Request by New Zealand Human Rights outsider to appear before UN committee

Request by New Zealand Human Rights outsider to appear before UN Committee.

Anthony Ravlich
Human Rights Council Inc (New Zealand)
10D/15 City Rd.
Auckland City
New Zealand
Ph: (0064) (09) 940 9658

Dear Wan-Hea Lee (Secretary of the Committee),

RE: New Zealand – UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 46th Session, 23 to 27 May.

I consider it would be very important for New Zealand that I have the opportunity to, in person, explain to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights the terrible social consequences of the human rights omissions in our human rights law, including economic, social and cultural rights.

The purpose of the omissions, in my view, is to privilege the Pakeha/Maori ‘tribal’ elite partnership under the Treaty of Waitangi and create a ‘tribal New Zealand’ albeit supported by existing Corporations. Essentially it is human rights for elites, chosen largely according to birth than merit, not people as a whole. This was a time when New Zealand lost its human rights innocence as evidenced by the New Zealand Tragedy at the bottom of the social scale (see below) and born out by the terrible social statistics.

Is there a way that such a face-to-face meeting could be arranged as our council is unfunded? Also I am interested to know the contact details of the country rapporteur.

My book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’ (Lexington Books) is recommended on the UN website I have been a human rights activist and writer since 1991 promoting the universal declaration of human rights. For many years I was virtually alone in the community promoting economic, social and cultural rights. I have lived in poverty throughout. I do not compromise my ethical approach. Although I am an outsider in the domestic and international human rights establishment I maintain a good relationship with the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. I am well known to Rosslyn Noonan, the Chief Human Rights Commissioner and my major supporter over the years has been Noam Chomsky.

I am presently writing an article which lists all the omissions in our human rights law and the terrible social consequences. I hope to have this completed by your deadline of the 26 April 2011. This article follows from our council’s submission to the UN Human Rights Committee in March 2010 New Zealand: Freedom from our social prisons requires a rights revolution, Infoshop News, March 16, 2010

While the UN Human Rights Committee have expressed considerable concern about the human rights omissions in our New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (see concluding observations and summary records of the committee since 1993) asking New Zealand to include them on three occasions since 1990 they did not analyze the omissions which reveal the intention to create a ‘tribal’ society i.e. curbing any ‘bottom-up’ economic and social development - yet without it how are increasing levels of needless suffering to be addressed. It is even worse for Maori because of their tribal connections. It is well known few Maori run small businesses so in times of high unemployment how can they aspire above criminality, drug taking etc.

But the UN Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights really needs to know about, what I describe as, the New Zealand Tragedy that occurred at the bottom of the social scale over a period of 20 years. I was part of this and therefore a first-hand witness. I described this major tragedy in my appearance in the Auckland High Court last June after making a stand on principle. High Court Justice Lyn Stevens (who is now on the Appeal Court) was prompted on viewing the terrible social statistics to ask me why I had not informed New Zealand society earlier (see my submission, ‘Freedom is not an impossible Dream’, to the Auckland High Court,, also contains a summary of social statistics ).

In my view, these individuals at the bottom of the social scale were subjected to a cruel social class discrimination virtually non-stop over a period of 20 years. This group also contained many ‘tall poppies’ from all social classes (it is estimated that between 700,000 to one million New Zealanders out of a population of 4.3 million live overseas – called the ‘brain drain’. This was, in my view, to ensure unquestioning obedience in the new ‘tribal New Zealand).
These people were socially isolated, unable to help themselves and, for many, their holistic development severely crushed. It has resulted in high levels of criminal violence, drug taking and mental illness (seemingly anticipated by the bill of rights which contains many rights protecting the criminal). I am convinced that no witness was meant to survive with their sanity intact and able to articulate what happened. So these individuals were to be incapable of any unified, higher level, political resistance as seen in recent times in Europe and the Middle East.
New Zealand is often admired internationally for its non-nuclear stance but this action was a despicable and very cruel way of ensuring a political peace in this country. However, there is now much talk of further arming the police to deal with the increase in criminal violence. I will be seeking some form of compensation for the people discriminated against. But I am concerned to see that those children now suffering ‘staggering levels’ of child abuse are informed about what their parents were put through by the State.

Committee expert Maria Herczog, UN rapporteur for New Zealand on children's rights, said that infant and child mortality rates remained "staggering"…. that twenty percent of New Zealand children lived in poverty, and the high rate of Maori and Pacific poverty was of particular concern….that New Zealand lacked "an overarching comprehensive child policy" that integrated the Convention on the Rights of the Child into legislation and strategy frameworks ( Infant and child mortality rates remained "staggering" despite policies to tackle the issue, NZPA, Fri, 28 Jan 2011). The downgrading of children is reflected in the exclusion of children’s rights in this ‘tribally’ inspired bill of rights where no future is envisaged so children are of little relevance.

The architect of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 was Sir Geoffrey Palmer made Prime Minister for two years from August 1989 until September 1990 primarily to enact the bill. He should, in my view, take some responsibility for the terrible social consequences although it is far more important to focus on including the omitted rights.

New Zealanders were very unlikely to know about the omissions (although, in my view, a number must have had some awareness that something sinister was taking place). The NZ Human Rights Commission have stated that although they have a responsibility to educate New Zealanders in human rights (Section 5(a) of the NZ Human Rights Act 1993) it has never been funded. The commission is now wanting to see some of the omissions included i.e. ‘equal rights’, children’s rights, and also the inclusion of non-discrimination on the grounds of social origin (social status at birth) is considered important (see Human Rights in New Zealand 2010, New Zealand Human Rights Commission, They have also devised a New Zealand Plan of Action for Human Rights which include economic, social and cultural rights. Also as with social origin it is also important to include non-discrimination on the ground of birth (which includes descent, family lineage or Whakapapa). Maori, and now also Pakeha, as found in tribal type societies with a depleted independent sector, have a considerable fear of social isolation and need to be able to appeal to higher law to gain greater justice especially now that many Maori are looking for their share of the treaty settlements.
In my view, many of the Maori begging on the streets of New Zealand have been subjected to social class discrimination from both Pakeha and Maori cultures and, from my experience, they would have stood no chance. There is much anecdotal evidence that many Maori in Australia, away from tribal influences, do very well.
The NZ middle classes, most particularly the ‘tribal’ left, mainstream NZ and beneficiaries/underclass are, in my view, all seriously socially disconnected from each other. The relative rather than universal approach of the State to human rights is reflected throughout society – in fact, in my experience, nearly all these collective/groups are only interested in the human rights that affect them (except the human rights commission recommending the inclusion of some omitted rights) and none will discuss the omissions. This, together with high levels of needless suffering, makes Article 29 (1) particularly important. It states: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible”. Such duties should, in my view, apply to all collectives and the corporations and should entail respect for the human rights of others, including being prepared to listen to other human rights truths as well as inform the public of important truths necessary in a democratic society.

In my view, there are serious deficiencies in the interpretation of the universal declaration of human rights at the United Nations (e.g..the failure to properly recognize and ensure self-help rights which indirectly condones States creating dependent populations against the wishes of their people - see above book). These deficiencies were exploited by the New Zealand elites because the omissions in the bill of rights were unnecessary particularly because these civil and political rights have long been supported by the West.

I consider that economic, social and cultural rights should also be included in the bill of rights to ensure, in part, no repeat of the New Zealand Tragedy. The underclass was first created in New Zealand in April 1991 with major benefit cuts only one year after the enactment of the bill of rights but because economic, social and cultural rights were not included they could not be challenged e.g. using the right to an adequate standard of living – but also civil and political rights excluded ‘equal rights’ and non-discrimination on the grounds of social origin (also ‘no other status’ and socio-economic discrimination) preventing any challenge on those grounds.
In my view, the inclusion of these economic, social and cultural rights in the bill of rights should require a decision of the people after a sufficient period of human rights education. New Zealand made a virtual ‘promise’ when it headed one of its reports to the UN Human Rights Committee last March: “Delegation: “We are Determined, as a Country, to Make Human Rights Relevant in the Daily Lives of New Zealanders and of Citizens around the World”.

My book describes an ethical approach to human rights which leads to an ethical approach to development and an ethical globalization (which I consider not only proves there is an alternative to neo liberalism (TINA) but promises much more in terms of addressing needless suffering and decreasing internal and international conflict because the emphasis is on the powerless rather than the powerful). I will describe this in more detail in my future article. It ensures human rights are for all not just elites.
This ethical approach was originally adopted by a ‘minor, minor party’ the Human Rights Party in New Zealand but it has now also been adopted by a more organized, emerging party, the Republic Party of New Zealand, as its ethical base. It intends to stand 5 candidates in the North Island and one in the South Island. From past experience (see the end of the above submission, ‘Freedom is not an impossible dream’ – the mainstream media at the court made no mention of the New Zealand tragedy) it is very unlikely that the mainstream media will inform the public of the ethical platforms of these parties in which case New Zealand is looking at a loss not only of its human rights legitimacy but also democratic legitimacy. The left wing uses human rights to legitimize actions while the right wing favors democratic legitimacy. The national elections are planned for November 2011.

However, New Zealand is not without hope because the omitted human rights are now known and because the massive rebuilding following the Christchurch earthquakes and the leaky homes debacle (this certainly requires investigation, in my view, given that it was at a time mediocrity rather than high levels of excellence was preferred) will ensure a greater emphasis on the individual and the ‘bottom-up’ independent sector. Hopefully the refocus on the individual will counter the ‘discriminatory collectivism’ of the tribal elites – this is the view that apart from the social status of the group ‘the collective is everything and the individual is nothing or merely a number’. In my experience, such ‘extreme negativity’, including an obsession with safety (e.g. ‘unsafe’ truths relegated to the margins and opposition to economic and social development) has pervaded the social fabric creating a dependent, timid population.
However, as terrible as the earthquakes were many of the people aiming to rebuild will grow in character, overcome their fears and, hopefully, be strong enough to defend themselves against such ‘extreme negativity’ in the future and save freedom.
In human rights, individuals are ‘persons’ capable of reaching the ‘free and full development of his/her personality’ (Article 29(1), UDHR) and ‘realizing’ higher levels of economic, social and cultural rights (Article 22, UDHR) i.e. they are holistic beings with gifts and talents which they can use for the benefit of human kind as can natural resources. A balanced approach to development could well prove more responsible.
However, any individualistic approach in future should ensure ‘equal rights’ i.e. it is unacceptable for inequality to reach such an extent to deprive any individual or group of their core minimum human rights (broadly defined to include self-help rights). And there should be no grounds of discrimination permitted.