused while living with an unapproved caregiver or in an unapproved placement.  A 2015 report by the Children’s Commissioner slammed the government’s handling of children in State care. Principal Judge Andrew Becroft said the report was a vital piece of work. He said the Youth Court dealt with the most damaged, dysfunctional and disordered young people in New Zealand, and the overwhelming majority of them had a care and protection background. Judge Becroft said it sounded simplistic, but what the report highlighted was the need to do the care and protection work better. “So that we’re not left, for instance, with, as I understand it, 83 percent of prison inmates under 20 have a care and protection record with Child, Youth and Family.”

New Zealand ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1993, the 131st country to do so.

1-CH-Large-However, New Zealand has entered a reservation to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which reads: “Nothing in this Convention shall affect the right of the Government of New Zealand to continue to distinguish as it considers appropriate in its law and practice between persons according to the nature of their authority to be in New Zealand including but not limited to their entitlement to benefits and other protections described in the Convention, and the Government of New Zealand reserves the right to interpret and apply the Convention accordingly.”

Reservations to human rights treaties create technical difficulties that do not arise for treaties on other topics because the intended beneficiaries of obligations in human rights treaties are the people in each state, rather than the other state parties to a treaty. It is therefore more problematic to allow states to enter reservations to a human rights treaty, which allows states to modify the extent of their obligations then it would be for an ordinary treaty that has been entered into between states on a reciprocal basis. In short, when a state enters a reservation to a human rights treaty the reservation acts to diminish the rights of the people/citizens of that state.

slide_8Of particular concern are widely formulated reservations, such as that which NZ has entered to the Rights of the Child, which essentially render ineffective all Covenant rights which would require any change in national law to ensure compliance with Covenant obligations. No real international rights or obligations have thus been accepted. And when there is an absence of provisions to ensure the Covenant rights may be sued on in domestic courts, and, further, a failure to allow individual complaints to be brought to the Committee under the first Optional Protocol all the essential elements of the Covenant guarantees have been removed.

In simple terms, while New Zealand is a signatory party to the UNCRC its ratification of the Convention is little more than window dressing because New Zealand has effectively entered a clause/reservation which negates its responsibility to respect the rights of the child according to international human rights norms.

Committee’s recommendation

“In the spirit of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights in June 1993 which urged States to withdraw reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee wishes to encourage the State party to take steps to withdraw its reservations to the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee encourages New Zealand to extend the application of the Convention with respect to the territory of Tokelau.”

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Source:  http://newzealandchildabuse.com/helen-clark-ex-nz-pm-a-nominee-for-un-secretary-general-youd-have-to-be-kidding-right/

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An invitation to express our concern… 305, 000 kiwi kids now live in poverty, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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Has anyone seen these postcards around recently?   They are available in various places including churches, schools, libraries and charity-supporting organisations.  Basically the idea is that you write how you feel about recent statistics from the “NZ Child Poverty Monitor” on child poverty here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  The postcards can then be sent (Freepost) to the poverty monitor, to gauge how we kiwis feel about the situation 29% of our tamariki are currently living in.  You can also download a PDF of them (and then write your comment) by going to :

http://www.childpoverty.co.nz/

The stats are sobering.  As mentioned above, 29% of New Zealand children currently live in situations which are officially classified as “poverty”… that’s 305,000 kiwi kids and just under one third of all kiwi kids.  Back in 1984 only 15% of tamariki were classified as being in this situation… just under half of the current number.  Some more statistics are below…

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By expressing our opinions via these postcards, we can help give a voice to our most vulnerable children here in Aotearoa.  All too often we express our outrage upon hearing statistics such as these, even voicing them to others, before going back to our own lives and forgetting them. Flooding the “Child Poverty Monitor” with these postcards shows that we, the people of New Zealand, are concerned about this very important issue and it will also help keep Child Poverty in the spotlight.

I don’t believe in hiding the reality of Child Poverty in New Zealand (or anywhere else for that matter) from our children.  It doesn’t need to be pushed into their faces daily, but it is something which is having a major impact on their generation and will shape the society in which they will be adults– and not in a positive way.  From time to time my husband or I talk to  our four kids about  this and other issues shaping their world.  With regards to the postcards,  I felt it was actually quite important that our children do their own and express their views about this issue.   I would really encourage other parents to get their kids to do this– even pre-schoolers can understand the concept of poverty, if it is explained to them in an age appropriate way, and parents can write their children’s responses onto the post cards themselves if their children are too young to express themselves clearly in writing.  Pictures can “paint a thousand words” as they say too, the response could be a drawing.

Personally, I found it an interesting exercise, getting our kids to stop, think and then respond to this issue.  Of course, there is also the benefit of encouraging empathy and altruism in our children.  Anyway, I will paste our four  kids’ responses below:

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Son age 10

Son age 8

Son age 8

Son age 6

Son age 6

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Daughter age 5

My response…

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Just to clarify, where I have written “regardless of the parents’ actions”, I am meaning that children in poverty should not be judged by why their parents are living in poverty. From time to time when I speak with people about child poverty here in Aotearoa, I hear responses such as, “well, what can you expect, the parents are on drugs/ on booze/ are ‘no hopers’/ caused their own poverty/ are lazy…”.  I love the line “it’s not choice”, as it epitomises what we here at “The Forever Years” use as our guiding statement… “through the eyes of a child”.  Regardless of how a child’s family has ended up in a situation of poverty (and there are so many different cases, we cannot use blanket, judgmental statements such as those above to describe them all), the results for the child are the same… a lack of basics needed for them to thrive and consequently, less opportunity.  Surely all children, here and around the world, are entitled to an equal “starting line”.  We have the resources in both our national and global communities to make this possible– if we put it as a priority and draw awareness to it, awareness by governments and by ordinary citizens.

Have your say, New Zealand about poverty here in Aotearoa and help your children to have theirs as well… it will affect them far more than us.

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