US Withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council – Do the Rights of Palestinians Matter Less?

 The United Nations Human Rights Council is a body that seeks to strengthen, promote and protect human rights. A task that is not only important, but seemingly more and more relevant. Anyone living in a democratic nation would almost automatically assume their government would support such a venture. So it would seem at first glance odd that the United States, a country that places freedom and democracy so highly, would withdraw from the Human Rights Council. Yet for anyone watching closely this was no shock at all. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, calling the US departure “disappointing, if not really surprising.”


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley deliver remarks to the press on the UN Human Rights Council. Photo by the U.S. Department of State.


The US rationale for leaving the Council centres on one topic – the Israel/Palestine conflict. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, firstly accused the Council of a having a “chronic bias” against Israel, and followed up by labelling it a “hypocritical and self-serving organisation that makes a mockery of human rights.” This comes after a vote in May deciding to send war crime investigators to Gaza to investigate violations and abuse of civilian protestors. Since protests began in March of this year, Israel has killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children. These figures do nothing to sway the American stance – that too much focus is put on Israel by the Human Rights Council.

The withdrawal from the Human Rights Council is a consequence of a larger problem, a persisting, one-sided, and frequently inaccurate narrative that runs through American rhetoric. The US government continuously attributes outbreaks of violence to Hamas, the de facto governing body of Palestine widely considered a terrorist group. Following protests and killings in May, spokeswomen for the US State Department claimed any “misery” faced by the people of Gaza was entirely because of Hamas.

Yet this ignores two vital elements to the reality of this conflict. Firstly, those killed in protests are generally unarmed civilians – videos from cellphones continuingly affirming this. In addition, there is no acknowledgement of the role that Israel has played in the suffering of Palestinians. The occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel is the longest in history, dating back to 1967. The Blockade of Gaza Strip has carried on since 2007, banning both necessities, such as blankets or shoes, and seemingly harmless goods, including crayons, chocolate, and shampoo. Israel has been an active participate in the suffering of Palestinians, regardless of what crimes have been committed by Hamas.

What is most concerning is the underlying idea that the politics of the moment trump human rights. The United States have long supported Israel, but that does not invalidate Palestinians entitlement to basic rights and protection. No matter who is at fault in this conflict, there are innocent men, women and children suffering in Gaza. Instead of addressing this head on, the United States has again reverted inwards and avoided international cooperation. The High Commissioner commenting that, “given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back.”


By Rachel Buckman


World Refugee Day

To celebrate World Refugee Day we spoke to one of New Zealand’s most inspiring former refugees, Rez Gardi. Rez was named Young New Zealander of the Year 2017 for her services to human rights. She was born in a refugee camp and arrived in New Zealand under the refugee quota.

Rez told us that growing up, she was embarrassed of her refugee background. The desire to fit in and be as “Kiwi” as possible was strong. Now, she has learnt to be proud of her background. Her unique refugee journey has instilled her with drive and passion to make a difference. She says she is only one, among many incredible former refugees who make a huge impact locally and globally. However, negative opinions and thoughts about refugees still linger.

Her organisation Empower is trying to change the negative connotations and stigma attached to being a refugee and re-define it as a term that embraces resilience and strength.

We asked Rez in more detail about some of her work, life as a young refugee, and what other young people can do to support people of refugee backgrounds.


Refugees divide their monthly rations at a food distribution site in the Imvepi refugee camp in Northern Uganda on Saturday, 24 June, 2017. Record numbers of South Sudanese have fled their home country crossing the border into Uganda, a country now hosting now more than 1.2 million refugees. Food shortages continue to be an issue in the camp due to the humanitarian response struggling to meet the overwhelming needs of the refugees.


What work do you do that lead to you winning the Young New Zealander of the Year Award in 2017?

I foster and support participation, leadership, and empowerment opportunities for young refugees in New Zealand. I founded the Empower Youth Trust, a mentoring and support initiative aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education.

Our mission is to empower, educate, and enable refugee youth in New Zealand through education, leadership, and capacity-building to pursue meaningful paths of their choice.

This initiative goes in hand with the University of Auckland refugee scholarships I have helped establish. I was one of the original founding members of the Global Refugee Youth Consultations, which led to the establishment of the Global Youth Advisory Council (GYAC) for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Through my work as a global youth advocate, I reinforce youth as connectors and peacebuilders by channeling and reinforcing youths’ abilities to build connections across social, cultural, linguistic, political, and other differences, and support them to contribute meaningfully to peacebuilding processes. I have used this award as a platform to raise awareness about the adversity and challenges that many marginalised groups face in New Zealand, and globally, and to promote a greater tolerance and acceptance for diversity.


How are the challenges that a young refugee faces different from those the average young person in New Zealand faces?

Through the Global Refugee Youth Consultations in 2015/2016, young refugees analysed causes and impacts of the difficulties they face. Although the context of each country is specific, the challenges that refugee youth identified are remarkably consistent. We identified ten challenges:

  1. Difficulties with legal recognition and obtaining personal documents;
  2. Difficulty in accessing quality learning, education, and skills-building opportunities;
  3. Poor access to youth-sensitive healthcare, including psychological support;
  4. Lack of safety, security and freedom of movement;
  5. Discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and “culture clash”;
  6. Few youth employment and livelihood opportunities;
  7. Challenges for unaccompanied youth;
  8. Lack of opportunities to participate, be engaged, or access decision makers;
  9. Lack of information about asylum, refugee rights, and available services; and
  10. Gender inequality, discrimination, exploitation, and violence, including for LGBTI youth.

In addition to all the usual challenges young people face in New Zealand, the situation is exacerbated for those of refugee background who have come to New Zealand with absolutely nothing and are thrown into a completely foreign and new world. They are starting on a back foot for a number of reasons.

Firstly, due to the trauma they may have experienced having fled their homes and being exposed to violence, the culture shock of arriving in New Zealand with no understanding of culture or norms. Coupled with language barriers, assumptions and xenophobia in regard to their experiences and culture many refugee youth experience bullying and discrimination.

Many young refugees experience and interrupted or lack of education so they have to play ‘catch up’. Aside from financial issues, when youth miss years of schooling due to being on the move, some refugee and migrant youth face issues enrolling in the level from where they left off as legally they are too old and have no available options to catch up. This requires us to be innovative in the way we approach education issues. It is common for many refugee youth to encounter a reversal in roles with their parents. At such a young age, they are called

upon to translate for their parents at the doctors, appointment, supermarket and even during their own parent-teacher interviews. There is a sense of responsibility as a refugee youth that is never placed upon mainstream New Zealanders.


What can young New Zealanders do to support refugees within their local communities and globally?

New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and we are also one of the most peaceful: it’s up to us, as everyday New Zealanders to ensure this is a legacy we leave for future generations.

Our biggest challenge is how we choose to live our lives and what kind of country we let New Zealand become. I ask all young New Zealanders to welcome and get to know the people in our community. What you do makes all the difference.

Simply accepting new New Zealanders into our country with open arms can contribute to their resettlement in a completely foreign place and shape their integration process and sense of self-worth. Pause a moment in what were once my shoes. How would you want to be treated?

What will you do to help your community? What will you do to help make the world a better place? What role will you play?

We don’t have to wait until we’re older. We can all do something now. Empowered youths transform societies and we can all be champions of change.


Why is it important to have organisations such as empower which support people from refugee backgrounds?

View of Smara Refugee Camp, where the Sahwari people have been living as refugees for over forty years.

When it comes to the needs of children and young people, education is paramount. However, the reality for refugee children globally is that only 1 out of 2 get primary education. No child should have to pay the cost by missing out on schooling. Yet we see whole generations of refugee children from areas of conflict that have to leave their homes and schools, and other children on the move unable to secure an education. Education is every child’s basic human right. When these young people arrive in New Zealand, we need to provide them with a nurturing environment for the full realisation of their rights and capabilities.

Higher education serves as a powerful driver for change, by maintaining their hopes for the future, fosters inclusion and non-discrimination and acts as a catalyst for the recovery and rebuilding of post-conflict countries.

I believe education is pivotal to changing the future for child refugees and migrants; there is no future unless children learn today, and receive an education that gives them the tools and skills to be empowered to make positive change. Education empowers not only the individual, but their family, and entire community.

My charity, Empower provides a mentoring and support initiative to try to address the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education in New Zealand. We are the only organisation dedicated to refugee youth which focuses on assisting and supporting individuals with both their professional and personal development.

If we empower, educate, and enable refugee youth in New Zealand through education, leadership, and capacity-building to pursue meaningful paths of their choice then they will be empowered to contribute to Aotearoa socially, economically, and environmentally.



It’s not hard to see why Rez was named young New Zealander of the Year. She delivers a great message for all young people wanting to create positive change. “We are all in a position to make a difference to the world we live in – how big or small that may be. Only you can decide that. Champions are people prepared to face difficulty…They’re defined by passion, confidence and the strength from within. We can all be champions but our task it to discover and unlock our greatness.”


By Maisy Bentley

What is Trump’s Problem with the Iran Deal?

You do not need to be a political expert to know that Donald Trump has long hated the Iran Deal. As with almost everything, Trump made his thoughts emphatically clear. In 2016, he labelled it the “worst deal ever.” On 8 May he finally acted on his dislike for the deal, withdrawing the United States from the agreement. Yet while Trump is always happy to share his opinion, in a political sphere there should always be a logical rationale attached to an opinion. The Iran Deal is a real agreement and pulling out will have very real effects – so it matters what Trump’s reasoning for pulling out was.

On the spectrum of international agreements, the Iran Deal (formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the JCPOA) is relatively simple. It is a classic trade-off: economic sanctions on Iran will be alleviated, in return Iran would dismantle or limit its current nuclear program. The result is that Iran is now incapable of building a nuclear weapon, which seems to be an inherently positive achievement. Yet Trump is not the first American politician against the agreement. Before it was even finalised, feelings on the Iran Deal were divided down partisan lines. In 2015, senator Tom Cotton canvased 47 Republican senator’s signature for a letter to the Iranian leaders. It warned them that this deal would likely not last, as it could be reversed “with the stroke of a pen” with a new President.


President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action | May 8, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently gave a speech that not only highlighted Trump’s reasoning for withdrawing, but the general Republican stance. Firstly, the workability of the deal is questioned as the Iranian’s entered in “bad faith” and “continues to lie” today (although the UN has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance). Additionally, they see the deal as enriching Iranians and leading to their “cost-free expansion” of power. Overall though, there is a belief that the deal simply does not go far enough to limit a nation who supports violent regimes in the Middle East, such as the Taliban, Hamas, and the Assad government.

It is not that the Trump administration does not want a deal with Iran. They want a better deal. Pompeo listed 12 demands, including releasing American hostages and withdrawing forces from Syria. Until Iran agrees, the US will use “unprecedented financial pressure.” The question is whether this will be enough in light of the bridges Trump has burnt over the past month. The European countries in the deal – including Britain, France and Germany – are unlikely to lend support as they grapple to save the deal. Especially as Iran’s requirement for remaining in the deal is that they cover the cost of US sanctions. There also appears to be little consideration given to the history of the US and Iran relationship. From the era of the Iranian Revolution onwards, it was a relationship defined by tension and distrust. America withdrawing from their agreement and issuing threats poses the potential of reverting back to this state. If so, Iran’s co-operation would be anything but an easy road.

The specific details of why Trump pulled out may matter less than what it more broadly reflects. His approach to the Iran Deal demonstrates that he believes international affairs should be dealt with by using strength, aggression, and ultimatums. He is placing himself in direct divergence from the norms that have developed over the past hundred years, norms of diplomacy and peaceful cooperation. The fallout from his withdrawal will give an indication of the consequences of such a strategy.


By Rachel Buckman

International Day of UN Peacekeepers

We hear a lot about conflict; scenes of war flood television, computer and smartphone screens almost as quickly as they disappear from our minds and thoughts. We see cities destroyed by bombs and guns, we see millions of displaced people in refugee camps and we see terrible suffering. We might not be personally affected by war and unrest overseas, but we will always feel relief when the conflicts come to an end.

But what happens next, after a conflict has ended and left a decimated society to rebuild itself? This is where peacekeepers come in. Contrary to common knowledge, the role of peacekeepers is not to enforce peace, but to facilitate it after an agreement has been reached. Their presence is to demonstrate ongoing stability, as opposed to a protection from violence. Many criticise peacekeepers for being ineffective; early peacekeeping missions have demonstrated the potential pitfalls of installing non-combat personnel in what may be a fractured, unstable and frightened society which is clinging desperately to a tentatively-held peace. The reality is that peacekeeping is a new concept, one which reflects new values which the world strives to share – peace and cooperation, while still recognising and reflecting individual states’ sovereignty and right to self-govern.


Bolivian UN peacekeepers distribute water and meals to the residents in Cite Soleil after an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince Haiti on Tuesday January 12, 2009. Photo Marco Dormino


Above all, peacekeepers are human beings; they work in dangerous and frightening conditions at considerable risk to their own personal safety, all in furtherance of an ideal of world peace. Since the end of World War II 3,700 peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving. They are an example of how governments can cooperate and work together and can signify commitment to upholding ongoing peace and stability. They are not a foreign invasion seeking to dominate a tentative, fledgling state; they are there to facilitate and strengthen law and order.

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers reminds us of those who had lost their lives facilitating peace and reminds us of 100,000 who serve across the world today. The aim is to prompt discussion around the roles of peacekeepers, honour the one million peacekeepers who have served since World War II, and to look to the future at how peacekeeping can be improved. Peacekeepers signify a commitment to peace which is worth upholding and worth striving to improve.


By Grace Thurlow

Economic Development


Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Economic Development Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.


1. We recommend the Government take action to address the root causes of the present levels of inequality, and to ensure that future growth is both inclusive and sustainable.

In order to alleviate poverty we support the Government in:

  1. Investigating the use of a negative income tax to either replace or supplement the current transfer payments system as a simplification measure;
  2. Increasing the minimum wage, but only in proportion to the rate of in inflation so as to avoid unnecessary unemployment as a result of placing an excessive burden on employers.

The income tax rates should be amended by zero-rating the first $10,000 earned, decreasing tax rates on those earning $70,000-100,000 and increasing the rates on those earning greater than $100,000. This should be done by introducing new tax brackets and the changes should be revenue neutral.


We support the Government’s goal to reduce net debt to 20% of GDP, but we believe that the superannuation scheme should be changed to ensure the long-term sustainability of New Zealand’s public finances.


We recommend the Government introduce a land value tax, whereby taxpayers can choose whether they are taxed on accrual or on a realisation basis (plus interest) with an exception for Māori customary land.


We support the Government agreeing to new Free Trade Agreements, and we believe that current intellectual property laws should be retained unless the benefits of the deal exceed the costs to New Zealanders.


We understand the benefits of closed-door negotiations and investor-state dispute settlements with adequate exceptions provided for the interests of public health and security, but we encourage government to provide more time and resources so there can be more meaningful public debate.


An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – James and Cameron, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration


Culture & Heritage


Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Culture & Heritage Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.



Te Reo Māori, as an offcial and our indigenous language, is central to our identity and heritage. We endorse the compulsory learning of Te Reo Māori language and culture in primary school. We would like to see local iwi and local schools partnering to develop the teaching of Te Reo and tikanga in primary schools. Loss of language is parallel to loss of culture and we think action must be taken to revitalise the national taonga of Māori language and culture.


We would like a broader implementation of Whānau Ora in the sphere of social welfare. Welfare options are difficult to access for Kiwis. WINZ currently does not assess the personal hardships of individuals in the context of their cultural backgrounds, familial responsibilities and roles in their communities. A broader approach can allow support received from the state to sit alongside family support, empowering individuals and encouraging upward social mobility.


We see a need for the heritage and culture of all cultures in New Zealand to be fostered by a central organisation. We suggest the creation of a national culture and heritage organisation that brings together regional corporations that highlight the diversity of Aotearoa. New Zealanders should be able to remain connected to their roots while also appreciating the heritage of other cultures. This organisation should partner with local iwi to showcase the history and culture of Aotearoa.


We believe immigration is important to New Zealand’s culture, heritage, and demographic make-up. We endorse:

  1. Incentivising immigration to regions outside Auckland by changing current immigration regulations to offer non-financial incentives, such as increasing regional visa allowance.
  2. The creation of a whānau buddy system, where families of different cultures can connect and exchange cultures with one another. Connecting people in this way will foster kotahitanga (the princi- ple of unity and solidarity). We want to see total understanding and inclusion of all cultures, particularly immigrant, indigenous, and refugee cultures.

We promote the balanced portrayal of positive characters in New Zealand film, television shows and advertisements to dismantle racist stigmas within our society.


An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – James and Te Wai, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration




Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Education Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.


3.1 We encourage schools to consider education from a variety of perspectives, including Progressive Education. We want schools to operate beyond traditional formats, which includes:

    1. Open access to devices, particularly in lower decile schools via increased government funding;
    2. Further focus on subjects that endorse hands-on learning and connectivity between related subjects;
    3. Time set aside for students to independently select and pursue educationally productive projects.
3.2 We acknowledge the Government’s intended review of the National Curriculum, and recommend:

    1. The credits awarded by subjects be more proportional to work-
      load, to avoid incentivising ‘easy credit’ subjects;
    2. Increased subject standardization in both internal assessments and numeracy or literacy credits offered;
    3. Increase subject diversity within the curriculum, including but not limited to civics education, philosophy, cultural studies, Asian and multicultural studies.
3.3 We view quality professional development as fundamental to providing Aotearoa with empowering teachers and strongly encourage:

    1. Schools implement professional development programmes, such as but not limited to Ka Hikitia;
    2. Professional development in regards to multiculturalism to empathise with identities;
    3. Teachers to embrace the digital age and undergo digital-specific training.
3.4 We recognise the obvious disparity and issues with educational accessibility. We strongly encourage a government review, seeking alternatives to:

    1. Zoning, in order to better balance comfortable school size, freedom of school choice, and equity in the classroom;
    2. The decile system, highly endorsing the anonymization of a schools decile rating.
3.5 We acknowledge the institutionalised issues facing indigenous students, and we deeply aspire to see these issues mitigated by means of:

    1. A comprehensive implementation of Māori history and culture in the curriculum;
    2. Increased government funding towards inter-school cultural events that celebrate indigenous cultures in particular.
3.6 We acknowledge the importance of streaming for excelling, proficient students, and particularly endorse:

  1. Subject-based streaming as opposed to streaming by overall performance and;
  2. Increased tests and increased focus on past internal grades in determining said stream placement.
3.7 We request teacher wages are increased within the public school education system to encourage positive learning, and decrease New Zealand’s current teacher shortage.


An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Romy and Mark, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration




Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Environment Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.



We want Aotearoa to be a world leader in mobilising action against climate change. We strongly endorse the implementation of the Zero Carbon Act and call upon the New Zealand Government to adopt more ambitious short-term targets under the Paris Agreement. New Zealand’s Emission Trading Scheme must also be reformed to balance environmental and economic concerns and enhance accountability. We recommend the inclusion of agriculture in the scheme and the restriction of offshore carbon credits.


We acknowledge the signifcance of agriculture to Aotearoa’s economy but its detrimental consequences require urgent action. We advocate for the cessation of agricultural expansion and dairy intensification. We recommend a shift in focus to enhancing agricultural efficiency and adopting more sustainable farming practices in line with circular economy. To enable this transition, we encourage greater government support and funding in collaboration with industry and iwi stakeholders.


We recognise our responsibility as kaitiaki of Aotearoa’s biodiversity and the need to simultaneously protect our economy and national identity. We urge the preservation of native species and vulnerable ecosystems through increased funding towards the success of collaborative programmes such as Predator Free 2050. We strongly support the inclusive creation of new national parks and networks of marine reserves. This includes the increased protection of Great Barrier and creation of the Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary.


We encourage New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy and believe New Zealanders and businesses must be better enabled to adopt a zero waste paradigm. In order to achieve this, we urge the Government to:

  1. Eliminate single use plastics following a similar process to the banning of microbeads in New Zealand;
  2. Increase waste minimisation funding and subsidies;
  3. Mandate the composting or donation of surplus food from businesses.

We demand a clean energy future for Aotearoa where diverse, culturally appropriate resource development is embraced at both the regional and national level. The transition towards 100% renewable electricity production is urgent, particularly a focus on increasing solar and wind infrastructure. We promote the use and subsidisation of local energy technologies such as micro wind turbines and solar systems positioned in public spaces as educational mechanisms for enhancing public engagement with sustainability issues.


We endorse the Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021 and urge that strong governance is provided to enable progress and measure impact. We particularly support programmes such as Enviroschools which provide opportunities for experiential learning. We encourage a holistic approach which emphasises engagement with a diversity of perspectives, including mātauranga Māori.


We call on the Government to increase investment in infrastructure that supports and enables low carbon transport options. We want to see reliable public and shared transport alternatives, promotion of the cycle-share programme and implementation of safer bike lanes.


We urge the Government to increase research and development of low carbon fuel alternatives and the implementation of electric vehicles and other sustainable alternatives.


An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Danielle and Hanna, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration




Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Equity Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.



We believe it is difficult for those in the LGBTQIA+ community to express their identity and feel self-worth in employment or training. We expect workplaces to actively work with the Rainbow Tick organisation to better promote health and welfare to sustain healthy and emotional well being.


We request that the Health curriculum is updated to reflect the wide spectrum of sexual and gender identities in order to create an inclusive, safe, and positive environment for all students. We think this will help normalise attitudes towards individual and sexual diversity and lead to healthy relationships between young people.


We believe societal expectations of disability can negatively impact the mental wellbeing of those affected. We suggest the creation of educational media and resources to raise awareness about recognition and treatment of learning and physical disabilities.


We are concerned that a high proportion of youth go through the school system suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability (including but not limited to dyslexia, ADHD, and dyspraxia). We call for the Government to subsidise the diagnosis of learning disabilities along with the screening of primary aged children to promote early diagnosis and access to assistance for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.


We think there is a lack of meaningful discussion and understanding in New Zealand about rape culture. We recommend a greater emphasis on removing damaging societal stigmas and promote discussion around issues such as sexual consent, rape and its impact, and sexual and domestic violence. It is instrumental that victims feel safe and respected in detailing and sharing their experiences.


We think there are issues regarding accessibility and distribution of benefits in the social welfare system. We urge that the criteria are changed to allow greater access to vulnerable people in need of additional resources to attain a healthy living standard.


We believe there is insufficient education on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) to create an inclusive environment for those with hearing impairments. We call for a greater accessibility to resources for learning NZSL to prevent social exclusion of the hearing impaired.


An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Akshat and Tracy, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration


Foreign Affairs


Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Foreign Affairs Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.



We think New Zealand’s independent foreign policy is increasingly relevant as the interests of our strategic partners continue to diverge. We see New Zealand having a constructive role in intergovernmental organisations. Simultaneously, we support policy in the pursuit of development of New Zealand’s relationships with member states of the Commonwealth in multiple forms, including but not limited to:

  1. Economic, in the form of Free Trade Agreements;
  2. Security, in the form of emboldened collaborative defence arrangements; and
  3. Immigration, in the form of exploration into the potential for freer movement between their citizens.

New Zealand has a pivotal responsibility to maintain and develop relationships with fellow Paci c Island nations. We have common cultures and should utilise measures within the Commonwealth, connections with organisations, aid and diplomatic presence to further our common interests.


In the past, New Zealand has been a leader in world issues. We want to see this role continue through:

  1. Greater commitment to addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development within New Zealand;
  2. Encouragement for the international community to move toward sustainable models of development;
  3. Maintained public interaction with our programmes in the Antarctic.

Further developing our precedent for a defined stance on world issues, we encourage New Zealand to continue to hold states to account in circumstances of proven violations of international law, especially proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and encouraging other states with common interests to do likewise.


We endorse the continued funding and support of ethical and accountable non-governmental organisations that provide aid to the refugee crisis. We also see a need to address root issues of displacement such as climate change and conflict. Finally, we would like an increase to New Zealand’s refugee quota.


We recognise the importance of the New Zealand Navy in relation to our extensive exclusive economic zone. We strongly suggest increasing the funding and functionality of the New Zealand Navy, in order to better equip them to carry out their role in the areas of: interaction with the Antarctic; humanitarian aid peacekeeping; search and rescue; defence agreements; and Pacific development.


We want to see more public awareness of the New Zealand Government’s actions, particularly in the area of foreign policy. To that end, we encourage:

  1. Greater publicity and media awareness of New Zealand’s international interactions, including its contributions to intergovernmental organisations, particularly through social media;
  2. More active promotion of engagements and events facilitated by foreign diplomatic missions and immigrant communities;
  3. Investigation into the potential introduction of a New Zealand Youth Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, to encourage youth political engagement and participation.



An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Lexi and Ishan, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.


Download the 2018 Youth Declaration