Otago and Southland Youth Express Their Views on NZ’s Biggest Issues

Statements

These statements represent youth voices of Otago and Southland on pressing issues we face. We hope they can inform the local and national policymakers, businesses, schools, parents, teachers, community organisations and the new government of the changes we’d like to see.

Over Election Weekend 2017, a group of high school and tertiary students from all over Otago and Southland gathered at the University of Otago to discuss major issues facing our region and country. Tertiary facilitators and high school participants split into four focus groups looking at Education and Youth Development, Justice, Health and Cultural Development, Environment, and Innovation. All the focus groups then came together to discuss their ideas and form the following statements:

 

Education and Youth Development

1. We would like to move past stereotypes in education which can be achieved by:

  1. Providing more funding to trades and apprenticeship programmes;
  2. Giving government support to alternative education and charter schools; and
  3. Continuing to oppose results-based pay schemes for teachers which disproportionately harm teachers in schools in low socioeconomic areas.
2. We propose that applicable life skills and civics education that includes the New Zealand constitution are made compulsory across secondary schools, including for Year 11-13 students, so that NCEA can adequately prepare us for the real world.
3. We know that education is about more than students in classrooms. We want to see more transparent communication between students, whānau, and schools and encourage support for student councils and the implementation of school-wide student referenda to influence management and governance decision-making.
4. We believe the education system is vital for providing education on mental health as an integral part of youth development. We encourage promotion of and access to resources such as external services, as well as access to competent, qualified counsellors within schools.
5. We acknowledge the difficulties faced by students with special needs and the importance of integration and inclusivity in a way that plays to their strengths. We urge schools to provide specialised, uniform services across schools for these students with an added focus on students with physical disabilities.
6. We urge that compulsory context-based Māori studies, with a specific focus on Te Reo and tikanga Māori, be taught in the primary and intermediate curriculum.

 

Justice

1. We propose a written constitution and encourage a partial entrenchment. Alongside Treaty of Waitangi principles, the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and Electoral Act 1993 should be entrenched.
2. We strongly recommend reform surrounding gender bias in the commercial and domestic sector. This would include:

  1. Active reformation of Family Court processes to place weight upon the affected child(ren)’s preference in their domestic circumstances; and
  2. Recommends equal rights for parental leave regardless of gender. Mandate equal pay for any two persons with the same role.
3. We call for the New Zealand government to further regulate cyber-crime. Alongside conforming with the Harmful Digital Communications Act we propose:

  1. Introduction of a cyber consultant to provide technical advice on the processes and bullying in the cyber realm to the New Zealand domestic courts; and
  2. Pursue an international treaty with cyber corporations to help inform authorities and prosecute harmful digital users.
4. We support the need for assisted suicide in terminally ill patients and those with medically determined poor quality of life diseases; of which does not affect their mental capacity to consent to this suicide; and understands the implication of their choice to end their life. We encourage criterion for these patients involving:

  1. Psychological assessment to determine that the patient has given formal consent and has not been influenced by the beliefs of third party;
  2. Person must legally be over the age of 16;
  3. The family of the patient cannot make the decision for the person, and should there be dispute between the patient and their family this should be mediated by an unbiased third party; and
  4. Mental health patients at this stage are disqualified from choosing assisted dying.
5. We call for the New Zealand Government to grant the right to vote of all prisoners.
6. We encourage a health-based approach towards the use and abuse of drugs, rather than it being a criminal issue. We would like to see increased funding towards rehabilitation services and facilities, decriminalisation and regulation of low-risk drugs, and a move away from incarceration for drug offences
7. We regret that youth voting rates are low, and recognise that people who vote in their first eligible election are more likely to continue voting. We recommend that:

  1. The youth voting age is lowered to 16 years contingent on introduction of compulsory civics education for Year 11-13 students; and
  2. Polling stations are opened in more schools during advance voting to make voting more accessible for eligible students.

 

Health and Cultural Development

1. We believe that mental health and physical health are equally important and that New Zealand youth should have equal access to subsidised mental health services including:

  1. Mental health check-ups in educational facilities;
  2. Mental health awareness schemes in communities to disestablish negative gender stereotypes; and
  3. Increased funding in not-for-profit youth mental health services such as Youthline.
2. We recommend health is taught at all secondary year levels with increased time allocation. We would like a focus on increasing attention towards LGBTQIA+ identity, as well as mental health and suicide awareness through practical activities rather than just textbook studies.
3. We believe that NCEA examinations should be accessible for all students and recommend that reader-writers be subsidised so that every student who needs one can have one. Further, we encourage that mental health issues be included as grounds for receiving derived grades, rather than just the currently implemented biomedical model.
4. We think the importance of the arts is undervalued is undervalued in New Zealand schools. We suggest that the NCEA arts curriculum is amended to encourage creativity and freedom of expression.
5. With 295,000 children in poverty as of 2017, we the Youth of Otago-Southland encourage further action towards ending the poverty cycle. We encourage:

  1. Introduction of fully subsidised education including tertiary education;
  2. Subsidisation on educational necessities such as uniforms, stationery, and healthy food; and
  3. We endorse the introduction of a compulsory “warrant of fitness” for rental homes to ensure that vulnerable populations have affordable access to warm, healthy and dry homes.
6. With respect to the growth and diversity of New Zealand’s population, we:

  1. Want to see comprehensive community education programmes that encourage acceptance of all cultures;
  2. Encourage the usage of sister cities to expand intercultural relationships, rather than just for economic gains; and
  3. Wish to reinforce cultural diversity through community events that engage with refugees and immigrants.
7. We recognise the importance of social interaction for the mental health of youth in New Zealand, and thus encourage the establishment of hubs to facilitate face-to-face interaction. A wider choice of affordable after school and holiday programmes should be introduced throughout New Zealand, which will help stimulate the development of young minds. We suggest scholarships for people who are actively participating in their community as recognition for their efforts.

 

Environment

1. We recognise that rising sea levels will harm South Dunedin within 20 years, therefore we:

  1. Suggest an implementation of immediate stop gate measures such as a reinforcement of a wall;
  2. Encourage research into methods of solution that are currently being implemented in other nations;
  3. Recognise that there may be a need for a relocation of South Dunedin residents; and
  4. Implore that DCC create contingency plans for worst case scenarios.
2. We urge regional authorities in Otago and Southland to look into alternative disposal systems with the goal of zero waste within the foreseeable future especially with regards to diversification of recycling methods and prevention of e-waste and organic waste.
3. We encourage regional authorities to increase public awareness around the methods of waste disposal in the general Otago and Southland population.
4. We recognise that agriculture is a large contributor to pollution and encourage regional authorities in Otago and Southland to incentivise cleaner agricultural practices.
5. We encourage phasing in of electric public transport and suggest an implementation of electric bike rentals.
6. We encourage the regional authorities to incentivise the use of electric vehicle use, such as through the offer of free parking.
7. We encourage the Otago and Southland regional authorities to implement a housing warrant of fitness, similar to one in Wellington, especially concerning property for sale or rent.
8. We urge the government to reach the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement to reinforce our “clean, green” image.
9. We strongly disapprove of the extraction of offshore fossil fuels.
10. We request that the DCC increase transparency of its action on environmental issues and policy, including having up-to-date information on its website.
11. We urge for a ban on all single-use plastic, most notably single-use plastic shopping bags.
12. We strongly encourage local government in the Otago-Southland region to work alongside schools and private sector companies to implement viable fossil fuel and biomass alternatives in schools, to keep up with schools in other regions who have taken these steps already.

 

Innovation

1. We believe technology can be of significant importance to learning when utilised correctly in the teaching environment, and hence encourage the active promotion of bring your own devices and:

  1. Suggest schools create a whitelist for technology, with all economic backgrounds of the students considered;
  2. Encourage the availability of high-end devices for specific subjects; and
  3. Suggest schools offer financial support for those unable to provide their own devices, in line with aforementioned whitelists.
2. We encourage increased technological literacy in both students and teachers, with particular emphasis on typing and cyber-security.
3. We consider it important for the general public to stay informed of current advances in science and technology, through improved communication with the scientific community.
4. We note that in schools where full technology integration has occurred, the use of technology has proved effective for our learning.
5. We encourage research into teacher control classroom management systems for devices with a view to implementation, as long as privacy is respected.
6. We encourage the diversification of sciences and understanding of their value throughout secondary school education.
7. We stress the importance of increasing analytical thinking with regards to science, with increased understanding of scientific outcomes and limitations.
8. We regard increased science exposure and involvement in primary school to be of significant importance, including an understanding of the value of science education in schools.
9. Suggests that emphasis on digital education be placed more on high-schools.
10. We recognise that having sustainable infrastructure in schools and public places further educated people on sustainable practices.

 

RT Reports on Day 3 of NZ Model UN 2017

To view an online version of the Day Three paper, click here!

Yesterday, it was ruled by the International Court of Justice that the small colonisation of South Ossetia was declared unworthy of being independent. It was Russia who stopped the genocide against the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with Moscow as the mediator and peacemaker, helping to find a political solution. However, the Georgian leader chose the path of undermining the process of negotiation and ignoring the agreements reached, attacking the peacekeepers and engaging in political and military provocations. It was clear that the Georgian leader did not want to settle the issue by peaceful means but instead was preparing for war.

Russia’s parliament voted in favour since that was the only way to preserve the right of these peoples to self-determination, as well as to ensure peace and stability in the region, to save lives and create a secure environment for the two nations’ development. By not allowing South Ossetia to be a state, wouldn’t this compromise the basic human rights of the South Ossetian people? Clearly, it would.

The determination of South Ossetia not meeting all four requirements of population, territory, having a government and substantial foreign relations, the crucial resolution was that people came to the territory. Despite having a permanent population and clear territorial boundaries, it was not enough to allow for a permanent state. Russia has now lost a great ally, support network and South Ossetian’s for sure have lost their identity.

– Vivian Zhao, Russia Today

 

Who Wore It Best? Make It Work, Delegates!

On day two, the media team decided to run a Project MUN+WAY story. We got so many awesome photos that we just HAD to chuck some up on here. Be on the lookout for the photographers for the next two days, Project MUN+WAY could make a return!

 

Fatima brought a burst of much needed colour to the conference, sunshine on a cloudy (and cold and rainy and very very windy) day, if you will.

 

Such casual, much candid. Jason showing off his matching belt, watch strap and shoes, dressed to impress.

 

Gina looking slightly candid and totally ecstastic to be at the conference, just what we want in a delegate.

 

On Wednesdays, we wear pink. David, Jason and Stewart got some bonus points for the quiz by actually wearing pink Wednesdays, something that most people seemed to forget about.

UN Watch: Individual Authority or Collective Morality at the UN

To view an online version of the Day Two paper, click here!

It’s all very well to take the moral high ground when you are able to. In the discussion of discrimination in judicial systems, this point was brought up again and again by several member states: the importance of a strong moral principle against the practical aspects of implementing this principle.

The argument of intent as compared to ability was further complicated when the committee continued to explore the context of separate Member States. The Philippines and Togo both pointed out the economic difficulties that come with fighting corruption in the justice systems. While agreeing that the spirit of the resolution was in order, they highlighted the inability of Less Economically Develeoped Countries (LEDC) to agree to the resolution, as they were simply not feasible with the current state of resources of their Member States. They brought to attention the nature of the UN, which is to be secular and western, and therefore unsympathetic towards the plights of countries who are not.

Cultural and social differences between the Member States were also highlighted during this debate. The delegate from Egypt pointed out the infeasibility of ratifying clauses in this resolution in problems other than economic, pointing out the inability of their Member State to supply the proposed pool of judges to a 10 per cent margin representative of the gender and ethnicity in their own state. Paraguay responded to this by proposing the margin be raised by 25 per cent. Perhaps the inability to adhere to the original proposition implies not a problem with the running of the justice system, but of social and cultural barriers which prevent or discourage females and ethnic minorities from entering the legal profession.

Additionally, in reference to such differences, Equatorial Guinea reminded the floor that “as a member of the UN, Member States must subscribe to its inherent ideas, and if they don’t believe so, they should not be a member of the UN.” In response to this, Australia was quick to point out the importance of individual authority of Member States in their own country. The Philippines also supported this, stating that the UN should not “impede on the separate sovereignty of separate states, and should have the right to prioritise what rights they see as most important.” Paraguay also emphasised the importance of a fair legal system as a foundation, no matter the cultural beliefs: “A strong and stable court leads to a strong and stable country, which is beneficial not only for the country itself but also for the international community.”

 

 

The Philippines discussed the idea of a binding convention, as no resolution is compulsory for separate member states to ratify. They pointed out how a resolution will always have an impact, and often form the foundation for discourse. The myth that signed resolutions from the UN has no real impact on the separate Member States was quickly and deftly debunked. Disappointingly, the delegate also pointed out the danger of the slippery slope of further resolutions that may be based on previous ones passed – a fallible argument which weakened the impact of the original statement.

The resolution was not passed at the end of the session, and there was an overwhelming consensus of dissatisfaction with the weakness of the directive words. It serves to highlight the frustration of the slow nature of the action taken by the UN or even the lack of [action taken]. Perhaps we all must be reminded of the differences of each Member State – whether this is in ability or belief, and the need to negotiate with one another to find common ground.

– Joanna Li, UN Watch

WSJ: Russia Makes Scathing Remarks About Cabo Verde at NZ Model UN

Despite attempts from Venezuela to enforce communism across the world and their demonisation of capitalist countries, the meeting of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) today in Wellington was a very animated conference.

The question of oil drilling in the Arctic quickly became an attempt to balance state economic interests against tapering the effects of climate change. It was widely accepted that the oil drilling is detrimental to the state of the world and although the honourable delegate of the United States was not in attendance – a reflection of our current administrations’ priorities, this may be regrettable as a controversial amendment that passed, could cost this nation greatly. Put forward by Cabo Verde, the amendment requires “Developed nations to provide economic support for island nations that suffer from the effects of rising water [caused by oil drilling] such as population displacement or environmental refugees.” This was originally intended to be a temporary measure by Cabo Verde but was put to the resolution as a permanent addition. It had a polarising effect and the Russian world leader accused Cabo Verde of having a “Grabby attitude” and questioned the value of Island nations to the world community saying, “They’re not really offering much to society, just floating around on the islands…they need our help – we don’t need them.”

Reflective of a wider global discussion about whether developed countries have a duty to assist more vulnerable nations and state sovereignty, the United Kingdom echoed the sentiment of many Western nations: “We place a huge importance on helping developing nations although we are not willing to sacrifice ourselves, although we are willing to put forward some form of support because they are our future.”

This debate is ongoing and although the resolution passed, there is unlikely to be a tangible outcome from today’s conference and the UN as a whole for a significant period of time.

– Bridget Scott, Wall Street Journal

 

Principles of Ethical-Decision Making

To view an online version of the Day One paper, click here!

All things being even, here is what can agree on: the two speeches delivered this morning were interesting and came from very different perspectives. The first speaker Tracy Epps, who works in international law and trade negotiations, gave us a glimpse of the mystery of TPPA negotiations – while also wryly pointing out the difficulties with government transparency.

At the best of times, foreign affairs and trade liberalisation are complex issues, and at worse downright contestable. Epps delivered an informative and insightful presentation that not only educated but also revealed the true difficulties in multilateral negotiations and conflicting interests (where the stakes are much higher than figuring out what your regional group wants to order for dinner).

University of Canterbury law lecturer, Debra Wilson – the second speaker – brought the shock factor in a riveting presentation on ethical decision making. She showed how it is not a contest between good and bad, but more often it is trying to figure out the least of many evils. She presented the real life situation of Memorial Medical Centre in New Orleans, Louisiana on the eve of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, into highlight the extremities of decision making in intense high-stake situations.

Just a quick reminder for you delegates, these are the tips Wilson gave on ethical decision making:

  • Understand the problem
  • Understand the ethical considerations
  • Explore the options available
  • Implement and reflect on the consequences

First committee sessions are fast approaching. Good luck for the next three days. Press delegates will be present and be watching to put your ethical decision-making skills to the test! So, what’s your bottom line?

 

Written by the NZ Model UN 2017 Press delegates:

Matt Billington – Al Jazeera
Arya Kantroo – Der Spiegel
Bridget Scott – Wall Street Journal
Samantha Samaniego – China Daily
Vivian Zhao – Russia Today
Hanna Choi – CNN
Joanna Li – UN Watch
John Sibanda – BBC
Florence Ferguson – Inter Press Service

Wrapping up in New York

The delegation awoke to more uncharacteristically warm weather – despite it supposedly being winter here in New York, we have been treated to day after day of sunshine and temperatures as high as 18 degrees. After our morning briefing, we headed off towards midtown for our final meeting of the tour. High above Madison Avenue, we met with New Zealand Consular-General and Trade Commissioner for the Eastern USA, Beatrice Faumuina. As well as giving us an insight into her work in New York and some of her current projects, Beatrice spoke with us about her journey, some strategies for success and tips for personal and career development. The delegation left the meeting feeling inspired and ready to put what we’d learnt over the past three weeks into action once we get back to New Zealand. Our time with Beatrice was the perfect way to wrap up the meetings portion of the tour!

Following our meeting with Beatrice, we had a few hours of free time before our visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. The delegation split off, roaming the shops of Madison and Fifth Avenues to find clothing and footwear bargains. En route to the World Trade Centre a few of us ventured down Wall Street to find the infamous Charging Bull statue and pay the President a visit at Trump Tower. Sadly, President Trump must have been off in Florida for yet another taxpayer funded “break,” as there was no sighting!

Security was tight at Donald’s home away from home, Trump Tower.

After regrouping at the World Trade Centre, we slowly made our way through the National 9/11 Memorial. The footprints of the Twin Towers have been turned into two beautiful waterfalls, with the names of the victims inscribed around them. Despite being in the centre of New York the memorial is nearly silent; the only sound is that of the waterfalls. This was a very poignant experience for us, because although many of us were too young to fully remember September the 11th 2001, we definitely felt the repercussions of it for years to come. The National 9/11 Museum sits right next to the Memorial and this was our next stop. Chronologically, the museum details the catastrophe from the plan’s inception, that horrific day and the ongoing aftermath. The exhibits were informative but also very moving – one in particular, which featured stories of the victims, drew a few tears. Our time at the Memorial and Museum reminded us of the importance of the values of the United Nations and of the need to bring cultures and peoples together.

A powerful memory to those who perished on September 11th 2001 at the National 9/11 Museum.

Our New York delegation dinner was at 12 Chairs, a boutique Mediterranean restaurant in the heart of the Soho District. We were joined by Ben Schaare, who we had met at the UN the day before. Over a huge spread of Mediterranean cuisine, we reflected on our experiences from the day and made plans for our upcoming free time. Our bellies full, we headed back to the hostel for a good night’s sleep before we were let loose on the Big Apple!

In amongst the hustle and bustle of New York, the memorial is a poignant reminder to what happened that fateful day.

– Jayden van Leeuwen

New York: Food (Production), Career Goals and Shakira

We woke up to another unusually sunny and warm February day in New York, and began our day on the Upper West Side with a Q&A with Glenn Denning.

Glenn is the Director of the Master of Public Administration in Development Practice programme within Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He is also an expert on agriculture and food systems, although his work has shifted to a sustainable development focus. We discussed the Green Revolution in Asia, technological developments in food production and the steps required to feed the growing population sustainably (intensify production strategically, improve distribution of food, cut food waste and change diets). The meeting brought a fresh and expert perspective on food production and security, and gave the delegation an idea of the potential options for postgraduate studies at SIPA.

The delegation with Glenn Denning.

Following our meeting with Glenn, we walked to the central part of the Columbia campus to go on a tour with two Fulbright Scholars, Alex Sinclair and Jeremy Olds. Alex, who is working towards her Master of Laws at Columbia, talked about the international perspective she has gained from studying in the US, such as the value of NZ’s administrative legal arrangements after studying the legal effects of the US Constitution. Jeremy, who is pursuing a Master of Arts in Journalism at the School of Journalism (one of the best in the world), shared his excitement about learning from and alongside the finest editorial and writing staff in the world, and emphasised the importance of good journalism in our time. Alex and Jeremy also gave valuable advice about overseas postgraduate studies, scholarships and adapting to learning in a foreign environment. One of the most interesting things the delegation heard was their observations of the Columbia University and New York communities’ reactions to last year’s election result. It was encouraging to see Kiwis in such great places.

View of one of the statues in the courtyard outside Columbia Law School.

After the tour of Columbia, we grabbed $4 street food and headed downtown, back to the UN Headquarters for the third day in a row, but this time, we were going into the Secretariat building – the staff only part! There, we spoke to Ben Schaare, a Kiwi working in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Ben graduated from university and took himself to various roles and postgraduate study overseas. His current work involves promoting the Sustainable Development Goals through famous people such as Lionel Messi, Jack Ma and Shakira. From Ben’s experience, we realised again the importance of having international experience and networking to get your foot in the door at the UN.

The career development theme continued when Hector Sharp and Scott Colvin, UN legal interns, joined us. Touching on how many members of our delegation hope to work in the UN or in some international law capacity, we were given grounded, useful advice about getting ahead in the UN.

We topped off the day with an official UN Headquarters Tour, during which we visited the beautiful Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and General Assembly rooms.

The delegation in the General Assembly at the UN Headquarters – unfortunately the lighting was terrible for photos, which do not do the place justice!

– Julia Wiener

New York: UN Office of Legal Affairs and Aunty Helen

After meeting with the New Zealand Permanent Mission, we headed back to the United Nations – our second home in New York. For the third time in even less days, we had the pleasure of being briefed by yet another individual with seemingly endless experience and knowledge. Fanny Schaus, an employee of the Office of the Legal Counsel, explained in great depth the integral functions of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA). Particularly intriguing were discussions of privileges and immunity awarded to UN staff, and how much work is dedicated to preserving these so that the organisation can operate independently.  The lawyers in the delegation were excited to learn about all 6 divisions of OLA, including the General Legal Division, Codification Division, and Treaty Section, amongst others. Perhaps the most exciting takeaway from this meeting was insight into the Young Professional Programme (YPP), the process of examination for admission as a UN employee. This exam has been up to 8 hours in the past, and includes questions on all areas of applicable law, from Contract to International Trade and everything in between. After learning about this gruelling process, it was clear we had the fortune of being briefed by an incredibly talented, intelligent and accomplished woman.

Posing outside the UN Headquarters on the banks of the East River.

After a quick break for an afternoon snack, and a coffee to calm the nerves – we headed over to the UN Development Programme building and were excitedly ushered upstairs to the 21st and final floor. Positioned around a dauntingly large boardroom table, we all primped and preened ourselves while we waited for Helen Clark to arrive. The room filled quickly with anticipatory whispers of excitement, and last minute peer-vetting of questions. Eventually Helen joined us and almost simultaneously calmed our nerves. She spoke assertively and decidedly about her time as Administrator of the UNDP, and the progress she had seen. Particularly present in her discussion was how the mandate of building a long-term stable society could be applied to conflict zones, who overwhelmingly bear the burden of humanitarian crises like famine. Helen highlighted how the practical success of the UNDP relied on building a foundation of resilience in these susceptible countries, “so that when conflict ends, they will be in a better position to help recover the country”. Coupled with a reflection on her admirable work, we were also offered tidbits of life advice and tips for future success – more than a few of us left eager to read Nelson Mandalas “Long Walk to Freedom”.

As it approached 7pm, we thanked Helen for being so kind as to take time out of her unimaginably demanding schedule to see us. Echoing her sentiments of earlier in the day regarding social media as an invaluable tool for youth engagement, Helen featured us on her Snapchat – adding a filter, geo-tag and all!

With Helen Clark at the UNDP!!

The afternoon of Tuesday the 21st felt like a nerdy dream. Our eyes were opened to an entirely new path for a legal career, one combining the endearing flexibility of international law, and the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the world. Helen Clark exceeded expectations: she was eloquent, perfectly humorous, realistic, and inspiring. New Zealand should be proud to have such an honourable woman representing them on the world stage – and perhaps with her advice, one of us might sit in that same chair in a few years time!

-Caitlin Hicks