Berlin: The Reichstag, ‘Refugee Crisis’ and Ready-set-go!

This morning we received an informative tour of the German Bundestag (Parliament) including the terrace and dome of the Reichstag Building. There were interesting art installations which reminded the members of Parliament of its precarious past and interesting architectural features such as concrete silos for tree roots in the underground tunnel connecting the different section of the Bundestag. The symbol of the Reichstag was designed by Norman Foster to represent freedom and power. The dome of the Reichstag Building is also constructed of clear glass panels to represent the transparency of the German Parliament.

Delegates inside the main chambers of the Reichstag Building

After our tour we headed over to a meeting with the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Berlin to learn how they work to assist and protect refugees. The UNHCR acts as a monitoring body to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to eventually returning home, integrating in the new country or resettling elsewhere.

The delegates found this meeting informative because of recent events back in New Zealand and thought it was interesting to view New Zealand’s role in this issue from the perspective of Germany and other larger states.

After our meeting we walked over to the remains of the Berlin Wall. In particular, we walked down the East Side Gallery and got to witness some thought-provoking and poignant murals. Some of the delegates even got a replica stamp on their passports of the old stamps which were given when one passed from West to East Berlin. Overall, the delegation thoroughly enjoyed our last day in Berlin.

Delegates posing outside an East Side Gallery mural

And with that, we were off to Paris!

Berlin: From Sachenhausen to Share the Meal

We only had three full days in Berlin and sadly, Germany marked the halfway point of our tour. Despite the intensity and fast-paced nature of each of our days, somehow we still seem to be having a lot of fun (and hence time flies)!

Our first day started with a sombre historical excursion to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. The delegates all noted that this was a very educational experience, including giving them some context to the World War II history they have learnt at school. It was interesting to learn that Sachsenhausen was never intended to be a concentration camp, although it later became one, but rather it was designed and built to house political dissidents.

Out of respect the delegates did not take any photos here but we were able to then venture to Bebelplatz where the book burnings occurred outside Humboldt University of Berlin. Some delegates also got to explore the Berlin Cathedral Church or the Alte Nationalgalerie which housed Impressionist and early Modernist art including iconic Rodin sculptures.

Leaping outside the Berlin Cathedral Church after a day of exploring

Although our morning trip was more serious, we also got to celebrate Hayley’s birthday with a lovely dinner together. The camaraderie which the other delegates showed is impressive since almost all of them have only known each other since our December Planning Weekend.

The next day we continued to explore more of Berlin’s recent history by going to the Soviet War Memorial and the Topography of Terrors Museum. The delegates were excited to see the Enigma machines and learn about the Gestapo spies whom were employed during the Second World War.

We then followed this walking tour with a meeting with the Share the Meal team. ShareTheMeal is a start-up company which crowd-funds through a smartphone application to fight global hunger through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). It enables users to make small donations to specific WFP projects in developing countries and to track their progress.

“The meeting was more about how the Share the Meal app works on a day to day level. It was amazing to hear from another group of millennials doing incredible work. It felt like we could really relate because of our close ages and because of their casual and cool way of doing tangible things with a positive impact on the world. I was really inspired.” – Kate

The delegates then explored the central area of Postdamer Platz before they got an early night for another packed day!

Copenhagen: Carbon-Neutral City #Goals

Today we had an early morning stroll over to meet with Copenhagen City Council. They kindly met with us again despite limiting their meetings with delegations to other city councils since last year’s Global Development Tour. We were able to see the grandeur of Copenhagen’s City Hall before heading to their administration building across the bridge.

Outside the Copenhagen City Hall

The delegates were met with a thoughtful package which included interesting reports on the goals in which Copenhagen City Council published. These included becoming the first Carbon Neutral city by 2025 and becoming the city with the most cyclists.

“Copenhagen City Council showed they really cared for what they did for their citizens and Monica was considerate that their environmental policies may not work for every other city, including Auckland. She realised that there might be different considerations for different cities. It was enlightening for me to realise that leaders can and do recognise their own shortcomings. No one has a monopoly on the secret and answers are not one size fits all.” – Sarah Cameron

Meeting with Monica from Copenhagen City Council

One of the highlights of our time at Copenhagen was seeing a delegate learn how to cycle (being taught by her peers). There were some key lessons on how urban spaces could be transformed when people are put at the centre of urban planning. The delegates certainly were left with a lot to ponder over, as urban sprawl continues and communities become increasingly urbanised.

“I was really inspired by Copenhagen City Council’s future-forward thinking. It’s really inspired me to cycle around Napier when I get home. I hope I can encourage others in New Zealand to do the same or see the same level of leadership by local councils.” – Hana

After the meeting finished we headed straight back to pack and head over to the Airport. Next stop onto Berlin!

Copenhagen: A tale of two cities

Given our first full day in Copenhagen was a Sunday, we spent the day on a walking tour of iconic parts of the city including the Little Mermaid, King’s New Square, Rosenborg Castle and Christianborg. The delegates enjoyed walking around the Church of Our Saviour because you could see the old Danish heritage nestled amongst modern and commercial buildings.

Walking along Nyhavn was an idyllic experience and some of the students even went on a cycling tour of the surrounds.

Walking along past Hans Christian Anderson’s home in Nyhavn

This morning was spent with an early start to journey towards UN City for a meeting with UN Women. We had two interns present to us about the role of UN Women both normatively and operatively across different sectors. We got to understand that the Copenhagen office was more a liaison centre for advocacy and partnership with civil society and businesses to action gender equality in all forms. The delegates also got to compare the situation of the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report between New Zealand and Denmark as well as discuss policies or cultural differences which may explain the status of women or other genders in both New Zealand and the city of Copenhagen.

Meeting with UN Women and UN City, on the “Hogwarts Stairs”

“UN Women was a provoking meeting. It was cool to see how UN Women championed grassroots actions but did not prescribe certain legislative norms as a ‘one size fits all’. I found it interesting that gender equality can mean different things in different contexts. For example, in developed and usually Western nations, this usually meant discussions on the gender pay gap and representation in governance and planning institutions such as Parliaments but in developing countries, it was more about physical violence against women and forced marriages of girls. While this was confronting for all of us, I found it very interesting that aside from Rwanda, the top 5 gender-equal states in the world are from the Nordic region – except Denmark.” – Milo

Afterwards we got a tour of the UN City building and the thought and planning which went into its conception. Although we learnt that UN City was erected here in 2002, there are plans for new towers and offices to be built this year to accommodate the growth of the UN agencies such as the World Health Organisation which has its headquarters here.

Interestingly, the UN City has a moat around its building for security and almost one solar panel for each employee on its premises. Along the port you can see wind turbines dotted along the horizon and the building is designed so that the lifts are out of eyesight in order to reduce energy consumption and encourage dialogue.

“It was amazing to see how sustainable the UN city was – the water catchments on the ceilings, self-regulating building temperatures and everything. It will be exciting to see the bridge once it has been built since it sounds like there is so much meaning there too; the ends just touch to mimic the abstract connection between two people coming together in the spirit of the United Nations.” – Hayley

Tomorrow we have another early meeting with the Copenhagen City Council and then off to another European city!

London: Our Last Day

Making the most of our last day in London, we went firstly to the British Museum which houses famous artefacts such as the Rosetta Stone. There was even an exhibit on New Zealand in the ‘Living’ section.

After the British Museum, we headed towards the New Zealand House to meet with Lauren, on a posting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Daniel Taylor, the Trade Commissioner in London.

Discussion with NZ Trade and Enterprise at the New Zealand House in London

Photo Cred: Jayden van Leeuwen

The Delegates were excited to be at London House this afternoon. They were briefed by Lauren on the continued role of the Commonwealth and the importance of this network for small-state countries such as New Zealand. This fascinated some of the Delegates who saw the Commonwealth as a somewhat vestigial network. These different perspectives have further helped the delegates to understand how useful strategic connections can be in the realm of international trade and forums.

The 2018 Global Development Tour at the roof-top of New Zealand House

The delegation addressed some interesting questions such as New Zealand’s changing dynamics of trade and exports to the European Union countries and the United Kingdom. They were thoroughly impressed with the degree of educational content in which NZ Trade and Enterprise prepared for our meeting.

The view of London from the top of NZ House

After an intense Q&A and the ending session, we had some time to explore Piccadilly Circus before having a beautiful meal together to celebrate the end of a successful week in London with no rain  and sun each day.

Next stop – Copenhagen!

London: A Circular Economy and coming full circle

This morning we headed early to meet with Stuart, the Head of Investment, at the London Waste Recycling Board (LWARB). Learning about the challenges of reaching the Board’s mission of being carbon zero by 2040 was both inspiring and confronting given the issues the delegates had researched before this tour.

Particularly it was heartening to hear that LWARB were optimistic that they could reach their objectives. Delegates noted the connection between the Grantham Institute’s work and LWARB through their support of innovative solutions and ventures tackling waste and environmental projects in London city with a population of almost 8 million. London is also one of the European Union’s most productive and highest growth areas so balancing these factors and the need to be more sustainable requires future-planning and pre-empting the needs of those living in the future. The delegates noted some pressing lessons to learn for expanding cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Delegates engaging with the London Waste and Recycling Board

After this meeting we journeyed to a global NGO and non-profit group to learn more about how law firms and lawyers can address SDG 1 on eradicating poverty. A4ID is a legal brokerage service organisation and helps to match up lawyers or firms with international development projects.

One of the key ways in which A4ID does this is through litigation. However the delegates received insight into the ways in which A4ID implements strategic litigation to help the organisations and key projects in developing countries.

Meeting with Nick, Micky, Eugene and Hannah from A4ID

We also want to thank the legal partners of A4ID, including White and Case, who so generously hosted us for this meeting.

After these two full-day meetings, the delegates squeezed more landmark sites into our second to last day in London.

St. Paul’s Cathedral as the sun sets

At the conclusion of the tour of the Tower Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral, we had dinner in Leicester Square to end the evening. It is our last day in London tomorrow and we are going to make the most of it!

London: SDG No. 9 on the role of Industry and Innovation

Today we began to understand why London was a key feature of the 2018 Global Development Tour. Our first meeting was with the UN Global Compact team in the United Kingdom where the delegates were able to meet with a key player in advocating for sustainable companies.

“We played a simulation ‘game’ which UN Global Compact plays with its corporate members who are also learning how to include sustainable policies and practices.

It taught us about how different stakeholders have different self-interests and perspectives.”

– Olivia Cen

The delegation were able to learn more about the reason and rationale why modern slavery still exists. It is a lot harder to be sustainable in operating businesses than we first thought. This nuanced view of the challenges of UN Global Compact’s mission really inspired the delegates to think about the ways in which businesses can possess ethical and environmental leadership in meeting the SDGs within the timeframe.

As we left, we were all gifted with SDG badges to remember the role of all sectors in helping to meet the target indicators.

UN Global Compact UK

After this meeting we headed over to Imperial College to learn more about the Grantham Institute. The Grantham Institute is a Centre which is designed for research into climate change and to get innovative ideas implemented into ventures around environmentally-friendly alternatives.

With Prof. Richard Templar at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London.

The delegates were presented with an interactive session which they thoroughly enjoyed.

“We learnt how to use the Business Model Canvas. This technique was very insightful. We learnt about how the technology cluster in Silicon Valley has really changed the world and the individuals which were pivotal to this instrumental change. We also learnt that although we may be young, ideas are not a monopoly. Be childish and great ideas come.”

– Sarah, Jordana, Kun-Ka, Te Ruki and Kun-Ka.

We even got to finish the evening with a cultural experience of Harrods. Tomorrow is another day of interesting meetings and only one day left to explore more of London.

London: touristing across Time zones and Trafalgar Square

We boarded an early evening flight to London but of course with the time zone differences, it was 9:00am when we landed here. Although many of us were probably jet-lagged from the seven-hour flight, we decided to make the most of the continuing day. Time to be a tourist. When you visit a city that’s home to almost eight million people, it’s hard to know where to start exploring.

First off we took the London ‘tube’ to the inner city of London. The delegates remarked at the differences between this mode of transportation to New York City’s Metro. Our first stop was Buckingham Palace after a short walk through surrounding park gardens. Whilst we were there, we were lucky enough to see an impressive Changing of the Guard.

Changing of the Guard, Buckingham Palace

Next stop was the Westminster Abbey and past the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. There were eleven giant sculptures of well-known influential figures at Parliament Square including Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela. It’s not 28 degrees here but luckily with the beautiful weather, we completed our walking tour by walking past Scotland Yard, Big Ben and Westminster Bridge.

Looking across the Waterloo Bridge to the Eye of London

We traversed to Trafalgar Square and our last educational activity for the day was going to the Natural History Museum with fascinating exhibitions on human evolution and of course, dinosaurs.

Next to the Emmeline Pankhurt sculpture, outside Westminster Abbey.

Today was very productive for our delegates and the chill definitely helped to keep us awake as we explored London. Let’s hope this weather stays with us and London treats us just as well as New York did.

The delegates are very excited about a full day tomorrow of meetings and getting lots of rest!


London Calling

After 14 hours of intense Committee Sessions, a midnight Crisis Committee, and numerous debates, the Delegates have survived their first international Model United Nations Conference at Columbia University. We were well-commended and received as the largest (and potentially loudest) delegation.

“CMUNCE was a very valuable experience. It was interesting to compare the American model of mock United Nations simulations to our New Zealand regional and national events.” – Katie Daly

Cathedral Church of Saint John outside Columbia University

The delegates represented their characters and positions well and we were very impressed with the delegates who had little or no MUN experience before this Tour. One of the highlights was attending a closing social which our delegation prepared a flash-performance of “Poi E” by Patea Māori Club.

After the Closing Ceremony, we had free time to explore areas of New York such as the MET Museum and Brooklyn Bridge.

“New York was a concrete high-rise metropolitan jungle. We have been exposed to a whole range of experiences that is very different to New Zealand. This is a week we will cherish forever.” – Manraj Singh

We then had a very special Dinner that ensued given a relational connection with one of our delegates, Jason. The feeling of being a family after one week together resonated across the delegation.

Delicious dinner at Pho Vietnam, 87 Chrystie St, New York City.

Photo Cred: Jason Tran

We reflected back on the week with all the candid and funny moments during which we learnt more about different global issues, cultures and each other.

Next stop, a seven hour flight to London!

Memorials and Model United Nations

We had a change in pace and scene today by going to tourist attractions before beginning the Columbia University Model United Nations Conference and Exposition (CMUNCE). First off, we went to a memorable part of New York: the 9 / 11 Memorial and 9/11 Memorial Museum. While many of the Delegates would have only been one year old when the tragic event occurred, it was important to remember back to the events of 9/11 and see how this affects the United States of America’s foreign policy.

Delegates respectively observed the memorial footprints of where Tower 1 and 2 once stood and felt it was a heavy place to be. The structure of the memorial looked like “”an attempt for the the water to wash away the tragedy”.

Yet, in the actual museum, there were exhibits about the victims which lent insight into their full lives before the tragedy.

“One exhibit, In Memorium, was dedicated to families who had written or narrated details about their relative or relation(s). They were heartfelt stories, some funny and some incredibly sad of each victim.”

After our solemn visit, we headed to the warmth of the Pret a Manger – a favourite it seemed among the Delegates. After this, it was voted by the delegates that they would visit the iconic Charging Bull sculpture outside Wall Street. The Delegates were surprised at how busy the tourist area was but it was a grand sight.

“It was really cool to see that there was more to see that it was more than just a girl and a bull – the symbolism was interesting considering the GFC”

Next on the agenda was a trip to see a snowy Central Park. For some of the delegates, this was the first time they had seen a squirrel. Although Central Park was not as busy as it usually gets in summer, there were still a lot of people walking their dogs around.

The final tourist experience the Delegates were given before they began CMUNCE was to go to an American Diner for dinner.

Outside the Alma Mater sculpture by Daniel Chester French, Columbia University

Before arriving at Columbia University for CMUNCE, it was clear that Delegates were feeling excited and nervous about the event as well as meeting American or other international students. But at the Opening Ceremony, the Delegates had the opportunity to hear the key note speaker, the Special Representative of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to the United Nations, speak about the relationship of  INTERPOL and the UN.

Delegates then went to their First Session which they felt they were well-prepared for since our CMUNCE simulation at December Planning Weekend was fast-paced after introductions in the Committee. However Chairs of Committees were very relaxed and set the tone that it was quite a relaxed process so there was a good balance. Delegates were surprised that other students were delighted to hear the Kiwi accent and to learn more about New Zealand and UN Youth NZ.

One of the highlights of the first session of CMUNCE for one of our Delegates, Sarah Cameron, was that she put forward a Directive which had more than the number of signatories required.

“I am so excited to go back to the next session of ‘sea-monkey'” (pronunciation of CMUNCE) – Sarah Cameron