University of Auckland hosted UN seminar on justice for indigenous and disabled peoples

03 February 2014
UN seminar

An official United Nations Expert Seminar on restorative justice, indigenous judicial systems and access to justice for indigenous women, children and youth and people with disabilities was hosted by the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Law. It was held at Waipapa Marae on 17 and 18 February.

The full agenda and more information is available on the OHCHR’s website.

The Seminar was designed to support the work of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Expert Mechanism is the United Nations primary human rights body focused on international law and policy on the rights of Indigenous peoples. It carries out the requests of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations’ multi-lateral state body focused on human rights. The Human Rights Council requested the Expert Mechanism to study access to justice for Indigenous peoples in 2013 and 2014.

The Law School worked closely with the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to host the seminar and to bring to New Zealand experts in Indigenous peoples’ access to justice from around the world, including, for example:

  • members of the Expert Mechanism, Jannie Lasimbang (Malaysia), Dr Danfred Titus (South Africa), Aleksey Tsykarev (Russian Federation);
  • members of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues including Professor Dr Megan Davis (Australia) and Valmaine Toki (Aotearoa);
  • some of Aotearoa’s foremost legal scholars in the area including Sir Taihakurei (Eddie) Durie, Te Huia Bill Hamilton, Moana Jackson, Professor Margaret Mutu, Dayle Takitimu and Tracey Castro Whare;
  • world-class academics in the area such as Andrew Erueti (Waikato), Dr Carwyn Jones (Wellington), Dr Robert Joseph (Waikato), Dr Hannah McGlade (Australia), Celeste McKay (Canada), Professor Bradford Morse (Waikato and Ottawa), Ipul Powaseu (Papua New Guinea) and Professor Dr Rachel Sieder (Mexico and United Kingdom);
  • representatives of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

The participants contributed to the draft study prepared by the Expert Mechanism on Indigenous peoples’ access to justice together with members of the Auckland University Faculty of Law. The study will be finalised in July 2014 and will be put forward for adoption by the Human Rights Council in September 2014.

Auckland co-ordinators Claire Charters and Natalie Coates are both lecturers at the Faculty of Law where Claire’s primary area of research is in indigenous peoples’ rights in international and constitutional law, often with a comparative focus.

Of Ngāti Whakaue, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi and Tainui descent, she has typically combined her academic research and teaching with advocacy for the rights of indigenous peoples at domestic and international levels.

Claire’s former work for the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section has been instrumental in bringing the Expert Seminar to New Zealand.

Natalie is of Awa, Ngāti Hine, Tūhoe, Te Arawa and Ngāti Tūwharetoa descent. Her research interests are in Maori legal issues, indigenous rights and legal pluralism and she has worked as an intern at Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa and as a law clerk for a Māori law firm in Rotorua.

The two women say they were excited and proud to be part of the team responsible for bringing the Expert Seminar to Auckland. “These discussions will help determine the shape of the final draft of the study, which in turn will play a part in the promotion and protection of human rights around the world.”


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