A Day Spent in Parliament

Our accessibility to those sitting in Parliament is astounding and my experience last week was an exceptional example of the openness our MP’s show.

Last week I had the privilege of shadowing Marja Lubeck, a list MP for the Labour Party from the Rodney electorate. It was such an incredible experience and opportunity to go behind the scenes and see the day to day workings of Parliament.

My day started with a breakfast at Parliament in cooperation with Autism New Zealand for World Autism Awareness, where we heard from Keir and the difficulties he himself faced living with Autism and that his parents faced as well as how LEGO was vital in helping him to communicate.

Sitting in this room I felt so insignificant listening to so many change-makers and people who tirelessly worked to raise awareness for Autism.

It was incredibly affirming to see the Minister for Social Development and Disability Issues Carmel Sepuloni speak in response to Autism NZ’s concerns surrounding education and health and show what the ministry is doing in regards to development in these areas.

It was great to be able to crush any idea I had that MP’s just sit behind their desks all day, but that they actually get out and interact with people who are deeply affected by the decisions that they make.

Marja is a member of the Education and Workforce Select committee which I was lucky enough to sit in on; they were looking at an amendment to a bill on the term ‘teacher’ which at the outset may sound boring but was in fact incredibly interesting (to me anyway!)

I was able to see the MP who proposed the amendment speak on it, giving her reason why it was important to her. It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the select committee process.

 

Julia with Marja Lubeck

 

Wednesday was a light day for Marja so we had a bit of downtime in her office and were able to talk about her time in Parliament.  It was really valuable to hear from a new MP, how she was finding Parliament and the rules that govern what she is able to do.

We discussed civics education and the importance of it as well as the talk on lowering the voting age; it was very surreal to be discussing these ideas with someone who decides the law surrounding these topics.

Before question time we walked over to where the media gather in wait for MP’s in order to ask questions about the latest hot topics; it was shocking to watch the media swarm over MP’s and hound them for answers.

Marja was kind enough to quickly introduce me to Jacinda Ardern and I think it is such a testament to the friendliness of our MP’s that we are able to meet the Prime Minister with such ease, especially if we look to the United States as a comparison.

Question Time as always, was enlightening with the Government and opposition fighting it out; it was particularly interesting with the recent news about Claire Curran and RNZ.

It was enjoyable to watch a school group’s faces when there was shouting and name-calling being heard; they were so incredibly shocked because we are led to think that Parliament is such a civilised place- yet when you are fighting for what you believe is right, it isn’t so much.

I had the most incredible day with Marja and I thank her and Nick for being incredibly hospitable towards me and ensuring I had an enjoyable day!

 

By Julia Caulfield

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

2018 marks seven years since the beginning of one of the worst refugee crises in living memory. Warring factions, the rise of extremist groups and an international community plagued by indecision and conflicting agendas have culminated in one of the worst humanitarian disasters since World War II. Millions of Syrians have lost their homes, their communities, their relatives and their lives. Millions are displaced, living in substandard and dangerous conditions, unable to access adequate sanitation and healthcare. Hundreds of thousands of children are unable to go to school. Moreover, for the people who have fled to neighbouring states or as far afield as Europe, there remains the constant question of when, if ever, they will be able to return to their homes.

 

Despite promises, allocation of resources and military intervention, the international community has failed to stop the escalation of the crisis in Syria. Refugees may express their desire to return to their homeland. However, it is unclear what will be left of the homes and the life they once knew when they return. A generation of children has been born as refugees, with no experience or understanding outside of a life of instability. It is unclear what will become of them and what sort of futures they may have.

 

Views of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan,

 

It is all too easy to dissociate from the horrors happening in a far-away place. In New Zealand, a peaceful and stable country, our only understanding of the crisis unfolding in Syria comes through our TV screens. We can turn the screen off and turn away from a situation so unimaginable to us that we almost believe it is not real. We cannot fathom how nervous and unsure the refugees taken in by New Zealand must feel when they arrive in our tiny island nation. We cannot understand the horrors they may have faced and the hardship they endured before arriving here. A refugee’s journey does not stop once they have reached the physical safety of a country like New Zealand. They face adjusting to a new culture, society and way of life which is vastly different to what they know. They face language barriers, limited employment prospects and isolation.

 

While no individual human being can stop a crisis on their own, we can come together and do what we can to help. New Zealand may be a long way from Syria; however, New Zealanders can support the refugees who arrive here to adjust to their new home. We have the power to show to our new neighbours that we care about them and the horrors they have fled, that they will be welcome among us, no matter ethnicity, religion, culture or language.

 

It is easy for individuals to say that there is nothing they can do – someone else will fix the world. It is much harder to tell yourself that when you are sitting opposite someone who has faced hardships worse than you will ever know. You can turn off your humanity by pressing a button on your TV remote, but it is much harder to turn your back on a person sitting across the table from you.

 

SG visits a classroom in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan

 

By Grace Thurlow

5 Exciting Outcomes of the Paris Climate Agreement So Far

Today’s saturation of bad news and its constant reminders of our “impending doom”, has undoubtedly created a worldwide need for reassurance and progress. One ground-breaking leap forward for the planet was the formation of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. Created within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the accord is committed to igniting international response and action. The overall goal is to limit global warming to well-below 2 degrees this century, while also improving the ability of countries to manage the forthcoming impacts.

 

SG delivers remarks at the closing ceremony of COP21

 

Despite Trump’s internationally criticised withdrawal in June 2017, the agreement is driving the incredible change vital to our world’s survival. So, to help restore your faith in humanity and lift some spirits, here are 5 examples from across the globe of the Paris Agreement in action.

  1.   France became the first country in the world to make it illegal to produce or drill for oil and gas in the country and its overseas territories. They are working towards closing all coal-fired power plants by 2021 – two years earlier than initially planned. Along with shutting their oil and gas productions down, France will also be banning the sale of diesel and petrol cars by 2040.
  2. India is also making incredible progress under the Paris Agreement. Last June, more than 1.5 million volunteers came together to plant 66 million trees in just under 12 hours! In this record-breaking bid to fight climate change, over 20 different sapling species were planted along the Narmada river. As the third largest carbon emissions producer in the world, India is working towards increasing its forests by 5 million hectares before 2030.
  3. Following the Paris Agreement, over 100 cities across the globe are now predominantly powered by renewable energy! A report published by environmental impact research organization CPD in February this year, states that there are currently 40 cities operating on 100% clean energy. The data also shows that the number of cities getting 70% of their total electricity supply from renewable energy (one of which is Auckland!) has more than doubled since 2015. As CDP director, Kyra Appleby,  states “Cities not only want to shift to renewable energy but, most importantly – they can”
  4. In Germany, free public transport has been proposed to help to reduce road traffic and combat pollution. Before the year is up, Germany will have tested this proposal in five cities across the country, which includes the old capital Bonn. The most successful measures will then be implemented in all other cities affected by pollution.
  5. Twelve major cities will be buying only zero-emission buses from 2025, while also making major areas within their boundaries free of fossil fuel emissions by 2030. These cities – which include Paris, London, Cape Town and Auckland – are creating tougher environmental targets to acknowledge the urgency of achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals. Striving to curb greenhouse gas emissions, these cities will promote walking, cycling and public transport, while also creating more parks, pedestrian zones and roads only for electric cars.

Don’t lose hope on humanity just yet. If these examples of progress prove anything, it’s that when people unite, powerful change happens.

 

By Laura Weir

 

UN Condemns Trump’s Refugee Order

In a joint statement, two UN Agencies have condemned President Trump’s executive order banning refugees from from entering the United States. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) are highlighting the serious consequences of the move, set to last at least 120 days.

“The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater, and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world.

The longstanding U.S. policy of welcoming refugees has created a win-win situation: it has saved the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the world who have in turn enriched and strengthened their new societies. The contribution of refugees and migrants to their new homes worldwide has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Resettlement places provided by every country are vital. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and IOM, the International Organization for Migration, hope that the U.S. will continue its strong leadership role and long tradition of protecting those who are fleeing conflict and persecution.”

Syrian refugees strike in front of Budapest Keleti railway station. Refugee crisis. Budapest, Hungary, Central Europe, 3 September 2015.

“UNHCR and IOM remain committed to working with the U.S. Administration towards the goal we share to ensure safe and secure resettlement and immigration programmes.

We strongly believe that refugees should receive equal treatment for protection and assistance, and opportunities for resettlement, regardless of their religion, nationality or race.

We will continue to engage actively and constructively with the U.S. Government, as we have done for decades, to protect those who need it most, and to offer our support on asylum and migration matters.”

UNHRC & IOM

Support Refugees in New Zealand

The Red Cross is accepting donations for goods to help turn houses into homes for former refugees, check out their website for more information on how you can help.

*Correction*
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the ban on refugees was only for refugees from a list of seven Muslim-majority countries, in fact the ban is on refugees from all countries.