Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Complementarity: Towards Robust Human Rights Governance in the New Zealand State Sector

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posted on 2021-11-10, 10:30 authored by Greatrex, Helen Patricia

Successive governments have committed New Zealand to implementing international human rights standards domestically. In terms of practical governance, what does this mean and how might effectiveness be measured? A face-value answer can be found in domestic laws and institutions relating to human rights. However, this thesis argues that the effective implementation of ratified international human rights goes well beyond what this thesis terms the law+litigation approach (crucial though that is). By tracing developments historically, analysing the policy and governance issues, and using case studies this research shows that effective implementation is characterised by a new concept: 'complementarity'. This concept is about an increasing coherence between a number of factors affecting the state sector which impact on the fostering and delivery of human rights. These include international and domestic dimensions, law and public policy, public fairness, administrative pragmatism, and proactive and reactive approaches to implementation. Greater complementarity is shown to produce another term suggested in the thesis: robust human rights governance. The opposite - fragile human rights governance - is also explored. As well as the complementarity model, this research also suggests there are six phases in New Zealand's human rights history. It is argued that the sixth most robust stage has been reached, but that there are elements of previous stages that are weak, developing or non-existent. Leading on from this 20 criteria to assess what effectiveness 'looks like' in relation to robust human rights governance are also developed. Although this is primarily a New Zealand study, the widespread adoption of human rights standards by many states inevitably means that the issues are relevant to other countries, even though there are always varying degrees of similarity-difference in constitutional background and developed or emerging human rights systems. This thesis shows the pathways, the mechanisms, the evolving frameworks and the approaches that would help to differentiate robust from fragile human rights governance. The tools in this research should therefore enable a more nuanced assessment of effectiveness in terms of robust human rights governance.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Public Policy

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Government


Ladley, Andrew