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Clark’s indigenous rights record challenged at UN

WHILE Helen Clark has Government support in her bid for the top job at the United Nations (UN), there are concerns here about her record on indigenous rights.

Gisborne’s Tina Ngata, an environmentalist and indigenous rights advocate, made a trip to New York last week to speak at the UN Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues.

She questioned Ms Clark’s ability to stand up for indigenous rights as secretary general, pointing out that when in government Ms Clark did not sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, labelling it “divisive and unimplementable”.

Ms Ngata, who blogs as “the non-plastic Maori”, was speaking at the two-week long forum on how the UN can implement the declaration and better promote indigenous rights.

“If the UN is seeking guidance on how to protect and promote indigenous rights, then it needs to start with the leader,” said Ms Ngata.

Ms Ngata, of Te Whanau o Hinerupe, highlighted the 2005 Foreshore and Seabed Act and 2007 Urewera Raids as other examples of of Ms Clark’s inability to stand up for indigenous rights.

Requesting UN consider responsiveness to indigenous rightsShe recommended that the UN “specifically consider responsiveness to indigenous rights as criteria for the role of secretary general”.

Ms Ngata said her speech drew support from many other indigenous leaders and rights advocates from around the world who were in attendance.

The speech was not a personal attack on Ms Clark, said Ms Ngata. If she was using her leadership of New Zealand as a credential for the job, then her track record when it came to indigenous rights should not be ignored.

“Some of her supporters will say that she was simply part of a racist regime and could not stop those things happening. Well if they think the UN is any different, then they have a thorough misunderstanding of how the system works.”

She said Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, who heads UNESCO, showed leadership in standing up for indigenous rights when UNESCO supported Palestine’s bid to join their organisation in 2011, and did not back down after the United States suspended funding.

The Maori Party has also stated it unequivocally does not support Ms Clark’s bid for the UN top job.

“There is no doubt that New Zealand would be proud to have Helen Clark in that role but there is a history that remains unsettled with our people and we would expect that she would be making apologies to our people for the way in which they were treated.”

SPEAKING AT THE UNITED NATIONS: Known in Gisborne as "the non-plastic Maori", Tina Ngata is an environmentalist who has been living mostly free from plastic for the past two-and-a-half years. More recently she travelled to the United Nations in New York to highlight Helen Clark's history on indigenous rights. Ms Ngata said like any job, track records matter, and as Ms Clark had failed to stand up for indigenous rights on many occasions as leader of New Zealand, she needs to be held to account. Picture by Paul Rickard