Tuesday, 4 February 2014

kirikiriroa human rights network and the UPR

looks like 2014 is not going to be a good year for blogging - i'm just not finding the time to write, which is a pity because i miss it.  this is the first night for a while where i haven't had a meeting or an event, along with a ton of emails or a proposal or something else.

but at least i'm seeing some progress with the work i'm doing.  the campaign for consent has been keeping me busy, and we've had some wins in the last couple of weeks.  we managed to secure funding for a project to put some messaging into student orientation packs, & tomorrow we're having a stick-a-thon to put the messaging on to 3B1 notebooks.  the local YWCA is helping out with that.  here is the thing we are sticking on:

don't know how well that will come out on the blog, but we went for positive messaging around consent.  hopefully it will make a difference.  we've also managed to do quite a bit of networking & we're hoping for some positive results around that.

one of the things i did want to write about is the universal periodic review of human rights, and i may do more on that when i have a little more time to get into the details of the recommendations.  it's a process carried out by the united nations that happens every four years.  i had the privilege of being part of a group that sent someone to present to a pre-session thing at the end of last year.  hamilton has a human rights network, a group of people who have had some training from the human rights commission to be human rights facilitators, a programme they call taku manawa.  our presentation went under the name of "kirikiriroa human rights network" and was presented by rachel o'connor.

rachel found out about the UPR while doing some further human rights training, and so, because of her enthusiasm, we were able to be part of the process.  the bulk of the work was done by her, and the whole experience has been really useful for all of us.  our presentation focused on 3 areas: racially motivated crime (the police are still not recording ethnicity data for victims of crime, so we have no idea of how much hate crime happens in nz); the impact of the mass arrival bill on racial discrimination (the political use of fear of masses of people arriving in boats to nz to change this law has been harmful, tracey barnett has written a lot about this); and the refugee resettlement quota (with a recommendation to increase numbers to allow family reunification, which is known to improve settlement outcomes for refugees).

a fourth point noted in our presentation was the need for better consultation with the public regarding the whole UPR process.  it was something that didn't receive much publicity in the lead-up & there wasn't much funding provided by the government for consultation (hardly a surprise, because that would mean people would be raising human rights issues which would make the government look bad).  hopefully, there will be more ability for people to have input when the next review comes around.

so after organisations had presented to the pre-session, a couple of weeks ago we had the minister fronting up to answer questions & we had other countries giving us their recommendations (pdf), based on largely on what was presented at the pre-session.

one of the issues that comes up with this kind of thing is that various countries with poor human rights records are giving recommendations to improve human rights in our countries.  and i bet, when i talk of these various countries, most people's minds will automatically go towards countries in asia, africa & the middle east.  there is a narrative that first world countries are superior in human rights to third world countries, and that therefore, third world countries really should have nothing to say about human rights in first world countries.

i find that really problematic for a a variety of reasons.  first, the most violent and vicious human rights abuses tend to be as a result of scarce resources, and people fighting over them.  in that process, human rights get ignored.  scarcity of resources and third world poverty can be linked to unfair global trade practices, historical loss of wealth through colonisation and current loss of wealth through invasion and occupation.  a lot of these things are as a result of actions by first world countries.  while they may have stronger human rights records within their own countries (and that is debatable), their foreign policy is rife with abuses in other countries.

more than that, human rights abuses in first world countries are often downplayed or ignored altogether.  so ireland has had a history of sexual abuse & exploitation of the labour of young women (considered "fallen"); the united states has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and a huge imbalance in the number of black men being incarcerated; australia has major issues re the aborigines and the stolen generation, land grabs and the like.  there are plenty of other examples from many other countries, including poverty & access to health care, workplace deaths etc.

the thing is that there are rarely calls for boycotts of first world countries, rarely any challenge to their rights to speak about human rights.  that is hugely problematic.

in terms of this process, the individuals who were giving their recommendations on behalf of their countries will have a good background in human rights & their recommendations will be based on the submissions.  their recommendations have value, regardless of what is happening in their home countries, and i would hope that all recommendations from all countries are given equal weight.

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