Twenty years after New Zealand ratified the United Nations
Convention on the Rights of the Child (Uncroc), a Unicef New
Zealand report has found 270,000 New Zealand children are
still living below the poverty line.
The United Nations convention aims to ensure every child has
a healthy, happy childhood, with enough food; access to
medical care; spending time with family and friends; being
kept safe; being listened to and treated with respect; going
to school; having a warm place to live; and being part of a
However, University of Auckland youth law specialist Robert
Ludbrook has conducted a stock-take of New Zealand's progress
in respecting children's rights, and found while there had
been some positive developments made - such as the repeal of
Section 59 of the Crimes Act, free health visits for under
6-year-olds, and the Working for Families package providing
additional income to some low income working families -
270,000 children were still living in poverty with inadequate
income or housing.
The report, titled Kids Missing Out, was launched in
Wellington on Thursday, and gave several recommendations to
the Government to help it fulfil its Uncroc obligations.
It recommended the Government create a permanent mechanism to
aid and co-ordinate Uncroc implementation; create a plan of
action that identifies where New Zealand's children's rights
are not being met and sets out what needs to be done, by who,
when and how it will be monitored; and prioritising reform of
adoption laws and raising the legal age of recognition as a
child to 18.
Mr Ludbrook said there were ''inherent weaknesses'' in
Government processes, such as poor data collection and
exclusion from decision-making which resulted in children
missing out on basic protections.
''Human rights are not just a `nice to have', they are
fundamental to achieving good outcomes for children.
''Children will be healthier, do better in school, and be
more engaged citizens when we ensure that their rights have
been met,'' Mr Ludbrook said.
Despite New Zealand's promise to uphold the rights of
children, the report found New Zealand had seen significant
increases in infectious diseases in children; high rates of
child maltreatment; children hurt while working; and children
detained in police cells and tried in the adult justice
Unicef New Zealand advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers
said although the United Nations committee on the Rights of
the Child had made repeated recommendations, New Zealand had
failed to incorporate Uncroc into its domestic law, or given
priority to addressing child poverty.
In support of the Kids Missing Out report, Unicef is
encouraging New Zealanders to sign its petition on www.change.org which urges the
Government to implement the convention.