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Amnesty International

What people are doing to our climate affects our human rights. Climate change is already threatening  many of our rights, and our ability to live well together. That’s why we refer to climate change as the climate crisis, because humanity needs to do more, and faster, to stop the worst effects from happening.  

People have a right to fresh water, food, housing, health and sanitation, adequate standards of living, work, a healthy environment and a culture. All of these are threatened by the climate crisis. Unprecedented heatwaves, wildfires, intense back-to-back tropical storms, severe drought and rising sea levels are having a negative effect people’s ability to live with the full enjoyment of these rights.  

The people feeling the impacts of the climate crisis first are those who live in close connection with nature and rely on natural resources for survival. For example, neighbouring countries around the Pacific are struggling to cope with erosion on their shores and salt water killing their main food crops like taro and coconuts.  

But there’s good news too! There’s a growing understanding across all countries of what needs to happen to take us out of crisis mode and into a future of sustainability. This movement is called a Just Transition and it’s a way of getting everyone on board to make positive change. We can all do things to make a difference such as refusing to buy foods packaged in plastic. But if we are to see real change it must be a structured effort by everyone, not just individual people doing good in their own lives. This means it must come from institutions and governments that guide the way we live. An example of a structured Just Transition could be how governments around the world are supporting fossil fuel workers into new jobs. 

Other positive structural changes include more of a global effort under the Paris Climate Agreement to keep climate pollution down. While this agreement doesn’t go far enough, it does have the recipe for a sustainable world. Governments now know what processes they need to put in place to reduce our human impact on the environment.  

Amnesty International is calling on all government to;  

  • Stop using fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) as quickly as possible. 
  • Reduce greenhouse gas pollution to zero by 2050 at the latest, and richer countries should do this faster. 
  • Make sure everyone, in particular those most affected by the climate crisis or the transition to a fossil-free economy, is properly informed about what is happening and is able to participate in decisions about their futures. 
  • Make sure that climate action is done in a way that does not violate anyone’s human rights, and reduces rather than increases inequality. 

The more people who know about this recipe for success, the more likely it is governments will feel pressure to implement news ways of living that enable us to enjoy all of our human rights with adequate housing, food, water, freedom of cultural expression, health and more. 

Did you know that human rights are for everyone, even people in prison?  

There are some instances where, under careful consideration of human rights laws, it is legal to limit someone’s rights. In New Zealand, like many countries, when someone breaks the law, they may be sent to prison.  

This is one of those instances where someone’s human rights, in this case their right to freedom of movement and liberty, is legally restricted because of a crime they have committed. This means they are not free to move about in their community, town, or anywhere, and are put in prison.  

When someone goes to prison, that is the punishment – their freedom of movement, or liberty, is temporarily taken away. But no other rights are allowed to be restricted and their access to their other rights, such as food and water, then becomes the responsibility of the organisation that holds them, which is the prison. 

In 2015 the United Nations – and all countries that belong to it, including Aotearoa New Zealand – adopted the Nelson Mandela Rules. They say that societies can take away a person’s liberty, but not their humanity. 

All people, even people in prison, must be treated with care and dignity.  

Frustratingly, some people in prison in New Zealand aren’t receiving all their human rights. To find out more and to ask for change see our petition on the MIhi Bassett case. 

No matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done, all people have a right to be treated humanely! 

We all share special moments with family that we don’t necessarily want to share with the rest of the world, it’s part of what makes these moments special! And sometimes we just want to be alone, and that’s okay! There are also moments in wider group settings that are sacred such as traditional events like funerals and weddings.  

In these moments, privacy is important, in fact, you have a human right to it. 

Unfortunately, as photographic technology and computer programmes improve so too does facial recognition software, which, in some occasions, is ignoring people’s right to privacy.  

But thankfully there are things we can do in our everyday lives to help protect our right, and our loved one’s rights to privacy.  

When you take a photo of someone to share online for instance, it’s important to ask for their permission to share it online. This is because anyone can use the images you post online. You can protect your privacy by adjusting the settings in your social media accounts to limit who – and what – they can see in your account. But it’s not failsafe and it is always best to assume everything you put online could become public.  

Did you know you could help support someone’s freedom with just the flick of your pen? Amnesty International’s annual Write for Rights campaign is here again. It’s the world’s biggest human rights campaign, each year garnering millions of letters calling for justice for people who have spoken up for human rights and in turn have had some of their rights oppressed or withheld from them.  

Often, the human right effected is their freedom of expression, which is the right for all of us to freely express our opinions and beliefs.  Sometimes when people speak out about the way they live, their beliefs and actions get them in trouble with their government. Sometimes they may have written a poem that said something the government didn’t like, or maybe they wore something their government didn’t like; some governments who disagree with people’s opinions may put them in prison to stop them speaking out. In human rights terms, and in international human rights law, we call this an abuse of people’s freedom of expression.  

Write for Rights gives other people the resources to support the person whose rights are being limited or oppressed completely.  

And your support matters! 

Last year over six and half million actions were taken – an annual increase for the 18th consecutive year. These are mainly people writing letters of support, or writing letters or signing petitions that ask certain governments to do certain things. The case of Yasaman Aryani in Iran received over one million actions alone, her sentence for handing out flowers on a train unveiled was reduced. Last year’s campaign also saw people who had been put in prison unjustly freed from prison and reunited with whānau.  

Amnesty International Community Manager Margaret Taylor says the campaign is for everyone. 

“Anyone can do it; you don’t have to be an expert on human rights to see when someone has been wronged. These messages and drawings of support are like a hug, letting human rights defenders know they are not alone. It’s why I encourage everyone to get involved, at school, in your lunch break, or at a social gathering; pull people together ahead of Christmas and be a part of this life-saving campaign in the season of giving. The millions of people who take part in Write for Rights each year stand for the freedom and dignity of all people.”  

Click here to get involved! 

If you’re living in Auckland your life has changed quite dramatically in the last few days. The movies, the skate park, even the library is off limits now and everyone is walking around in face masks. 

It can be quite scary and it’s an unsettling time for many people as some of their human rights are restricted so other rights can be upheld.  

We have human rights that are widely agreed to on a global scale by many countries to help protect a life of freedom and dignity, for all people, no matter their backgrounds. 

Very rarely we find ourselves in a very serious situation where limiting some human rights can help protect other rights.  

COVID-19 is one of those serious situations because the virus threatens the life and health of people. The main rights being protected here are the right to life itself as the virus can be fatal, and the right to health due to the health issues people face if they contract the virus.  

To protect these rights, the right to freedom of movement and liberty are being restricted. That’s why you can’t pop down the road to a friend’s place, or anyone outside your bubble. That’s why it’s important to find new ways to connect with and care for your loved ones and whānau like never before! 

But the good news is, it’s not forever! The better job we do of controlling the virus and eradicating it once again from New Zealand, the faster we can go back to enjoying all the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

In the meantime we’ve created The Big Kindness Count for people to share the kind things they are doing for one another – even at a distance! Over 21,000 acts of kindness were logged during the last lockdown! Have a look at the Facebook page and see what else you might be able to add to the list! 

You can find the full list of human rights here in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  

When Sana Ditta saw how delighted people were with teddy bears in windows over the national lockdown period she knew she had to find a way to extend the love. So, she created the Teddy Bear Project, an initiative that gives teddy bears to refugee children arriving in New Zealand. She started a Givealittle page to raise funds to buy the teddy bears and ended up donating more than 150 to the Red Cross in Canterbury.  

The Red Cross still collects the teddy bears, but Ditta wants her bears to go national, or maybe even global.  

“I want all former refugee children to be welcomed into New Zealand at the airport with a teddy bear, not just Christchurch. Teddy bears provide a sense of comfort. I want to relay the message that New Zealand is welcoming and nothing says a warm welcome more than a teddy bear. More than anything else, children need to feel connected to others in order to feel safe. These comfort teddies help children to feel instantly connected to a companion.  

It’s truly amazing how something as simple as providing a toy to a child can ultimately change their outlook. I’d like to get to a point where we have so many that we can start giving them to children experiencing hardships overseas, like in Yemen and Syria.” 

Ditta has entered her initiative into Amnesty International’s new youth award; The Gary Ware Legacy Award. The award will run annually and is thanks to a very giving family of human rights advocates in Tauranga. It seeks to enliven the existing passion from young rangatahi across Aotearoa for a brighter future through creativity and problem solving. It could explore human rights impacts arising from climate breakdown, armed conflict, or something else.  

She says human rights are important because they apply to everyone. 

“My biggest goal has always been to teach the values of respect, inclusion and equality. I want our future generation to live in a world where they feel safe and diversity is embraced. It is a basic human right and people should not have to fight for it.” 

But what are human rights you ask? 

You use your rights every day! You exercise your right to health and wellbeing when you eat, or go to the doctors. It’s your human right to have a healthy home, to go to school each day and to freely participate in the cultural life and activities of your local community. It’s your right to have rest and leisure in your daily life. It’s your right to be protected from harm and violence. It’s your right to practice a chosen religion if you wish. It’s also your right not to! And it’s your right to freely express your opinion, that is, how you feel about things in your life.  

These rights apply to everyone. It’s also people’s right to find a safe home in another country if they have had to run away from serious danger, especially if it’s due to their race, nationality or political or religious beliefs.  

This is thanks to many people in the past who have worked hard to protect a life where all people can live with promise and dignity. All rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This special document recognises all people as equal and establishes a global agreement on human rights for everyone. 

Amnesty International’s Community Manager Margaret Taylor says the Gary Ware Legacy Award is a great opportunity for those who have ideas but maybe not the funding. 

“We are deeply grateful to the Ware family for providing an avenue for young people in New Zealand to evoke change for the brighter and more compassionate world that our youth already envision. This is a chance for young people to power their human rights idea to help build a world based on justice and kindness, to create a future with opportunity and promise.”  

Applications are being accepted from schools and youth networks across the country and it’s open to all ages under 25 years. 

The closing date for applications is the 30th September, 2020. 

An application can be filled out here.