(03) The Human Rights Commission's role

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The Human Rights Commission’s role

Since the February 2011 earthquake, the Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has focused on contributing to the recovery effort using a human rights framework. As New Zealand’s national human rights institution, the Commission has a unique and necessary role in raising awareness and understanding of human rights for everyone in New Zealand. The Commission advocates for fairness and inclusion being embedded in the rebuild and recovery process. Long-term this will help the people of Canterbury sustain a strong future.

In its work relating to the recovery, the Commission takes a pragmatic, proactive and practical approach to ensure that systemic issues, which have the potential to impact negatively on human rights, can be addressed. The Commission has been working with the people and communities of Canterbury, local and central government, Tangata Whenua, business and non-government organisations to ensure that:

  • the impacts of the earthquakes on vulnerable and affected people are heard and their dignity respected
  • the recovery goal to make Christchurch the world’s most accessible city is achieved
  • that rights, such as the rights to health and housing, are realised and not compromised by uncertainty or unnecessary delay, ensuring people have access to a safe and warm home and can maintain connections to their community.

The wider scope of the Commission’s earthquake recovery-related work includes: receiving and responding to complaints about broader human rights matters around the recovery process; proactive community engagement and human rights education with civil society, non-government and government agencies; the preparation of submissions on government policy about the recovery; and intervening in human rights matters before the courts.

The Commission strongly believes that a people-centred earthquake recovery process, one that involves people affected by the earthquakes in problem identification, solution design and decision-making, will lead to better outcomes, including human rights outcomes in Canterbury. The Commission is committed to working with government and civil society to help make this happen. It will continue to monitor human rights in Canterbury and work with agencies to help ensure that respect for human rights is a core factor underpinning recovery efforts.

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