GDT20: Berl-interesting!

As the cities seem to fly past us on our tour, we make our next stop in Berlin. We were very happy to arrive in such a vibrant and interesting city, and our delegates made the most of it. We had walking tours, visits to prominent buildings (like the Reichstag), and of course educational meetings like UNHCR and GPPi. Here are the things our delegates had to say about our visit:

IAN QIU – City highlights and landmarks

After a rocky journey from Vienna International Airport, including a 4(!!) hour delay, the team arrived in the German capital of Berlin on the 30th of January. 

With most of the city being destroyed in the bombing campaigns during the Second World War, Berlin was a relatively young city, a contrast to everywhere else we had been on the rest of the tour. Built on a marsh, there was also a distinct lack of high rise buildings, as heavy buildings run the risk of sinking into the ground. 

Reminders of Berlin’s history could be found everywhere we went. Checkpoint Charlie, the famous symbol of the cold war, was located just outside our meeting place with the UNHCR. The Reichstag building, the centre of German power, beautifully synthesised Germany’s past imperial power with its present day transparency and democratic values. The Brandenburg Gate was a personal highlight of mine; an iconic part of Berlin, it was amazing to see in person this grand majestic feat of the neoclassical architecture, site of many historical events, including John F. Kennedy’s ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’ speech. The delegation also visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp which was about a 45 minute train ride from central Berlin. This, alongside the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, were sombre experiences, and acted as powerful reminders of man’s capacity to mistreat his fellow man. 

Nonetheless, we all thoroughly enjoyed everything Berlin had to offer, and appreciated the complexity that lay behind the history of this city. 

ISABELLA VAN STIPRIAAN-HUIK – Non-educational meetings

Using education as a tool to acknowledge and learn from the past in order to move forward is a prevalent part of German society. Berlin, a city rich with culture and history, our activities included visits to sites such as the East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, Sachenhaussen Concentration Camp,  Gendarmamarkt, Reichstag and Topography of Terror Museum.  

The walking tour by guide Carlos was a highlight for many, giving an in-depth insiders scoop on life in Berlin both past and present. For instance,  we were all quite shocked to learn that in German clubs, they will give you a sticker to put over your camera or that many shops rely on cash payment rather than card. This is due to the fact 1 in 17 people were spies during the Soviet communist rule and the government kept files on all your transactions and movements etc. 

The Berlin Mall was also a highlight for those that did manage to get some shopping in! Not only because of the sales but because of the slide, extending from the third storey to the ground floor – something unheard of existing in New Zealand! Whilst everyday was jam packed and free time often spent snuggled up in a cafe, brushing up on our German, trying German coffee and nibbling on a sweet treat, it was important to take time to sit and process all the things we were learning about. 

One of the best cities we’ve been to so far, I’m sure we will all treasure our short but meaningful time in Brrr-Lin! 

AMY XIE – Educational Meetings

Our first meeting was with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees). The organisation works to ensure that people displaced from their homes can safely seek refuge, and are equipped with the resources to resettle or return home if appropriate. 

Located beside checkpoint Charlie, the UNHCR building was a part of the Berlin Wall that previously separated East and West Berlin. Here we met Chris, a spokesperson for the UNHCR. An inspiring speaker, he shared his story of living in a divided Berlin and how his mother was a refugee. We had many thought-provoking discussions such as the living conditions of refugee camps, the legal status of climate refugees and the integration of these displaced peoples in society. Without a doubt, this meeting was a favourite of the delegation. Shout out to Chris for going the extra mile and giving us a tour of Checkpoint Charlie!

Next, we were welcomed by the GPPI. GPPI (Global Public Policy Institute) is an independent non-profit think tank that conducts research on pressing international issues. These include topics on warfare, migration, inequalities and the impact of global powers. This information is released through articles/podcasts and is used to advise policy makers. 

What made GPPI stand out from other meetings was the interactive game we played. Putting ourselves in the shoes of the German government, the aim was to utilise internal and external naval ships to combat pirates in the Red Gulf. The challenging part was balancing internal and external costs and at the same time making sure the pirates were eliminated. Surprisingly, they also challenge diplomats and government officials to play similar games. These facilitates a different approach to tackling international issues.

Overall, the delegation has fully enjoyed the meetings that Berlin has provided and is looking forward to what Paris will bring!

EMILY GOSSEN – What’s next for the tour

Paris awaits us as our final city of what has been a whirlwind tour. The setting of literature, romantic films, and rich history. Images of Paris instantly fill your head before you’ve ever been there.

SDG 8: decent work and economic growth, is the sustainable development goal focus surrounding our trip to Paris. A goal applicable to us as young adults, soon to enter university and join the workforce. We will be meeting with the Organisation for Economic Co Operation and Development, the NZ embassy, and the International Federation for Human Rights. It will be fascinating learning not only about economic development, human rights, and New Zealand’s role in Paris and the OECD, but to apply takeaways from our meetings to issues back home in Aotearoa.

Of course, what’s a trip to Paris without a touristy photo in front of the Eiffel Tower? The city is embedded with history, beautiful architecture, and art. With the Arch De triumph, Lourve, and the odd Patisserie awaiting us. 

Having a final city around the corner is bittersweet, with the end of GDT in sight. Not only will there be a lot to look forward to Paris, but also a time of reflection, as we look back on our time on tour. Although last on the list of cities, Paris will certainly not be least. 

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.

 

Last Stop, Tokyo

When you’re thinking about dream cities, you’re instantly bombarded with images of Parisian wining, Italian dining, or the great New York adventure. After a while, as fantasy turns into a comprehensive bucket-list, you begin to remember less mainstream, equally dreamy cities.

What would Tokyo be like?

Ah.

I’m glad you asked.

Tokyo is beautiful at sunrise, kindness and quirks and some damn tasty food. More so than that, however, Tokyo has been an industrial, innovative, technological paradise since the end of World War II. As we learnt after an incredible meeting with New Zealand Embassy First Secretary Richard Griffin, Japan has been a world leader in the market, boasting the third most successful economy in the world – with a whole lot to show for it. From the likes of Toshiba, Uniqlo, Mitsubishi and Toyota, Japan are not only industry leaders, but many Japanese companies, as we learnt in our meeting with Mitsubishi Electric, implement a series of values such as equality and integrity that enable them to the best of the best.

Japan sets the benchmark.

The educational value gained from our meetings exceeded our expectations. The New Zealand-Japan relationship is one forged from many years of warm relations and interactions. Air New Zealand and the Australia New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Japan taught us that business in the region is only possible if we embrace these relations – involving the youth in opportunities, embracing cultural similarities and celebrating the differences. After all, it is through differences that we grow and continue to shape our unique world view.

The delegation enjoyed a number of incredible experiences – from exploring Harajuku, crossing the world’s busiest pedestrian, Shibuya Crossing, and devouring tasty treats on the city streets, Japan was paradise. As a country that many of us had dreamed about since we were young – finally admiring the sights of the Sensoji Temple, eating sushi in Japan and getting lost amongst in a sea of people and a sea of potential, Japan set the already high benchmark even higher.

The future is brighter than a neon stand outside the Shibuya Mark Mall for Japan, and as architects of the future, it is our right to direct it. May we do this as responsible leaders, friends to our allies, and lifelong learners alongside our neighbours for the many years to come.

Iri Edwards & Holly Sutich

Shanghai, a Highlight

The first glimpse we had of Shanghai was like playing Minecraft with the view distance set to tiny. Everything was shrouded in sheets of grey fog.

Our overnight train pulled in at about 7am: cue the mad half-asleep dash through the metro system with big bags over our shoulders and under our eyes.

We were staying in Yuyuan near the famous gardens of the same name.

After dropping our bags off we got delicious soup dumplings (a first for many of us). A second wind carried us through the day and the gardens will always be a highlight. They were filled with gorgeous ponds and rockeries.

Some of us then went up the Shanghai Tower and were treated to an amazing sunset and view across the city as night fell.

Monday the 25th brought on a full meeting schedule. Mary-Jane Bethell and Suzy Fewtrell briefed us on what New Zealand Central does in providing a space for kiwi businesses to professionally connect with foreign partners. We also learnt about KEA, a global connection of NZ expats.

Our next meeting was with Nicole Mao at PCNZ as well as smaller presentations from the brands within the group such as Villa Maria, Silver Fern Farms and Landcorp. The unique experiences of each business gave us a snapshot of the differences within the Chinese market and highlighted how working collaboratively is incredibly important.

Our final meeting was with the NZ Consulate General. Andrew Robinson and Sarah-Rose Williams gave us a crash course on China as a whole and their roles in the Consul.

Tuesday dawned with two more meetings. First up was Aaron Marsich and Eleni Yianna Hogg from tribal brands Asia. They highlighted their website Bullseye which helps NZ companies find the right channel into the market.

After a hurried snack we started meeting two with Richard Zhu from United Media Solutions. They help NZ companies bridge into the Chinese market by assisting with business and social media strategies. The social media environment is very different to what we are used to. These insights helped us appreciate the waters through which NZ companies must wade, but gave us some insights about how to get successfully out of that moat.

With our meetings in Shanghai completed it was time to don our tourist hats. First we explored Nanjing road and ended up at the Captain for dinner.

We got an early night in preparation for our very early start the next day. Disneyland was on the agenda! An hour on the metro followed by an hour of waiting in line gave us time to get even more excited! Finally the gates were breached and we flooded into Disneyland and straight to the Tron ride. This roller coaster was the first for some of the delegation. It was incredibly exciting see their smiles and grins afterwards despite the nerves.

After Disneyland some people went to the Fake markets to do some shopping.

Then we departed the next day!

Nathan Hotter & Samantha Wood

Guangzhou, Let’s go!

Previously known as Canton and the trading hub of China, we at last arrived in Guangzhou, China!

Guangzhou is the third largest city in China, with a population of over 13 million people, transparently obvious when we were greeted with a vast crowd we battled through with our suitcases to the metro in order to reach our accommodation.

Once we had settled in, a few of us explored the streets of Guangzhou to find a restaurant to eat authentic Chinese dishes, while the rest stayed behind to rest to prepare for a big day of meetings.

The following day, we met with ACG Education, the NZ Consulate General based in Guangzhou, MFAT, Education NZ, Phil Jones the NZ police advisor and Aaron McKenzie – owner of Social & Co restaurant.

Altogether, we concluded the meetings enlightening and informative, as we gained insight to the robust, mature relationship NZ and China has as well as first-hand experiences of what it is like to live in China as a foreigner.

That same evening we had dinner at Aaron’s restaurant – Social & Co. It was one of many highlights for all. We enjoyed an incredible Kiwi styled food platters in China. We had classic Kiwi dishes like steamed NZ mussels, calamari, beer battered fish, fries and pavlova! Aaron’s restaurant is the only restaurant in China that does not serve rice, noodles, like every other Western restaurant in China tends to do.

The next day, a few delegates decided to travel to the Xiaozhou water village, filled with local handmade craft boutiques alongside, artisan cafes providing great tea and rooftop views alongside a river.

Others explored the many malls we struggled to find the exits in, visited temples and shrines as well as the Canton Tower with a 360 view of the whole city, and ended the day with the Chimelong International Circus.

Our last day, unfortunately, was raining. However, it did not prevent us from seeing the Giant Pandas (first time for many), feeding the giraffes and the many selfies taken at the Guangzhou Zoo.

Later that day, we concluded our time in Guangzhou at a traditional Yum Cha restaurant, where we got to taste delicious dumplings, cha seu baos, chicken feet, egg tarts and tea; all leaving the restaurant will full stomachs gradually making our way back to the hotel to make our way to the train station, departing on an overnight train split into four groups squashed in a tiny room trying to fit our luggage in any available gap ready for the 11-hour journey ahead. Some laughing sharing their highlights and lowlights, winding down with face masks and many ear popping later, we arrived at our next destination – Shanghai.

Vaiola Tauti & Nathalie Edwards

Hello Ho Chi Minh!

Ho Chi Minh. A small man with a humble disposition. Ironically, nothing could be more different from such a figure than the city named after him. Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, is a bustling, vibrant whirlwind of colours and lights that don’t care for a second about getting all up in your face. It barely took us any time to realise this as we rolled into town just as the sunset and the streets came to life. After dinner at a balcony restaurant and a short roam through the streets we crashed into bed, arising early the next morning for our tour of the Mekong River Delta.

Our tour guide Ahn cracked jokes and pumped us with facts. One hour later we were on a boat on the delta, exploring mangrove clustered islands where we held live snakes, drunk fermented dead ones and feasted on Vietnamese food. A highlight was a visit to a major Buddhist temple that afternoon, which featured two giant Buddha statues and incredibly beautiful gardens. Our day ended with an amazing shared dinner and a visit to the tallest point in the city. The amazing views over Ho Chi Ming from the Saigon Skydeck simply cannot be put into words. Spread out in front of us, spanning far over the horizon in all directions were a countless number of buildings, broken only by rivers of light formed by infinite headlights stuck in traffic.


The next morning saw us up early again, this time dressed for business. We headed off to meet with Saigon Co-Op, Vietnam’s largest supermarket chain, where we learnt about their business strategies and emphasis on supporting local communities; their supermarkets stock 90% local produce. That afternoon, we were given a personal guided tour through a Saigon Co-Op supermarket, food outlet and hypermarket – a colossal store stocking everything from groceries to clothes, musical instruments and more. After an amazing dinner of pho, we hit the Saigon Night Markets in what was our first time haggling for many of us, breaking deals left, right and centre as we tore prices down to numbers that were still probably quite high but low enough to keep our pride intact.

Day three featured an incredible meeting with Thao Nguyen at KPMG Vietnam. An amazing and inspiring former refugee, Thao has strived against immeasurable obstacles in her journey from poverty and racism in Australia to high profile legal work in Vietnam and beyond. Aside from empowering us with the knowledge that any goal can be accomplished with enough dedication. With a quick break to try weasel poo coffee, we then moved to the NZTE for a presentation by Rose Nguyen (no relation). Rose gave us a presentation on numerous aspects of Vietnamese commercial society that was as comprehensive as it was broad, enlightening us on several little-known facts about Vietnam essential to any external company looking to do business in the nation.

A break from the chaos and crazy fun of Ho Chi Minh came in the form of a sobering and deeply moving visit to the Vietnamese War Museum. Nothing could prepare us for coming face to face with picture upon picture of innocent children horrifically deformed by American war crimes in the region. World peace is often said to be a pipe dream but there is no doubt that each of us left that place determined to make it happen.

Our departure the next day was heralded by many tired mumblings as we hauled ourselves out of our bunks at 4am, boarding a shuttle for the airport. There was something relaxing yet eerie seeing the streets of such a bustling metropolis so quiet in the predawn light. For better or worse, we didn’t reflect on this site for too long as most of us drifted back to sleep, waking with a start as our shuttle pulled into the airport. We turned back to look at the Ho Chi Minh skyline beyond a patch of jungle and numerous snaking rivers before striding forwards to board our flight. Ho Chi Minh may have been chaotic and in your face, but it was time to face a new challenge. Destination; Guangzhou.

Also, Thank you so much to the Vice Chancellors Support Fund from the University of Auckland who helped make this trip possible for the two of us.

Dinuki Karunasekera & Mark Howard

Sing Sing Singapore

Singapore 9th February – 12th February

Familiar faces, wide smiles, anxious at heart and potentially overweight suitcases. We all came together at Auckland International Airport ready to depart for a whirlwind trip, first stop Chinatown Singapore. Ticking off the bucket list we set our sights on Gardens by the Bay where many selfies were taken and we were already in awe by the efficiency of the transportation system, considering Singapore fits into Lake Taupo NZ. Despite the delegation coping with the high humidity our walking shoes were put to good use tackling many of the main tourist attractions such as Sentosa Island, Marina Bay Sands, Suntec City, Buddhist Temple, MerLion, ArtScience Museum, and ending the night in awe by the Garden Rhapsody Performance at the Supertree Grove followed by the Lunar New Year Fireworks.

The ease of Singapore’s highly effective long-term planning and transport system led us to our first meeting with the NZ High Commissioner for Singapore – Dr Jonathan Austin. Emphasis was placed on the enhanced partnership between Singapore and New Zealand, although New Zealand screams hobbits and sheep to many South East Asians, Jonathan highlighted that New Zealand is an innovative and creative country. Jonathan was interested to hear our opinion of how more students could challenge themselves to broaden their horizons to study and live in Singapore. A quote from Jonathan, “Asia is the Future, Europe is yesterday” resonated amongst all of us once leaving the meeting. This created good discussion at the end of the day when we regrouped for a Hot Pot dinner, before the Night Safari at Singapore Zoo.

The delegation was up the next day feeling recharged and ready to go for a significant meeting with Simon Baptist the Managing Director of EIU Asia. Having talked about a wide range of things which highlighted interconnectedness in a globalised world; Obesity, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Trade Wars, Top 10 Risks to the Global Economy, Climate Change, and the economic prospect of New Zealand were a few things that were mentioned that had left us feeling like we had travelled all over the world. Simon highlighted the importance of showing skills which propel us to be adaptable and innovative in a competitive working environment. It is these skills that will allow us to be a compliment and not a substitute as the world develops into the ever-changing world of automation.

Despite quick lunch and a short walk, we were astonished by the architecture and views from the top of the Ocean Financial Centre where Ben Smith and Khoon Gho from ANZ warmly greeted us. A centre point of the discussion was ASEAN, which is set to become the 4th largest market by 2030 accentuating the importance of ASEAN for New Zealand Trade. There was collaborative dialogue surrounding the need for New Zealand to revisit their investment approaches in Asia. A stand out point from our discussions with Ben was the importance of reminding ourselves as Kiwis not to be too self-critical. New Zealand prides itself on good quality and efficiency of products which should allow us to command a premium price for more than just a sample of our exports. ASEAN holds immense potential for New Zealand trade through Singapore contributing to a doorway of opportunity.

Overall, Singapore exceeded all expectations and I’m sure for many we will be visiting this innovative country very soon.

Virginia Hogan and Harman Kaur

The Auckland Youth Advisory Panel

Vesinia Maka and Damian Piilua are the Chair and Deputy Chair, of the Auckland Youth Advisory Panel. I had the privilege of finding out some more about the panel and the work that they and the 19 other members do.

The panel is made up of 21 youth from across Auckland, representing a different local board area. With representatives from Rodney right down to Franklin, thinking and advocating on the issues that face youth.

An Aotearoa Youth Declaration Focus Group visiting the Auckland Youth Advisory Panel on Outreach in 2018

What is the Youth Advisory Panel and your role on the panel?

Our primary role is to provide feedback to the Auckland Council on issues we identify as a panel. These issues we identify become our work program! Which for this term is environment and sustainability, transport and accessibility, affordable housing and homelessness, youth engagement and civic participation. In addition to that, we are trying to make connections with our local young people through our local boards and youth voice groups to get more of a local implication of regionalpolicy. And as the leadership team, our role is to really develop a work programme that co-aligns with the members of the panel and enforce the priorities that we have listed for the panel this term.

 

How important do you see the panel to be in regards to a youth voice in Auckland

Vesinia: The Youth Advisory Panel is an opportunity to ensure that the voices of young people are included in the decision-making of Tamaki Makaurau. It allows transparency in issues that affect a large proportion of young people such as, transport, homelessness and housing. It is incredibly important that we are providing a youth voice for young Aucklanders.

Damian: I see the panel as abig step towards greater civics participation from the youth demographic in Auckland. Part of our greater vision for the panel is for us is to have young people in Auckland understand local government and the impact of their decisions in our everyday lives.

 

Do you think the panel works to reduce the stigma that youth aren’t interested in Politics?

Vesinia: It is a slow process of reducing the stigma of youth becoming uninterested in Politics. As a new panel, it’s important that we increase our engagement with the wider youth, both on a local and regional level. However, with many of our panel members having strong relationships in their local youth groups, it has allowed engagement in regards to consultations of issues that matter to young people. So, in regards to reducing the stigma of youth becoming uninterested in Politics; I think it’s a slow progress. However, by having amazing members on this panel, it’s allowed for accountability when many organisations and departments are interested in our opinions.

 

Why do you think that a large proportion of high school students do not care about politics and deem it to be unimportant or irrelevant to their lives?

Damian: This is such a weighted question with viewpoints from different sectors I think. In part, I believe this question has to do with the curriculum in schools not reflecting the importance, and influence of local and central government decisions in our daily lives. I also think that it has to do with the media surrounding what politics is displayed. For many young people (myself included) we associate politics with the Beehive, parties that are not fun, screaming matches with Marama Fox vs. The world, and are showcasing decisions made by the government negatively. So for a school student with 6 subjects, a smartphone, 7 social media sites and drama with real-life impacts, politics may not be a high priority.

 

Is the political landscape inhospitable to those under 18, making it unappealing to young New Zealanders?

Damian: I feel yes, and no. I think the political landscape isn’t inhospitable, it is unfamiliar. There’s a difference. There is a growing number of millennials in NZ and it’s an untapped demographic that politics is recognising as an important opinion to have in future planning for policies and strategic plans. However, the engagement between politics is what makes it unappealing to young people. From the tables, I’ve sat around where 40+-year-olds sit, plan and design visuals for marketing purposes for young people It makes things it very apparent how out of touch the government is with young people. Politics operates in an almost mechanic way regionally, so it’s hard for young people to break the glass ceiling, be taken seriously and not be treated as the token demographic tick box.

 

Overall, we think we all have a role to play. From the campaigns of candidates to youth councils in local areas to the individual’s semi-versed in the world that is politics. We all have a responsibility to encourage those around us to be apart of conversations that impact a majority of our lives in one way or another. Politics is something that is complicated in itself and for many young people, they are still trying to understand what politics really is. Basic knowledge and information such as how to vote, the role of local boards and what mandate local boards have, are simple things that are vital when providing young people with the resources to actively participate and thrive in local decision making.

By Julia Caulfield

What is Trump’s Problem with the Iran Deal?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

By Rachel Buckman

Sitting Down with Mark Mitchell

I was privileged to sit down with Mark Mitchell, the National MP for Rodney and discuss civics engagement and ask some burning questions I had in regards to youth engagement.

I firstly asked why he thought that a large proportion of high-schoolers deem politics to be boring or unimportant.

Mark’s perspective was that youth don’t see politics as relevant to their lives and that at this age they are busy with other factors of their lives, it is thus not at the forefront of their minds. Mark talked however about Rodney’s youth and said that comparatively in his area he has come across very politically engaged youth including those in his youth policy group; so he has hope for the future!

Following on from this idea of politics being unimportant or boring I focussed on what ways the political landscape could be altered to be less inhospitable to those that wanted to be engaged. I found it interesting that he found social media to be an important tool in changing this paradigm which I agree with as I think that as we move to a modern era where the media is increasingly important, we need to recognise and utilise it to our full advantage.

The growth of youth wings he thought was also beneficial as they provide youth with the chance to hold discussions with others, which often makes it easier when debating politics. He further spoke highly of the electoral commission’s work of placing voting booths at common places such as supermarkets in order to not only make it more accessible but to make it more “normal”.

In the last election, it was apparent that the age group with the lowest voter turnout was youth and I questioned Mark on if he thought it was the role of an MP to encourage youth to vote. His response; “Yes, absolutely”. Myself and Mark further to this had a conversation on the level of access to MP’s that we have in New Zealand and we both agreed that we are extremely lucky to have the level of openness and accessibility we do. However, youth need to utilise that more than they currently do.

In regards to countering this low youth voter turnout, it was Mark’s suggestion that the best ways to get involved were by joining a young political party but that engagement doesn’t just have to be on a national level it can be on a local level too with engagement with local boards and decisions made at that level. “ Organisations such as UN Youth are great for that sort of thing”.

 

Mark Mitchell, at a Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS meeting at Eigtveds Pakhus in Copenhagen, Denmark, May 9, 2017. (DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

We discussed topical issues such as the lowering of the voting age and civics education in schools and it was very interesting to hear his opinions on both.

In regards to the voting age, he thought that “it shouldn’t be lowered if we are looking to lower it for the purposes of increasing youth engagement”. We need to instead focus first on building youth engagement for the age bracket of 18-24. Furthermore, you have to stop somewhere and as soon as you lower it then you have 14 and 15-year-olds wanting to vote.”

Mark was for the idea of civics education but recognised the strain it would place on our curriculum as it is currently full and there are always things that need to be included so it’s not as easy as we may think to introduce it.” But this is why organisations such as UN Youth are so useful and informative in providing youth with a civics education”.

As previously said the level of openness and accessibility is unbelievable in New Zealand and Mark really wanted to show that he is contactable on any medium; Facebook, Twitter, Email, Texting, and by visiting him in his electorate office.

The onus is now on you to make the first step and contact your local MP and connect, tell them what you think needs to be improved or what you want to see because that is how change happens.

 

By Julia Caulfield