The life of a participant and facilitator at Aōtearoa Youth Declaration

My time as a participant:

My time with UN Youth began in 2015 at Aōtearoa Youth Declaration where I was placed in the Culture & Heritage focus group. My positive experience here led on to me attending the event again in both 2016 and 2017 as part of the Governance focus group.

Contemplating on my experience at Youth Declaration, my time as a participant is summarised into two points: community and education.

Because the focus group you are in is one that you have shown a passion for, you have the chance to find people with similar interests and for those 4 days, they become your new best friends because nothing could bring you closer than spending all day contemplating solutions to problems that plague our society. The friends I made at Youth Declaration I am still friends with today; this experience helps you to form unbreakable bonds and memories that will last a lifetime.

Looking back I now recognise just how influential and impactful my facilitators were; to have people who were always willing to discuss any problems you had or answer any questions about University was so important and enabled me to feel a lot more comfortable. In a sense, it is like gaining mentors; which is such a valuable thing to have in life

The skills you gain as a participant are remarkable. When I first heard of Aōtearoa Youth Declaration I had no idea that I would come out of it with an increased sense of confidence and knowledge in policy development. The event opens your mind up to a range of ideas and perspectives that elsewhere you would not have heard.

You have the ability to have such fantastic dialogue about issues that you are passionate about and that makes the experience unique from anything I had done before.



My first time as a facilitator at AYD:

I went into the 2018 Youth Declaration with no expectations or idea of how different my experience was going to be compared to a participant.

People always say that volunteer experiences in organisations like this are incredibly rewarding, but I had no idea just how rewarding it could be. When you have the ability to be put in the place of someone who you personally know has the ability to make such a difference is surreal, but if anything it encouraged me to be the best facilitator I could be.

I was not expecting such a 180-degree difference in my experience compared to being a participant but you really do look at the conference with a whole other perspective. Being a conference assistant allows you to have a better understanding of just how impactful this event is and shows just how amazing it is to have all these rangitahi in one room debating the issues of our generation; it really makes you feel both proud and privileged to be there and witness this greatness.

The work that you put into making this time incredible for the participants is absolutely worth it in the long run, especially when you finish all your statements and you see their faces when they realise how much they have learnt and put to use over the last 4 days. Once you start growing as a focus group you really start to build bonds and I can now understand why events like these form relationships that can last a lifetime.

These 4 days have been the most incredible days for me and I have loved every second of them. The work that goes on behind the scenes is incomprehensible and as a participant I never knew the effort and passion that goes into making this event such a success until now; the committee works tirelessly, welfare is always gearing to go, media team constantly taking photographs and recording the experience and the committee facilitators always willing to go the extra mile for their participant.

I can not recommend volunteering enough especially at Aōtearoa Youth Declaration; the people you meet, the knowledge you gain and the fun you have is unbelievable and I would like to thank all the participants, volunteers and especially the committee for a fabulous event.



By Julia Caulfield

What would you like MPs to know this election year?

We believe that it’s important to be an engaged and active citizen, but not all young people have the chance to express their views by voting. This year we’re asking you what you want MPs to know for election year! The Youth Declaration Facebook page is going to be a platform for young people in New Zealand to share their thoughts, feelings, fears and hopes as we build up to the election.

We’ll be posting photos of young people from around New Zealand every weekday, with their message to MPs and their stories. If you want to be involved, then look out for our photographers at UN Youth events, and especially at Youth Declaration!


“I would love for MPs to make inclusive and holistic learning a top priority this election year!”

“I think that education is a mechanism that could be better utilised to combat social issues, and should really be at the forefront of MPs’ minds when they’re looking at any youth-related policy.

Retaining students in the school system helps eradicate social issues such as poverty, gender inequality, crime, and even voter apathy. Although our dropout rate is decreasing, it’s still far too easy to disengage with learning if you feel like you don’t “fit” the system.

I hated school by the end of year 13, which was really gutting as someone who has always loved learning. I think NZ MPs need to continue to work towards a more flexible or individualised education system that doesn’t leave anyone out, which means catering to different learning styles, abilities, cultural backgrounds, and interests, rather than pushing every student towards the same goal of attending university, which isn’t realistic or necessary. In such an innovative country, it seems wild to me that we’d want to have schools that aim to produce identical-copy graduates. I think if we want to foster a love of learning that continues outside the classroom then we need to alter the way we approach learning, student by student.”

Anna, 19, Dunedin


“I want every MP to go into this election knowing that every individual deserves to be safe and we need to reevaluate our refugee policy.”

“I want every MP to go into this election knowing that every individual deserves to be safe and we need to reevaluate our refugee policy.

We live in a world which is inescapably connected and we as New Zealanders need to acknowledge that one humans’ life is no less valuable then our own. The refugee crisis is a prominent issue and New Zealand is so fortunate so why are we not pulling our weight.”

Olivia, 19, Wellington


“I want MPs to remember that their policies don’t exist in a vacuum, where they’re the only thing that affects Aotearoa – they sit alongside international law and the global community.”

“I want MPs to remember that their policies don’t exist in a vacuum, where they’re the only thing that affects Aotearoa – they sit alongside international law and the global community.

Rather than campaign against trade or immigration, or tell me that we’ll prevent climate change on our own, show me how you’re going to leverage our reputation and diplomats to make real, positive change. Tell me how you’ll use our relationships and international organisations to secure a safe future and minimise the risks and effects of global challenges. When we assume the only policies of relevance are our own, we make poor choices.”

Ash, 22, Wellington