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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“The Dunedin Study”: Early Indicators/ Risk Factors of Criminality in Our Children… and what we can do about it, By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”

Our previous article about “The Dunedin Longitudinal Study” focused on the five personality types identified by the study: “Well Adjusted”, “Confident”,”Reserved”, “Undercontrolled” and “Inhibited”.  These are divided among the population as shown in the pie chart below (with some overlaps).

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As discussed, study findings were that these personality types were fixed and could be identified in very young children.  Of the five types, “Undercontrolled” (10%) and “Inhibited” (7% of the total population) were the two conducive to what was called a “negative life outcome”, that is causing great angst, anxiety and unhappiness to both those with the personality type and to those around them.

“Inhibited”individuals tend to be overcome by shyness and social awkwardness to the point where they “hide from the world” and frequently struggle to complete High School, gain tertiary qualifications, maintain jobs or enter into (let alone maintain) relationships.  In general, “Inhibited”individuals are not, however, a “threat to society” and their personality trait, while harmful to themselves and concerning for those who love them, is not “dangerous”.

David Gray

David Gray

We say “in general”, because there are cases of such individuals “coming out of their shells” (as they are frequently hermits or recluses) and becoming violent, such as in the case of David Gray, who killed 13 people in the well-known Aramoana Massacre near Dunedin, New Zealand in 1990.

This article focuses on the 10% of the population classified as “Undercontrolled”, because these individuals have been shown to have the greatest tendency towards life outcomes which present not only  as negative for themselves, but frequently as criminal and violent.

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Nature vs Nurture

Before going on to look at the “Undercontrolled” group in more detail, however, we at “The Forever Years” would also like to re-emphasise that, while the personality types are fixed, according to “The Dunedin Study”, whether or not those young children who present as”Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited”manifest a “negative life outcome” is hugely dependent on nurture (and we will discuss the nurturing of “Undercontrolled” children, in particular, in more detail below) as well as on “Self Control” (which is itself unfixed and can be strengthened with nurture, and which we will discuss in a later article).  Nature loads the gun, but nurture decides whether or not the trigger is pulled.

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A homeless man

Study Director Professor Richie Poulton says that one of the biggest reasons for the credibility of “The Dunedin Study” findings (and part of the reason it is now an internationally recognised “gold standard” in human development), is that for more than 40 years 96% of the original participants (all born in 1972-3 in Dunedin, New Zealand) have remained involved.  Poulton says that these people range across all social strata, from top government employees and professionals through to the homeless, incarcerated, or those in institutional care.

downloadStudy findings showed that children identified as being in the “Undercontrolled” group for personality were frequently in trouble with the law by the time they reached their teenage years.  A pattern of criminality continued, often accelerating until they ended up being incarcerated for long periods of time, for more serious crimes, at some point before their thirties.  Five percent of individuals, the study discovered, were responsible for 50% of society’s crimes.  These individuals were also, mostly, males– as was identified when they were three years old.

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Map showing the location of Pittsburgh in the USA

Because of concerns expressed that these may be “Dunedin only” statistics and that they perhaps applied only to this particular group of people born in the early 1970s, Dr. Terrie Moffat, Associate Director of “The Dunedin Study”, decided to do the experiment with boys growing up in inner-city Pittsburgh, in the USA.  These young men were living  thousands of miles away from New Zealand, were born in a different era and were of a different ethnic makeup (half of the Pittsburgh participants were African American). Findings in the Pittsburgh study were, however, always exactly parallel to those in “The Dunedin Study”: 50% of crimes were perpetrated by 5% of males and the most delinquent boys came from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds.  These findings demonstrate that there are fundamental truths (personality type, social background… nature plus nurture, if you like) driving all human behaviour, regardless of nationality or ethnic background.

Lower socioeconomic area in urban Pittsburgh

Lower socioeconomic area in urban Pittsburgh (Source: Google images)

There only differences between “The Dunedin Study” and the Pittsburgh study were in homicide and suicide.  While assault rates tended to be identical in both cities, homicide rates were higher in Pittsburgh.  This followed through from the easier access to lethal weapons for youth in the USA, which converted what would otherwise have been assaults into homicides.  The youth suicide rate was shown to be higher in Dunedin, which researchers believe may be due to a down turn in the New Zealand economy at the time when study members were leaving school and seeking out employment.  Overall, a comparison of the studies undertaken in Dunedin and Pittsburgh, as well as other similar studies of youth in various developed nations around the globe, indicates that concerns about “The Dunedin Study” findings not being relevant elsewhere can now be conclusively ruled out.  These findings, moreover, led to “The Dunedin Study” being awarded the Stockholm Prize for research into criminality  in 2007 and the Jacob Prize for groundbreaking research into youth offending in 2010.

When thinking in particular about children who present with the “Undercontrolled” personality type then, what practical measures will best help in improving possible “life outcomes”?  Some of these are summarised below:

  •  “Early intervention” (meaning protection from abuse or neglect) for identified vulnerable children.  Children with a  personality type identified as being “Undercontrolled” who are were also victims of abuse or neglect were highly likely to become involved in criminal behaviour as teenagers or adults, according to study findings.  The earlier the intervention the better.
  •  Support for those identified as “Undercontrolled” in personality type, as well as for their parents, carers and educators.  This would involve setting boundaries and developing the all-important quality of Self Control, which unlike personality type, is not fixed.  We will discuss the importance of Self Control in a later article.
  • Kids doing Karate (Source: Google images).

    Kids doing Karate (Source: Google images).

    Practical “outlets” for “Undercontrolled” children to develop self-discipline and self-regulation skills… particularly in “Undercontrolled” males, sports and / or martial arts were shown to be helpful.

  • Socialisation goals and monitoring for depression in “Inhibited” children, who tend to “retreat into themselves” during their teens if not adequately supported.  Socialisation goals can include “challenges” such as camping trips, overseas experiences for teens and group activities, whilst balancing this with a respect for the reserved nature of these children, but hopefully resulting in them developing into “Reserved” rather than “Inhibited” individuals, in terms of personality type.

    Kids camping.  Source: Google images.

    Kids camping. Source: Google images.

  • Investment by governments in Early Childhood Education in particular, but also in education at all levels.
  • A raising of awareness among parents, carers and educators of the different personality types and how each type is best nurtured, especially the “at risk” personality types (“Undercontrolled” and “Inhibited” ).  This would include emphasising the importance of structure, routine and predictability for the “at risk” group of children, who tend not to thrive when circumstances are changeable or random.

Professor James Heckman, at the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Chicago says, “if we understand what makes people ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’, then we have a powerful new tool for tackling major social issues.”  Heckman says that in areas such as criminology, health and education problems have traditionally been treated “as they appear”, but now we can identify “at risk” individuals very early on… and hopefully apply study findings into real life applications which will alter these life trajectories… and, in doing so, also be immensely beneficial not only to these individuals, but also to society as a whole.

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World Day Against Child Labour

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It’s World Day Against Child Labour (June 12th)! This year’s theme is “End child labour in supply chains – It’s everyone’s business!” You can check for the existence of child labour in the supply chains of products you use with the US Department of Labor’s “Sweat & Toil” app or via its “List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor.” Share what you find!  https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/

This website (at the link above) also has many other interesting, more detailed facts about the child labour and forced child labour used in the countries mentioned in the list, which is below.  Share this information.  All the children of the world are “our” children, all children deserve a childhood, an education and to be free from exploitation.

Link to a previous post on “The Forever Years” about Child Labour:  https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/2268/

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Jainal works in silver cooking pot factory in India. He is 11 years old. He has been working in this factory for three years. Source: http://kalyan-city.blogspot.co.nz/2009/07/child-labour-in-india-still-prevalent.html

Globally, as many as 168 million children between ages 5-17 are child labourers, with 85 million in hazardous child labour – forced labour, trafficking and bonded labour.(1) Children who work are often separated from their families, exposed to dangerous substances, harsh working conditions and higher risk of mistreatment, violence, physical and psychological abuse.(2) Child domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, forced labour and sexual violence and many children face potential health consequences, including respiratory ailments, joint problems, loss of hearing and vision, poisoning(3) and sexually transmitted diseases.(4)  Many child labourers never go to school or drop out. Lack of access to education perpetuates a cycle of exploitation, illiteracy and poverty – limiting future options and forcing children to accept low wage work as adults and to raise their own children in poverty. Despite these consequences, there are still 46 countries(5) that do not legally protect children under the age of 18 from performing hazardous work. [Source: http://www.aworldatschool.org/issues/topics/Child-labour]

Thanks to Plan International NZ for drawing attention to this list via Facebook.  🙂

Links to Plan International and US Department of Labor’s List below…

https://www.childfund.org.nz/about-us?gclid=Cj0KEQjws_m6BRCv37WbtNmJs-IBEiQAWKKt0J_OzUBaKK9-MBLPJN4XDaYicAxtUz1MojlUjEX4CgUaAhK28P8HAQ

https://www.facebook.com/freefromviolence/?fref=nf&pnref=story

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Source:  https://www.dol.gov/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods/

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A Tribute to Judy Blume (via the blog “A Mighty Girl”): Free Expression and the Freedom to Read, for Kids as well as for Adults!

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For over forty years, author Judy Blume has stood up for free expression and the freedom to read. The beloved author of many Mighty Girl favorites such as “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret”, “Deenie”, and “Tiger Eyes,” the 78-year-old Blume has been writing children’s and young adult fiction for decades. But what her many young fans rarely realize is that her frank discussion of topics like religion, puberty, and sexuality in these books — the same honesty that makes them so appealing to young readers — has made her one of the most frequently challenged children’s authors.

Even as a relatively new author, though, instead of bowing to the criticisms, Blume persisted in writing openly and honestly about issues affecting young people — and speaking up for authors, teachers, librarians, and others who face disapproval, insults, and even the loss of jobs and careers because they refuse to remove books from the hands of young readers. As such, she has become a champion for children’s freedom to read — and authors’ freedom to write — about topics that some find controversial.

In our blog tribute to Judy Blume, we honor her both as an author of many beloved Mighty Girl books and as a determined and forceful voice against censorship and book banning. In a time when Blume’s books still face frequent challenges, her experiences combating censorship — and her powerful words about the value of making complex and daring books accessible to kids — are more important than ever.

To read our blog post, “Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written'”: Judy Blume’s Fight Against Censorship,” visit http://www.amightygirl.com/blog/?p=7425

To learn more about Mighty Girl books that have been challenged or banned — including the reasons behind the bans — check out our blog post “Dangerous Words: Challenged and Banned Mighty Girl Books” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=4611

For a wide selection of Judy Blume’s much beloved young adult novels, visit our “Judy Blume Collection” at http://bit.ly/1vmwFMN

And, to introduce children to the woman behind these famous books, check out the recently released biography for ages 7 to 10, “Judy Blume: Are You There, Reader? It’s Me, Judy!” at http://www.amightygirl.com/broke-the-rules-judy-blume

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GOVERNMENT NOT PREPARED TO ACT AGAINST PAEDOPHILES « LiveNews.co.nz

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The Prime Minister claims to have the interests of victims at heart, while defending name suppression of paedophiles, says New Zealand First.

“He is not prepared to support a law change that would give victims the right to request removal of name suppression of an attacker,” says New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“Two sexual assault victims, Anne-Marie Forsyth and Karen Beaumont, have battled for years in court, and have had their name suppression orders lifted in an attempt to expose their attacker, but Mr Key offers them no support.

“They have lived with the horror of the attacks when they were children for decades and believe the attacker should be named, saying he could be anyone’s neighbour and must be identified for the sake of the community. There’s nothing to stop the convicted paedophile from becoming a children’s sports coach.

“New Zealand First’s Criminal Procedure (Removing Paedophile Name Suppression) Amendment Bill is awaiting selection from the members’ ballot.

“We challenged Mr Key to pull it from the ballot today and introduce it into Parliament. He refused.

“There is no substance to his statement in Parliament that he sees victims’ rights as more important than the rights of attackers,” says Mr Peters.

Criminal Procedure (Removing Paedophile Name Suppression) Amendment Bill
Contact: Judith Hughey, 021 979502

– See more at: http://livenews.co.nz/2015/10/23/government-not-prepared-to-act-against-paedophiles/#sthash.aWwfJFTl.dpuf

Source: GOVERNMENT NOT PREPARED TO ACT AGAINST PAEDOPHILES « LiveNews.co.nz

Source: New Zealand First – Press Release/Statement

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland

21 OCTOBER 2015

See also:

http://sst.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SST_Newsletter_May2014.pdf

http://www.protectthatchildproject.co.nz/