What does the growing influence of China and other emerging nations mean for human rights in our region? A Centre that will examine human rights in a changing world is being established at The University of Auckland.
The New Zealand Centre for Human Rights Law, Policy and Practice aims to build on this country's past position as a leader in human rights by placing human rights, again, at the centre of public discussion.
“We have led in the past,” says the Centre's founding director Kris Gledhill, a senior lecturer at Auckland Law School who teaches international human rights law. “New Zealand diplomats played a leading role in shaping the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and provided a Bill of Rights Act that has been replicated elsewhere.
“However, public concern about State surveillance and our growing relationship with emerging powers, amongst other issues, indicates that we may have lost the lead on human rights. Changing power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific region may also require re-evaluation of how civil and political, as well as social and economic rights are weighed.”
The Centre wants to encourage multi-disciplinary analysis while engaging civil society and policymakers at the human rights coalface, particularly Māori and Pacific Island community groups.
Students will also be actively engaged. The Centre plans to create a human rights careers hub and network to students to human rights opportunities through institutional connections and graduates working in human rights.
The Centre will also critically engage on human rights issues internationally. Chris Mahony has been hired as the Centre's Deputy Director. He has a background in international criminal justice, having worked on war crimes and crimes against humanity issues in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya and Nepal. Chris is completing his doctorate in politics at Oxford University where his research focuses on the politics of international criminal justice.
The University of Auckland and the Faculty of Law funded the centre for the first two years. Funding will be sought to keep the Centre going beyond this initial period.
• The Centre is being launched tomorrow (29 March) at a public lecture by Professor Andrew Ashworth, Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford University. In this country as the NZ Law Foundation Distinguished Visiting Fellow for 2012 he will talk about “Human rights, judges and politicians: Recent controversies in the UK and Europe” (Old Government House Lecture Theatre, 6pm). The Chief Justice, the Chief High Court Judge, the Chief District Court Judge and other judges are attending the lecture.