Community Scoop

Global, ethical human rights culture to rebuild Christchurch

Opinion – Anthony Ravlich

In my forthcoming book I will show how the ethical approach to human rights (see description below) enables people to help themselves rather than remaining in a state of dependency (although necessary at times). Global, ethical human rights culture to rebuild Christchurch
Anthony Ravlich
Human Rights Council (New Zealand)
10D/15 City Rd.,
Auckland City
Ph: (0064) (09) 940 9658
Letter to Emma Twaddell, Chairperson, St Alban’s Community Centre.

Dear Emma,

In my forthcoming book I will show how the ethical approach to human rights (see description below) enables people to help themselves rather than remaining in a state of dependency (although necessary at times).

The relevance of the ethical approach to human rights may not be entirely clear to the residents at present as they are having to deal with so many pressing immediate issues.

However, it is important to be aware of the human rights omissions should you find that human rights are acting contrary to the wishes of the residents (although this also may not always be clear – people are always distracted by being told it is the money rather than the State ideology yet when one looks at other countries i.e. communist, socialist, Islamic etc. it is much more clear).

In my view, the omitted human rights mean that helping oneself is often extremely difficult in New Zealand as evidenced by the mass exodus from the country.

And, in my experience, people are being encouraged to be dependent on the State (and, initially, at least, again in my experience, few ever want this for themselves). Although the latter is at the level of survival only there are strong indications that those who struggle to achieve are being penalized.

This suppression of hope is, in my view, to rid the country of “unsafe” independent minds who might challenge the hegemony of the domestic and global bureaucratic elites.

The dream of a new city could be achieved within a self-help, entrepreneurial /global ethical human rights culture which would seem to me to be essential if Christchurch is to take advantage of all opportunities to progress. I visited Christchurch twice – after both the major earthquakes – as I was concerned that rebuilding may be stifled by bureaucratic red tape.

Affirmative action (permitted by the bill of rights) should apply, where it is meant to apply, to the most disadvantaged (including those small economic and social entrepreneurs who could best help the rest) rather than those Maori and women higher on the social scale as is the case at present. Consequently, many could be helped to help themselves.
This approach can be extended to the whole country and even the world (see below).

The ethical approach would require all the omitted human rights to be included in the NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990 ensuring that all had, at the very least, their core minimums of such rights [Amnesty International (US) want all the omitted rights included while the NZ Human Rights Commission recommend three inclusions: equal rights, children’s rights and, it seems, non-discrimination with respect to social origin (social status at birth)].

As I state in the letter to your community centre (see below) if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights cannot deliver on, at the very least, the core minimum of these rights for people (the ethical approach) then it serves no purpose except as a political weapon for elite purposes i.e. to disadvantage other sectors of society such as the children (some authoritarian regimes would not even have done this!).

(I will describe non-retrogression with respect to higher levels of human rights (or where they given the status of legal rights) already earned by a particular State in my book)

So it would be important, for example, to have the individual right to economic and social development (liberty – properly defined) to be included in the bill of rights so bureaucratic red tape can be challenged in court. While ordinary statute trumps the bill of rights the government may not be able to cover everything.

Also, non-discrimination on the prohibited ground of social class (and also non-discrimination with respect to birth, i.e. descent which includes Whakapapa) should also be included.

This will enable a voice for the marginalized by ensuring the mainstream media does not discriminate in this way and also that, for example, the children of beneficiaries are not excluded from the in-work tax credit for working families – children are not responsible for who their parents are.

Children’s rights should also be included – at present, children do not even have the human right to a ‘name’. As also should many other omissions be included such as the right to privacy, family rights, economic, social and cultural rights etc.

The inclusion of the above grounds of discrimination would also ensure that no one is privileged according to social status at birth or descent (e.g. via covert discrimination such as the ‘old boys and girls network’) so the hardship would be shared i.e. there are no free-loaders. Anecdotal evidence suggests there could be many being paid for doing very little.

Those who have experienced real hardship in life realize there is ‘no free lunch’ but one must have choices/opportunities so the core minimum human rights are absolutely necessary – to be ensured within an ‘immediate time frame’ – higher levels have to be earned and are likely to involve progressive achievement.

This is where the international political/human rights establishment are going wrong, in my view, is by making climate change the priority whereas I consider it should be the children. The latter’s needs are immediate (and not everyone can afford a nanny) while the former usually require a plan to be achieved progressively.

The inclusion of all the omitted human rights in the Bill of Rights would benefit the whole country by enabling progress to take place throughout the country where there are huge numbers on benefits and the children in the rest of the country also need a future.

This would help ensure Christchurch and the rest of the country are in sync and therefore supporting each other will be in all our interests. This could also help ensure that Christchurch residents do not feel isolated (or are deliberately isolated!) from the rest of the country.

I also hope other countries will also adopt the ethical approach.
Background Reading

More background information on the above can be found in our council’s submission to the United Nations which is on the website of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,… ). An interview with Anthony Ravlich discussing Christchurch earthquakes, Vinny Eastwood show, . A further article is ‘Fear of Freedom: collectivist bill of rights reducing New Zealanders to dependency’, . Also, my book, ‘Freedom from our social prisons: the rise of economic, social and cultural rights’ (Lexington Books, 2008) is recommended on the United Nations website For your information but not relevant to the above my other book was ‘Unemployment & reoffending’, Google Books, Law School, University of Auckland, 1985, ). More of my articles can be found on Auckland Indymedia, Guerilla Media or our website, . Also, some recent articles, ‘New Zealand too toxic for the young and NZ stands for human rights in name only’, St Alban’s News – December issue, ) and ‘Fresh vision but no time for games – human rights reason must prevail’, ).


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