GDT20: Paris-ite won an Oscar

As we wandered on to our final city, our delegates buzzed with anticipation over the classics, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, and the Louvre. We finally arrived and had no disappointments on this front – what awaited us was a beautiful and exciting new city to end our tour. Here are some thoughts from our delegates on city number 6!

BEN FRASER – City Landmarks

As GDT concluded, the delegation had the unique opportunity to explore the beautiful and historic sites of Paris. France’s beautiful art, distinctive language and rich culture has earned the admiration of many of us. Despite several members of the delegation admitting that their only knowledge of French culture comes from the movie Ratatouille, no one could fail to appreciate the beauty of Paris.

Exploring iconic locations like the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Élysées was a special experience. The city holds a unique place in the pantheon of western media as a symbol of love and romance. Visiting the landmarks we have seen for so many years was a highlight for all of us. Even the chilly weather couldn’t stop us sampling authentic croissants, and greeting locals with a friendly “Bonjour“ while diving between stunning boutiques for those last minute purchases. 

However it was the intersection of culture and heritage that surprised many of us. Visiting incredible museums like the Musée de Orange and Louvre or exploring the enchanting back alleys of Montmartre exposed us to France’s flamboyant history.

With only a flight back to New Zealand ahead, the city has also been a place of reflection for many of us. After a month of 3am DMC’s and picking uni papers, everyone is returning to their next adventure with our eyes widened to the potential that the world holds.

MARIA MENDOZA – Educational Meetings

Not only did the city of Paris show us delegates how culturally rich the city is, but whilst we immersed ourselves amongst it all we also had valuable educational meetings at the OECD, New Zealand Embassy and FIDH. 

We had our first meeting at the OECD where we had a presentation by Grégoire Garsous, who worked in the Trade and Agriculture Directorate, to give us a presentation on the relationship between Trade and Environment. With the OECD’s motto being  “Better policies for better lives”, the presentation was insightful into how international trade rules are conflicting with member states national environmental regulations. Grégoire emphasised how more analytical work was needed as the matter of the environment is an utterly complex debate, such as the need for empirical evidence to determine how globalisation can improve the environment and how to minimise adverse trade-related effects.

Up next we had our meeting at the New Zealand Embassy who advocate for the interest of New Zealand and the Pacific. It was always a good time talking to fellow Kiwis so we were all excited for it. We covered a range of topics from NZ being world leaders through our wellbeing budget and how the OECD looks to NZ for input, to how policymakers can prepare young people for the future and transitioning to a low carbon future.

The following day we had our very last educational meeting of the tour with FIDH (International Federation for Human rights) were we discussed the work of human rights NGOs at the United Nations. The FIDH engages in litigation against impunity, protecting local human rights defenders and enabling democratic environments worldwide. We learned that the FIDH prioritises women’s’ rights, migrant rights and looks into globalisation and human rights by holding companies accountable.

Overall the delegation has taken a lot out of our educational meetings and engaged with our speakers to learn as much as we can from their knowledge and experience. We hope to use what we learned to also, as we heard at the NZ Embassy, collectively come together to make our world a better place.

PIATA HOHAIA – Non Educational Activities

As we stepped into our last city for the tour there was a bittersweet feeling in the air however the excitement for the sightseeing was undeniable! 

The minute we stepped into Paris we were greeted by the bustling city and the beautiful buildings and architecture that comes with it. Our hostel was placed right beside the Paris canal and in the morning we woke up to picturistic views of the canal with a bridge right beside, people riding their bikes and patisseries from far as the eye could see. The weather all throughout our days in Paris was chilly in the mornings with a bit of rain but we had beautiful blue skies on other days. 

With a great suprise walking tour from Patrick, we got to learn and see more of the city like the French National Assembly building, the great canal St Martin and many more. Our first big landmark was the Arc de triomphe and although the stairs to the top were a bit of a trek the views of the city and of course the Eiffel Tower were amazing. 

On our second day a highlight for many of us delegates was our walking tour with our amazing guide. We started at Paris’s largest fountain Saint Michel and walked all through the city where we listened and learned about many stories of this French capital. I personally loved learning about the renovation of Paris in the late 19th century and how the aim of architects at that time was to bring light back into the city from an otherwise dark, dingy and disease ridden place. We saw the Notre Dame and although it was under heavy construction, the ruins of this monumental building you could tell held so much significance behind it. Some other highlights we went to were the Sainte-Chapelle, Palais de Justice de Paris, Square du vert-galant, the famous lock bridge and of course the Louvre.

Because our last day was on the same day as some of the Paris riots we weren’t able to do some of the other important landmarks however going to the Montmartre steps was also a definite highlight. To see the beautiful view of the sunset behind the city with the Sacrè Cœur church behind us was a great way to end our last day in Paris. Having free time to roam the streets and stop at café’s was a great way to take in the city and experience the more slow paced lifestyle. Overall Paris and it’s amazing culture and history didn’t fail to disappoint. 

GDT20: Oh Vienna!

Vienna (not just an Ultravox hit!) has been a very enjoyable and exciting city for our delegation, as we travel north through Europe in the latter half of our tour. Here are some highlights from some of our delegates!

SHANNON MCLEAN: City landmarks and highlights

After the experience of the overnight train, we arrived in the slightly colder climate of Vienna. Even when we first stepped off the metro we stumbled across various artistic pieces of architecture. In this case it was not our hostel but a church. 

The city’s landmarks were greatly commentated by Patrick’s guide where we can not forget to mention the brilliant dad jokes. We passed through the ‘Museum Quarter’ (yes it’s a thing) and saw a huge statue of Queen Victoria. 

We also happened to be in Vienna on National Remembrance Day and came across a park of trees with potato sacks covering them as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. This was definitely something that made us aware of where we were and how much history each country has. 

Our last stop on Patrick’s Tour was the St Stephen’s Cathedral, another stunning piece of architecture. Standing tall and goth like it was nothing quite like we’d seen before. It showed harsh tones and sharp edges but inside gave out the feeling of warmth and elegance. 

Because of the rain on the 28th of January we decided it wasn’t worth the visit to Schonbrunn. However the resilient Directors, (especially noting Virginia, logistic Queen here) managed to fit in a visit to this unique Palace before Aspern. I personally didn’t know what to expect from the Palace, but upon arriving I was greatly surprised. There were some unique features such as the yellow colour, the huge columned statue on the hill overlooking the Palace, a desert zoo, a greenhouse full of palm trees and endless paths of stone connecting gardens. I think it would be safe to say that we all gained a bit of architectural appreciation in Vienna and will remember these landmarks due to their design. 

GWYNETH PALLARAG: Non-educational activities

Before even stepping foot in Vienna, our overnight train from Rome was an adventure in itself. Rooms were three bunks high and a suitcase wide, yet still big enough for the delegation to yarn through the night. 

Then came out hostel, which was right beside the famous Naschmarkt, a huge market with 16th-century origins. It was a symphony for the senses, and they sold everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, exotic herbs, traditional cheese and bread, with cute vintage stalls and tourist shops dotted around. Novelty enough for some delegates to lose all concept of money and spend €10 for a hundred gram bad of nuts.

Nothing says winter in Vienna like some nighttime ice skating, which Rathausplatz surely delivered. The trees were lit up, we vibed to the music, the view of the neo-gothic style city hall was gorgeous, and the atmosphere was magical. Though our delegates had physical lows, with a record tripe, falls and stumbles, it was undoubtedly a high point of our trip. 

Our coldest city yet, the two degree Viennese weather proved no match for this delegation. We trekked from meeting to meeting, platz to platz, refuelling every so often with a cup of rich, creamy coffee, and a classic Austrian apple strudel. Temperatures may have been low, but our spirits sure were high. 

BELLA GREIG: Educational Meetings

In Vienna, we were very lucky to have three very different meetings. On Tuesday, we travelled to Vienna’s United Nations Headquarters. Here, we had our meeting with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). This organisation was founded in 1957 and works to develop international peace and security through its intergovernmental platform for partnership and cooperation in the nuclear field: both with weaponry and tools.

This meeting began with a speaker who gave us an in depth description of how the study of isotopes in the earth’s soil can determine things such as the amount of erosion of soil, and the age of underground water sources. We then heard from two speakers who gave a more general overview of the IAEA and the work they do. It was very interesting to learn the definitions of the three main pillars of the organisation. These pillars were Science and Technology, Safety and Security and Safeguards and Verification. 

The next day, we met with the Smart City Vienna Agency, a think tank initiative which focuses on finding contemporary and effective responses to the drastic shortage of natural resources and climate change. In a nutshell, the Smart City Vienna Agency has an approach which puts citizens first, and views quality of life as an imperative pillar of current and future work and research. Some of the agency’s most memorable projects included ‘Smart Traffic Lights’ and ‘Heat from Waffles’. The Smart Traffic Lights initiative aims to use combined sensors for more efficient traffic flow, thus increasing environmental health. Heat from Waffles was a second very interesting project which aims for smart usage from waste heat (from the production of waffles). This left the delegates thinking of sustainable practises in new and very innovative ways!

The Aspern tour was the final educational meeting held in Vienna. To get there, we travelled about 40 minutes out of the centre of Vienna to reach the smart city construction site. We learnt that in addition to being one of Europe’s fastest growing urban developments, it has been planned to enhance the quality of life for citizens and the performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities to reduce resource consumption, wastage and overall costs. It was interesting to learn that one of the main challenges this city faces is finding businesses to relocate to the new urban campus. 

Thanks Vienna for some fantastic meetings and bring on Berlin!

MEGHAN TEMPLETON: What’s next for the tour

Time has been flying by for the GDT 2020 crew, and it is safe to say that every single one of the delegation is making the most of all the opportunities being given to us. 

Stop number Five for us is Berlin. Nine times the size of Paris, home to more canals than Amsterdam and Venice and many many museums, shops and hidden streets to explore, Berlin is definitely shaping up to be a highlight on tour. 

I promise that shopping and sightseeing isn’t all we are doing though! The delegation is very excited for the multiple meetings that await us in this vibrant city. First up is a meeting with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and GPPI (Global Public Policy Institute). I am sure that both meetings will be very thought provoking and provide interesting discussion. 

Unfortunately we are no longer meeting with Ecosia which is disappointing as the delegation was definitely looking forward to learning about such an innovative use of technology. However, we have been so fortunate with the many other creative organisations and companies that we have talked with. 

All in all it is fair to say, that despite a bit of tiredness, we are all filled with excitement to explore – and learn from – everything Berlin has to offer.

 

GDT20: Rome Rome Rome Your Boat!! ⛵️

Gently downstream from London, our delegates wandered off the plane into Rome with much haste, as we quickly set off for our meeting at the World Food Programme. Our blog post for Rome is quite a lot shorter as we were only in Rome for two and a half days! 

ROY CHEN: City Landmarks and Non-Educational Meetings

The heritage of the city of Rome was something that all members of the delegation enjoyed. It’s amazing how they built the Flavian Amphitheatre, the Colosseum, just for the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe. But in all seriousness, the views of and from this ancient equivalent of a Football Stadium were awe-inspiring and thinking about all the history-defining events that took place in the soil of Palatine Hill and the Forum as we stood in it was truly a reflection for us on the brief flashes of time that we inhabit. 

They say that if you toss a coin backwards into the Trevi Fountain, your destiny will lead you back to Rome, as all roads tend to. But with just the right technique, I can verify this to be true as I managed to find my way back to this location after about a year since I was on a Choir Tour. Finally, the Vatican was a wonder to behold as we not only saw the HQ of the biggest religious organization in the world but a pleasantly surprising spotting of the CEO himself, Pope Francis. All in all, the delegation got time to appreciate the phrase “When in Rome”.

MAIA INGOE: Educational Meetings, and what’s next

No sooner had we stepped out of the plane onto Italian ground than were we rushing through our tight turnaround to get to our first and only meeting in Rome, with the World Food Programme (WFP). Being in the ancient city for the weekend meant we were lucky enough to squeeze in this meeting on the afternoon of our arrival. We went straight to the WFP HQ where we met with Frances, a kiwi communications Officer for the WFP. We talked about the world food programmes work in addressing world hunger, as well as their extensive work in climate action and data analysis. It was a meeting we all were looking forward to and it certainly answered many questions and gave us many more things to research. 

The next city on our agenda is the dreamy Vienna, capital of Austria. After an overnight train ride tonight we will have arrived in the city of musical legends such as Mozart and Beethoven, also known as the city of dreams thanks to psychotherapy. We are looking forward to meeting with Smart City Vienna and touring Aspern, both of which are sure to offer amazing insight into sustainable development, in particular Goal 13: Climate Action, our goal for Vienna.

GDT20: London Calling! ☎️

As our Global Development Tour continues, we experience more of the great cities on our itinerary. The second of which, London, was a new favourite for many of us, despite having just touched down after a fantastic week in New York City.

Our delegates once again have written a small excerpt on different aspects of our visit to London:

LIAM WILLIAMS: City Landmarks and Activities

Walking around London, there’s such a powerful and almost intimidating presence. All these massive and important buildings loom overhead, and you’re nothing more than ants to them. That’s the feeling I got as we went and saw merely some of the amazing landmarks located around the city.

Trafalgar Square was as iconic as always, with Nelson’s column standing proud and central. There was a buzz of awe throughout the delegation upon our arrival, and many of us couldn’t resist a quick pose in front of the fountain to add a picture to our Instagram. 

Walking to see Tower Bridge was another incredible feat of human architecture and craftsmanship, with the bridge spanning 244 metres across the Thames river. It overlooked the Tower of London and the location of some of Patrick’s infamous dad jokes. 

We went for a walk down past 10 Downing Street, and got to witness Big Ben’s construction work, as well as the incredible Westminster Abbey. This is where all the royals get married, and the classic gothic architecture really stands out where it sits alongside all the other buildings in Westminster. 

JACK KEARNS: Educational Meetings

Going to London was a fantastic opportunities with once in a lifetime meeting opportunities with amazing companies, think tanks, NGOs and how they have contributed to the suitable development goals.

Oxford VR is a groundbreaking company that is on the cutting edge of using virtual reality as a way to help cure and reduce phobias such as height and social anxiety. While a different meeting from the previous city. it was none the less equally valuable. 

Chatham House or the Royal Institute of International Affairs is a global policy think tank based in London that advises and researchers on issues. We were presented with various fellows at Chatham house, who each discussed various research projects into public policy and reports. These ranged from reducing meat consumption to energy efficient and sustainable laboratory in less developed countries. 

CoGo (Connecting Good) is a social enterprise that has developed an app to collate and create an easily accessible way for consumers to purchase from companies that align with their values. Going to the Google Innovation Hub, which houses the CoGo headquarters, was an amazing experience where we learnt the challenges of  start up and the pitfalls of accreditation and making sure that a product or service is truly what it says it is.

Overall these were fantastic meeting that offered great and differing insights into how the SDGS will hopefully be accomplished by 2030!

EADAOIN ROUGHAN: Non-educational activities

Our second stop London proved to be a favourite for many delegates! The hustle of London was very different to the hustle in New York which shocked many.

We were accompanied by Patrick, our trusty Global Development tour guide. He showed us the Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament Square and the Buckingham Palace. We thought the dad jokes would stay in New York but boy, were we wrong.

During our free time delegates were able to visit the National Gallery, St Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare Globe and the National Gallery. We also had the opportunity to shop within the Borough markets, Camden Markets and Trafalgar square! A highlight for me was watching the Lion King musical at the Lyceum theatre and the masterchef competition in the hostel.

There were so many friendly people around London, especially the elderly couple we met at a Pret A Manger. Shout out to Anne and John for keeping us company as we waited for our sandwiches.

Overall, London was an amazing experience and I look forward to visiting London sometime soon!

HALA BAKARAT: What’s next for the tour?

So, what awaits us past the bustling city of London? Roma it is! From the rich historic sites to the…more rich historic sites, the delegates can’t wait to sink knee-deep in Roman history. We’ve all read about the gladiators, empires and the mechanisms of Ancient Rome so I can imagine it to be extremely surreal to see all those words over the years, come to life. Rome indicates the midway point of our tour, and although a bittersweet moment, the trip falls over the weekend so we manage to score ourselves some time to unwind and explore our surroundings. 

One exciting meeting does await us however, the World Food Programme! It is the worlds largest humanitarian organisation addressing SDG 2; zero hunger. Although the turn over really is a bit tight (as soon as we land on Roman soil, we will be heading to the meeting), we’re eager to see what incredible projects are being worked on and how we can aid in helping the shocking 821 million people who are undernourished. 

All that awaits us now is a 2.5 hour flight for our new adventures to begin. When in Rome, gdt shall take the throne !!!

GDT20: It’s Up to You, New York!

Our delegation has been having a wonderful time on our Global Development Tour. We are just about to jet off from London to experience Rome, and the rest of Europe. From some of our delegates in the meanwhile, however, is a collection of thoughts from our first leg of the trip, in New York.

Our delegation in New York also experienced American Model UN format with the prestigious Columbia Model UN and Exposition (CMUNCE). It was a highlight of New York for our team, and they made a lot of new friends.

For more, let’s hear it from some of the delegates themselves.

LIBBY LORD: City Highlights and Landmarks

Excitement was at an all time high landing New York, with delegates looking forward to experiencing such an iconic city firsthand. Our excitement was well-founded, with New York being a city of many highlights – from the Top of the Rock to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the UN Headquarters. 

From the Top of the Rockefeller Centre we got to see the city lights and take photos in front of landmarks such as the Empire State Building. This provided an exciting start to our time in New York. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a surprising highlight for me (someone with limited art knowledge). The variety and size of the collection was astounding, giving us the opportunity to visit rooms ranging from an Egyptian temple to a Japanese garden. 

Naturally, the UN Headquarters was a much anticipated visit. The opportunity to see the General Assembly and Security Council with our own eyes was incredible. I found it hard to believe that we were in the very rooms where resolutions were made that changed the course of history. 

I appreciated the insight that the 9/11 museum provided. With artefacts ranging from clothing to voice recordings, the memorial helped me comprehend the reality of a tragedy that occurred long before we were able to comprehend it. 

SUJEAN IN: Non Educational Activities

For every city visited in the Global Development Tour, a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) was assigned as a focal point. The SDG for the first stop of the tour, New York City, was SDG 17: partnership for the goals.

Fittingly, this first destination of our journey saw the establishment of friendships and a special group culture. Over the course of our week-long stay in the bustling metropolitan city, the delegation had the opportunity to immerse in various activities during free afternoons/evenings.

We were fortunate enough to have explored the iconic Times Square, watch Broadway shows, visit Dumbo in Brooklyn, and so much more. Many precious photos and golden memories were formed from the charismatic urban city.

An added experience in conjunction to completing these activities were the guided tours lead by Global Development Tour Director, Patrick. The delegation was hence able to extend their knowledge on the city and its landmarks. When on these ‘guided tours’, the entertaining commentary was always accompanied by a healthy dose of hilarious Dad jokes. This made the experiences gained a highlight for many delegates.

From the various culture-immersive activities, the delegation were able to obtain a personal perspective on NYC and also apply SDG 17 in real-life, as the group became a true whānau.

ADAM WHIBLEY: Educational Meetings

The delegation has been lucky to score meetings with a variety of esteemed organisations during our time here. First up was our meeting at UN women headquarters. It was refreshing and inspiring to have a young woman speaking to us from her position as a policy manager

We talked about the three main roles of UN women – the socially normative wing, the operative wing, and working towards equality within the wider UN. The talk was certainly engaging, and topical to our focus on the 2030 sustainable development goals set out by the UN. 

Next was a meeting with UNDESA – the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Our meeting centered around the affairs of indigenous peoples around the world, and the challenges that the UN faces trying to advocate for them while considering  the interests of governments and firms. 

Our final meeting was with the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN. A favorite among many of the delegates, this meeting focussed on how the mission works to translate domestic policies into international diplomacy, and how New Zealand works in partnership with countries that share many of our values. 

As representatives of New Zealand, we’ve been proud to share some of our culture with those we’ve been meeting with, thanking them for their time in both Te Reo and English. New York’s meetings have certainly set the bar high, and we are looking forward to our meetings in London and the rest of the tour.

AKIRA HURIWAI: What’s next for the tour

As we say goodbye to New York and hello to London, it is safe to say that the delegation will have our hands full in this action-packed, bustling European city. As a delegation we are extremely excited to be moving onto Stop 2 of our tour and into a new country with heaps of new sights and cultural experiences awaiting us.

From various educational meetings with NZ High Commission, CoGo, Grantham Institute, Royal Institute of International Affairs and Oxford VR to playing tourist visiting iconic sites such as Buckingham Palace, Westend Lion King Show, St Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare Globe Theatre and Borough Markets – London is providing a plethora of educational opportunities and experiences of a lifetime.

Our goal for London is SDG 9: Building resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. This goal is extremely relevant to New Zealand as we move into an era where climate change is a real threat and something which we will explore through meetings, discussions and sightseeing.

Overall London holds a lot of anticipation for this delegation and I cannot wait to see what we get up to and what we take away from this truly beautiful and energetic city.

Keep an eye out for our next blog post reviewing our London trip!

GDT 2020 Off to a Literal Flying Start!

Hello and welcome to the inaugural post of our GDT blog for 2020! We are quite literally off to a flying start, having just jetted 26 hours to get to our destination here in New York City!

22 of New Zealand’s youngest and most outstanding leaders have embarked on a month long educational tour of a lifetime, with 4 tertiary directors.

Over the next month, we will be bringing you their stories, as they jet through New York, London, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris and San Francisco. 

We’re meeting some outstanding social enterprises, NGOs and agencies dedicated to tackling the challenges of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs are an ambitious agenda to address key global injustices, and provide targets to help the world be a more sustainable place by 2020.

You’ll hear some insight into the meetings we undertake, as well as all of the fun activities we’ll be getting up to over the next few weeks.

Our first stop is New York City. Stay tuned to this blog as we bring to you our meetings with UN Women, the UN Permanent Indigenous Forum, and the NZ Embassy here.

From the delegation and our directors, we hope you are all having a restful start to the year, and hope you are looking forward to the tour as much as we are!!

Pictured below is the delegation just after lunch in New York’s financial district together.

 

In the City of Dreams

There is something to be said about a 3am wake-up call and that’s the fact that they should never happen. Alas, given that it was our only flight out to the City of Dreams (an homage to Sigmund Freud), the Delegates and Directors mentally prepared themselves for the oh-so-familiar shrill of the Apple alarm clock. We can testify that while it was easy enough to get to the airport, our eyelids did feel like they were being weighed down by bricks shortly thereafter.

Nonetheless, we were welcomed to a Vienna that sat at a balmy 7-degrees – we didn’t even need our scarves and gloves! After engorging ourselves on a not-so-typical brunch (who knew the Viennese were so fond of warmed brownies with vanilla ice cream or cheesecake at 10am?), the Delegation explored the Museum Quartier, the Nasch Food Market, and ended up at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. With its multi-coloured tile roof, the majestic Cathedral stood above the rest of the buildings in Vienna. An interesting fact we learnt about the iconic monument was that it contained catacombs filled with the bones of plague victims!

The next day was filled with free time for the Delegation. We split into two: one group went to Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens while the other group went to the nearby Schonbrunn Zoo – the oldest continually-operating zoo in the world! Schonbrunn Palace was constructed to house the Habsburg rulers during the summer, while the nearby Zoo functioned as the Imperial menagerie. Once the day drew to a close, the Delegation decided to take to ice skating in front of the beautiful Vienna City Hall to truly experience the magic of the city.

Our last day in Vienna had, once again, arrived far too quickly. We had a jam-packed day meeting with the New Zealand Embassy and another organisation associated with Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities – Smart City Wien. The Delegates enjoyed hearing about the NZ Embassy’s relationship with other organisations like The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization and The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The discussion mainly revolved around the viability of nuclear power as a sustainable energy source, incentivising governments to prevent human trafficking offences, and general trade between New Zealand and the European Union. 

After a hearty lunch, we moved to Smart City Wien’s office, where the speaker talked about Vienna’s consistent role as the world’s most liveable city. We learnt that the transport network and almost 40% of the apartments in the city were owned by the City Council, enabling citizens to move from place to place and live there at a fraction of the cost of other cities. For example, while an annual public transport pass costs €365 in Vienna (incl. buses, trams, and trains), the same would cost almost €2000 in London. Needless to say, there were many lessons that New Zealand could take away!

It seems appropriate at this point to say ‘so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye’ to Vienna. We are sadly onto the last leg of our journey and it is crazy to think about how quickly the time has flown. But we’ll see you in Rome before we bid you adieu!

BRRRRR-LIN!

After a late-night arrival, the Delegation woke up eager and excited to explore the kookiest city on our itinerary: Berlin. With an appealing mix of old and new, walls painted with graffiti, and dozens upon dozens of vegan cafes, Berlin felt like the cool new kid on the block.

We traipsed our way through the newly-designed Potsdamer Platz (once the world’s largest building construction site, after the wreckage caused by World War II), before arriving at our first meeting with the prestigious German Council for Sustainable Development. Members of the Council are elected by the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, to advise the government on its sustainable development policy. It also has a further task of creating and sustaining public dialogue around sustainability issues, whether they concern the environment or in more niche industries like finance. Dr. Veronica Tomei, with whom we met, started the presentation by outlining the Council’s projects, before turning the discussion on the sorts of sustainability initiatives that take place in New Zealand. Needless to say, it was an incredibly engaging meeting!

Once the meeting finished, the Delegation caught the S-Bahn to the East Side Gallery. There was an amazing array of murals on the remnants of the Berlin Wall, from quirky expressions of abstract art, to more serious and somber visuals on the importance of human rights. After the Delegates (and Director(s)) were satisfied with their potential Instagram shots, we mentally resolved to trek all the way to Alexanderplatz – an open square in Central Berlin, directly beneath the TV Tower – before ending the evening at a traditional German pub (apologies to our vegetarian delegates!).

The next morning was considerably more sedated, given our pitstop at Sachsenhausen – a former Nazi concentration camp, used primarily to imprison prisoners-of-war during World War II. While it was incredibly harrowing to walk the footsteps of those before us, and to witness the atrocities that had been committed on those grounds, it was also an empowering reminder to not let history repeat itself.

While the train ride back to Central Berlin was a quiet one, our mood did perk up during the afternoon’s Walking Tour. We explored the history behind the Brandenburg Gate, learnt that the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe has no official meaning (leaving it open to interpretation), and walked over an unassuming parking lot – which turned out to be (spoiler alert) Hitler’s Bunker. A massive shout-out to our lovely Tour Guide, India!

Our visit to Berlin was quickly coming to a close, much to the dislike of both Delegates and Directors. Friday morning began with a Tour of the Reichstag, the historic meeting place of the Bundestag (the German Parliament). A fun fact that we learnt was that the newly-constructed glass dome at the top of the Reichstag was meant to symbolise the transparency of the German government!

We then hiked our way to Checkpoint Charlie for our last meeting in the city, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Chris Melzer, the Spokesperson for the Organisation, was incredibly engaging and passionate about the work that he did. The Delegates thoroughly enjoyed discussing the contentious issues of the refugee crisis, including the threat of human trafficking and the assimilation of refugees into Western society. Chris also talked about his experience as a teenager growing up in the Cold War environment. He lived in East Berlin and witnessed the ideological fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – a heartening reminder to both Delegates and Directors of the freedoms we have today! 

The day ended early, given our early morning flight to Vienna (hello, 3am!). Catch us in Mozart’s city next!

La Vie En Rose 🎶

Saturday morning in Paris kicked off with a walking tour throughout the city. We started at Notre Dame, weaved our way through one of the first – and most narrow – streets in Paris before Hausmann’s ‘renovation’, and ended at the Louvre. One fun fact we learnt was that Notre Dame was a building that Parisians initially hated and thought was an eyesore – before a man named Victor Hugo came along and wrote a novel called The Hunchback of Notre Dame in order to save it from being destroyed – ever heard of it? Another fun fact was that if we’d spent 30 seconds looking at every single piece of art in the Louvre, it would take 100 days with no breaks! The Delegates thoroughly enjoyed viewing several pieces of famous art: the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, and Liberty Leading the People, to name a few.

The next day was our one and only Director’s birthday! The ‘surprise’ in the morning consisted of numerous chocolates, a couple of cards, and even unravelled the poetic prowess of a couple of the Delegates. The Delegation then split into two: one group went to explore Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, while the other group trekked out to see Versailles Palace. We regrouped in the evening to fittingly end Mitchell’s birthday with a delicious French chocolate gateau.

The Sustainable Development Goal attributed to the City of Light was Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, so it made sense that we meet with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). On Monday morning, we were introduced to Tim Francis, a New Zealander working at UNESCO, and Julie Saito, an Emmy-award winning journalist who is now a Specialiste of Communication. Tim discussed how the majority of UNESCO’s work was actually in the ‘Educational’ sector of their title, while Julie invited the Delegates into a discussion around the best ways the SDGs could be engaged with by youth. The Delegates thoroughly enjoyed the meeting, which ended with a tour of UNESCO’s building.

That afternoon, the Delegation did a bit more sightseeing, with pit stops at the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. We ended with a leisurely stroll through Champs-Elysees, where many Euros were dropped on Laduree macarons (although no one can quite bring themselves to regret it).

The next day was sadly our last in Paris. We had an incredible meeting with the New Zealand Embassy and Permanent Representative to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). We met with a dynamic duo of Roger Dungan, a scientist-turned-diplomat and Ginny Chapman, a diplomat with a career history based primarily in the former NZ Aid programme in the Pacific. The Delegates asked a series of questions relating to New Zealand’s involvement with the OECD before the meeting ended with a networking session (supplemented with French pastries, of course!).

Next up on our itinerary: Berlin!

London Calling

Our adventures in London continued on Wednesday morning with a visit to the United Nations Global Compact, held at their seriously cool office space in an Islington art gallery. There, the Delegation learnt all about the work the Compact is doing educating the public and the private sector on the SDGs. The highlight of the meeting was undoubtedly the interactive component, where the Delegation were divided into groups, each of whom were allocated an industry, (eg, financial services, retail, oil and gas), and a level of engagement with the SDGs (eg, advocates for the goals, indifferent towards them, or interested in knowing more about them). The teams were then tasked with responding to a range of scenarios from the perspective of their specific stakeholder.

UN Global Compact’s key multi-year strategic goal is driving business awareness and action in achieving the SDGs by 2030. The gallery the Compact so kindly hosted our Delegation was a dynamic, open-plan space. The interactive scenario activity, which tasked us with problem solving on the spot, was a refreshing way to mix up how most of our meetings had previously run. – Florence Ferguson (Wellington)

Following this, the Delegation tubed across town for our second meeting of the day with the New Zealand High Commission, at the beautiful New Zealand House near Trafalgar Square. The Delegation enjoyed hearing from the Deputy High Commissioner and the team, who were all riding a high, fresh off a successful visit from the Prime Minister. Other topics of discussion included Brexit, the Commonwealth, and the continued importance of the New Zealand-United Kingdom bilateral relationship. Following the meeting, the Delegation were fortunate enough to get to check out the breathtaking view over London from the roof of the House – the perfect spot for yet another Instagram or profile picture update (as if we haven’t had enough of those already!).

Having just hosted our Prime Minister in an effort to secure a post-Brexit agreement with the UK, it was all hands on deck at the High Commission – and Brexit was certainly the hot topic of the meeting!  We were also fortunate enough to snap a Delegation pic at the top of the High Commission, which had a stunning panoramic view of the city of London. – Isabella Sheild (Auckland)

Our final full day in London kicked off on a high, with the Delegation’s meeting with Advocates for International Development (A4ID). A4ID secured the Thames-side offices of Magic Circle law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, for this engagement with two members of the team – including a New Zealander from none other than Hamilton! The Delegation loved hearing about the work A4ID does in partnering major legal firms with worthy NGOs operating in the human rights, gender equality, and education fields.

A4ID provided the Delegation with an insight of the importance of multi-stakeholder cooperation in devising inclusive policies – safeguarding human rights for the realisation of the SDGs. As many of us plan to study law, or are otherwise interested in how large charities can affect grass-roots development, this was both an intriguing and captivating meeting. – Maddison-Rose Ryan and Vivien Whyte (Auckland)

From Norton Rose, the Delegation couldn’t pass up an opportunity for a photo op with Tower Bridge, before heading off for a delicious lunch at Borough Market, where sights, smells and free samplers were aplenty! The Delegation then made their way along the Thames to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, before exploring the Tate Modern and / or St Paul’s Cathedral.

Next on the agenda was our much-anticipated meeting with the Royal Institute of International Affairs, aka: Chatham House, aka: one of the most high-powered think tanks in the world! The Delegation received a warm welcome from the Chatham House team, who provided TED Talk-style presentations on a number of the diverse work steams the House is involved in, followed by another interactive activity. Of particular interest to the Delegation was the presentation on the reduction of meat consumption, and hearing the House’s views on the viability of plant-based and lab-cultured meat alternatives, which are purportedly indistinguishable from their genuine counterparts. There was a lot of discussion around the ‘Impossible Burger’ (as featured on Air New Zealand business class), which the Delegation all hope to put to the taste test one day soon.

Catch you in Paris next!