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!

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, New York; Hello, London!

Ever wondered what it’s like to MUN at midnight? Well, wonder no longer. After a full day of committee sessions on Saturday, four of our Delegates (Caitlin Hancy, Manuevaha Latu, Kate Falloon and Kyle Hannah) were called up to partake in the CMUNCE Midnight Crisis Session, held at the very impressive Marriott Marquis Times Square Hotel. Replete with fat pants and PJs (a somewhat different aesthetic to the other committee sessions), the Delegates, Mitchell and Gauri set off on the train for a two-hour crisis debating session (with a much-needed Starbucks stop on the way). The Delegates all thoroughly enjoyed Midnight Crisis, particularly with having the opportunity to practice for future careers in diplomacy, where issues do not always adhere to a nine-to-five schedule.

With the rush that was Midnight Crisis over, the Delegates soon found themselves approaching the last day of CMUNCE! The closing ceremony was an experience-and-a-half, with hundreds of students cloistered into Columbia’s Alfred Lerner Hall to hear the results from the three-day conference. Awards were available for Verbal Commendations, Honourable Mentions, Best Delegate, and Outstanding Delegate. We’re incredibly proud to say that two of our own – Rebecca-Rose Ngatai and Caitlin Hancy – won an Honourable Mention and a Verbal Commendation! Rebecca-Rose was in the Golden Age of the Mughals Committee, while Caitlin was in the Ad Hoc Committee of the Secretary-General.

After CMUNCE, the Delegates and the Directorship hustled themselves to John F. Kennedy Airport to catch a seven-hour flight to London. There were many a red bus and telephone booth to see as we drove through town, so our first glimpse of the city did not disappoint! Once we were all well and settled, we went out to see Tower Bridge, The Shard, and St Paul’s, before fittingly ending the evening with a British meal (think fish n chips, bangers and mash, mince pies) at a pub that’s been running since 1660!

The next morning, the Delegation went off to get to know London a bit better. Our first stop: Buckingham Palace. After navigating the London Underground (which was considerably more confusing than New York’s grid-like subway system), we arrived at Green Park. Though some Delegates (and Directors!) were heard expressing disbelief over the Palace’s relatively unassuming facade, it was still a fantastic experience to view the building, and the Victoria Memorial which stands opposite the Palace gates. We also learnt that the Queen was not in residence, as noted by the raised Union Jack, instead of the Royal Standard.

After that, we walked our way to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben (though it was still unfortunately in the depths of construction!), Trafalgar Square, and Piccadilly Circus. A lot of Delegates said that while the hustle and bustle of London remained the same as in New York, the former reminded them a lot more of home. An afternoon of shopping ensued, before the group came together in the evening for the Lion King musical at West End. The props were incredible, the costumes amazing, and it didn’t hurt to look at adult-Simba (who also happened to be a Kiwi!)!

Stay tuned to catch the rest of our adventures in London and our first days in Paris!

CMUNCE Begins!

The Global Development Tour’s whirlwind week in the Big Apple has continued to be full with awesome activities, meetings and new experiences.

On Wednesday, the Delegation had their first meeting of the Tour with Finnian Cheshire, the Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the UN. Finnian spoke with the Delegation for 90 minutes, answering questions on a range of topics, including: New Zealand’s tenure on the Security Council; thoughts on the infamous veto power of the five permanent members of the Council; and even the merits of New Zealand becoming a republic. Needless to say, the Delegation learnt a lot, and were happy to hear a familiar, friendly voice this far from home.

“It was really great to meet a young diplomat representing New Zealand, and to hear his viewpoint on how New Zealand can influence international policy.” – Caitlin Hancy (Auckland)

After this, the Delegation couldn’t resist the opportunity to channel their inner Gossip Girls and take photos both inside Grand Central Station and on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (‘The Met’, for short). After some time perusing the sprawling, art-lined marble halls of The Met, the Delegation re-grouped for a picturesque walk through Central Park, replete with pretty sunset views of Manhattan.

It was then time for the Delegation to test our their culinary prowess in our very own Masterchef. Armed with a 20 USD budget and half an hour’s shopping time in Whole Foods, the Delegation set off in pairs to make one of either an entree, main or dessert for the entire cohort to share. Despite having the New York City Fire Department on standby following a minor incident with a plastic tray in the oven, the Delegates put together a feast of epic proportions. Honourable mentions went to Izzy and Ella’s delicious nachos, and Viv and Caitlin’s sumptuous chocolate cake. However, the ultimate victors were Rosie and Manu with their homemade dumplings, which were a real treat! It is safe to say things are looking promising for most of our Delegates’ future flatting lives.

Thursday was a jam-packed day, with two meetings and the opening of CMUNCE. Our first engagement of the day was with New Zealander, Jan Beagle, Under Secretary-General for Management at the UN. Fresh from a meeting with the Secretary-General himself, Jan shared her experience growing up in New Zealand – attending Epsom Girls Grammar School; spending her summers holidaying in Gisborne at Waikanae Beach; and working part-time at Wattie’s. Jan has had a diverse and exciting career, and is a champion for women’s empowerment. This meeting was thoroughly enjoyed by all, and it was amazing to see a Kiwi succeeding in the highest levels of the UN.

 

“It was interesting to hear Jan Beagle’s story, her insights on the work of the UN, and the successes that she has seen, and been a part of, in her time there. Her confidence that the UN will ensure multilateralism and curb the rise of nationalism was reassuring – she is an enthusiastic and positive force within the institution.” – Alex Johnson (Christchurch) and Karepa Maynard (Gisborne)

Next up was our meeting with the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN). SDSN is a UN initiative with a mandate to promote joint learning and integrated approaches that address the economic, social, and environmental challenges facing the world now and in the future. SDSN engages with academics from across the world, and works closely with other UN agencies, multilateral financing institutions, the private sector, and civil society. The Delegation loved hearing all about the wide array of work SDSN is involved in, including their production of the annual World Happiness Report and SDG index.

“The meeting with SDSN was very insightful and gave us the opportunity to strengthen our knowledge of how the UN engages with academics and youth to develop unique and integrated solutions to issues of sustainable development.” – Kahurangi Rangiuia-Lindup (Gisborne)

Following this, the Delegation made their way to the CMUNCE opening ceremonies to hear an address from Vadim Perfiliev, former Director of the UN Secretariat of the General Assembly and Russian Diplomat. The venue, Riverside Church (pictured above), was where Martin Luther King Jr. presented his ‘Beyond Vietnam’ speech – very impressive! It was then straight into Committee Session One, running from 8 – 10pm (quite a different schedule to any UN Youth New Zealand event!) The Delegates have all been throwing themselves headfirst into their debate and negotiation, not to mention adjusting to the new parliamentary procedures.

We look forward to our next update, by which point we will be well into the conference and have had the midnight crisis debate! Standby for that.

 

Day Two & Three: New York, New York!

It’s been a pretty busy two days for the Delegation.

After a leisurely wake up call on Monday morning to make up for the flight delays (and the reaching of New York at midnight), we headed out to our first stop: the 9/11 Memorial Museum. The site included the empty blocks where the Twin Towers stood, which was a harrowing experience to say the least. Inside the Museum, you really got a picture of the sheer scale of the incident, the remnants from the buildings, and the various items that belonged to both victims and survivors was sobering, in the words of another Delegate.

“It was a beautiful and  tasteful tribute to what happened.” – Caitlin Hancy (Auckland)

”The scale of the memorial communicated not only the numerically mortifying loss of life, but the desolating effect the attack has had on the public psyche of the American people and New Yorkers in particular.” – Henry Ewan (Auckland)

After a quick lunch, the Delegation ran to the Rockefeller Center to watch the sun go down from the top. Seeing New York’s buildings against the backdrop of pinks, oranges, and reds made for many a good ‘gram’, as the Delegates soon found. In fact, a certain someone was overheard saying, “this might even be in the 300s range” (when referring to potential likes).

A hearty and delicious dinner followed at The Little Beet before the Delegation headed down to get their first glimpse of Times Square. If there was any doubt in the Delegates’ minds that we weren’t in New York, it was quickly eradicated when surrounded by the lights, dressed up Statues of Liberty, and the iconic red steps.

Day Two started off with a tour of the United Nations Headquarters – something that many Delegates looked forward to, since most of them foresaw jobs in diplomacy and international relations. The 45-minute tour included a history of the United Nations, an overview of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the opportunity for Delegates to view the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the General Assembly Halls.

“It was incredible to see the actual UN and to see what the people actually do (and how many languages the Tour Guides spoke!) – Ella Flavell (Wellington)

Though Chipotle was busy (and shelved for another day), the Delegates still had a great time eating in City Hall Park, where squirrels were aplenty. Surprisingly, the day wasn’t too cold; otherwise, crossing Brooklyn Bridge might not have been as easy as it was. With a stunning view of the New York skyline behind the old sandstone from the Bridge itself, the walk was an experience enjoyed by both Delegates and Directors.

Since we didn’t have much time to spend in Brooklyn before dinner, the Delegation decided to stick around in the ‘DUMBO’ area (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Doesn’t sound familiar? It’s the place where you can get amazing shots of the Manhattan Bridge, nestled perfectly between two picturesque red-brick buildings.

After an entirely too-American dinner of pizza, burgers, and fries at Planet Hollywood, the Delegation split off into either Broadway or Ice Hockey for the evening. They went to a range of shows, including Hamilton, Chicago, The Book of Mormon, Pretty Woman, and Beautiful, and the Ice Hockey game was between the New York Rangers and South Carolina Hurricanes at Madison Square Gardens. Needless to say, it seems like everyone has cemented their plans to move to New York!

And we’re off!

Kia ora from Auckland Airport! After eight months of planning, studying, and general anticipation (not to mention an 11-hour delay!), we’re finally all together and the Global Development Tour 2019 Delegation are ready to depart! It is going to be a hectic four weeks: after attending Columbia Model United Nations and Exposition in New York, the Delegation will meet with a range of diplomats, NGOs, and UN agencies who are involved with the Sustainable Development Goals – think Under-Secretary-General Jan Beagle in New York, Chatham House in London, and UNESCO in Paris (with many, many more!).

If you’re keen to follow the progress of the Tour, check back here every few days for detailed updates of our travels through New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, and Hong Kong!