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

World Creativity and Innovation Day

In our modern world, it can be hard to understand that what we now view as outdated and primitive technologies were once revolutionary innovations of their time. Everything from forks and lightbulbs to trains, cars and aeroplanes was once a brand-new, innovative idea. Yet, in many cases, societies have turned away from flexibility and innovation to focus their educational models on memorisation, rote learning and rigid answers, which leave little space for creativity. For every innovation and “Eureka” moment, there have been dark moments in our world’s creative and technological development. Scholars, physicists and mathematicians who detailed their discoveries of the Earth revolving around the Sun were ostracised and even jailed for airing their ideas. Even today, new ideas and new technologies can be cast aside due to a fear of change.

This raises the question of how best to foster creativity and innovation in modern society. In most developed states there is ample freedom to develop new ideas, to test them and to implement them. However, many states still educate their young people through memorisation and black-and-white, right or wrong answers, rather than equipping them with analytical or critical-thinking skills. The markers of success have changed from being able to flawlessly recite someone else’s work, to utilising innovation and fresh ideas to place your own mark on society.

 

Photo by Rachael Gorjestani on Unsplash

 

Regarding strategies to best support creativity and innovation in our societies, it is fitting not to provide answers, but to pose questions. How can we ensure our education systems foster creativity, independent thinking and the formulation of new ideas? How can governments support scientists, engineers, artists and entrepreneurs, among others, and facilitate their co-operation to maximise potential? How do we as a society support artists, writers and musicians and recognise their contributions?

By Grace Thurlow

 

 

The Health Crisis in Yemen

Universal Health Cover: everyone, everywhere.

This is the 2018 World Health Day theme. On 7 April, World Health Organisation calls upon states and individuals alike to strive towards this idea. There seems to be something distinctly modern about discussing health in terms of ‘universalness’. Modernity means the development of medicine, technology, transportation, communication. When innovation is peaking out at every corner, we begin to believe the tools at our finger tips are greater than any problem. No distance too great, no crisis too big.  

Yet there is a danger in focusing too much on the visible and tangible realities we see in developed nations. These aren’t the realities experienced by all. And it’s ultimately what context we live in that determines the level of health achievability.

Security Council Considers Situation in Yemen
27 February 2018 UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Yemen is a country so far off the spectrum of our daily lives that the average Kiwi has probably spared it little thought. It is a country that is dealing with a mammoth health crisis – a cholera outbreak literally unimaginable in the safety of New Zealand. 21 December 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced the number of suspected cases had surpassed 1 million. In about a year, Yemen overtook the previous record held by Haiti (690,575 cases in the three years following the 2010 earthquake) and thus became the worst Cholera outbreak in recorded history.

The response by non-government organisations like the Red Cross have resulted in relatively high survival rates, with the death toll at approximately 0.2-0.3%. The success of medicine and organisation does not undermine the reality that this is a completely preventable disease. It is, in the words of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, a ‘medieval disease’, one that should be relegated to the history books. Cholera is transmitted by contaminated food or water, meaning any nation with decent sanitation standards will likely never see a case. According to a Red Cross statement last year, “more than 80% of the population” of Yemen lacked the basic necessities of clean water, food, or health care. In addition to this, the rainy season is due to hit in April, which WHO warns will inflame the cholera epidemic.

What tipped one of the already poorest Arab-nations into further suffering was the outbreak of war. Since 2015, civil war has engulfed Yemen with dangerously powerful outside players aggravating the chaos. The fighting is between a Saudi-led coalition and Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, but it’s ultimately civilians who are losing. The UN estimates 3 million people have been displaced from their homes, with 8 million being on the brink of famine. UNICEF recently asked for $350 million to feed the starving number. A tiny number compared to the $1 billion worth of weapons that the US plans to give Saudi Arabia, despite Amnesty International pointing to the “extensive evidence” that this arms flow from Saudi had “resulted in enormous harm to Yemeni civilians.”

All of this is not to say that universal health coverage shouldn’t be the aim, as everyday steps are taken to move us closer to this end goal. However, in this pursuit we cannot isolate health from other factors – social, economic, political – that all play a role in shaping lives. In that sense, we shouldn’t take for granted the stability that allow us to live healthy lifestyles, or forget those who aren’t so lucky.

By Rachel Buckman

What is a Global Citizen?

We are all part of a global community. A complex catalogue of individuals who live our own lives and see the world through our own lenses. This community is a vast one, one that transcends borders both geographically and ideologically, and one that has stood the test of time. This community has grown and flourished and today there are 7.6 Billion of us, living in 5000 major cities, split between 195 countries, occupying 7 continents, on this 1 planet. All of us is part of this community.

 

UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

A Global Community

In society today, the ‘self-made’ individual simply cannot exist. No matter how independent one wishes to be, they will always need the support of others in order to succeed. Whether it be a friend, relative or mentor – success requires support as much as it inhibits succession. But before one can even think of ‘succeeding’ they must be able to survive. In many ways, our own lives depend on people we are never likely to meet. People such the farmers who have grown the food we eat, contractors who have built the homes we live in, and weavers who have woven the clothes we wear, will likely never be known to us. Yet on a daily basis we rely on them for even our most basic necessities.

Thus a realisation must be made, societies succeed due to networks of individuals, whose connection to each other may not be as explicit as a friend, relative, or mentor but is just as important. And in fact these networks do not have to be driven by a purpose, such as what would be expected of a farmer, or a contractor or a weaver, but by an implicit global contract of citizenship. Politicians often speak of this duty, something owed by a citizen to their nation by their mere existence. A poignant example of this was when John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” In his time those words were meant to usher hope into a nervous population contemplating the reality of a nuclear war, but the sentiment that the success of a nation is only as strong as the belief of its people still stands.

 

A Global Citizen

This implicit contract is what creates the core of global citizenship. It is not something that one can sign, but instead it is determined by how people choose to live their lives. I believe there are two actionable steps associated with being a global citizen.

Firstly there is the obligation to be aware of one’s impact on people and place. There is two ways in which this can be conceived; a more dormant perspective – in which the goal is to not cause harm to others through one’s actions, and a more active approach – in which individuals aim to lead and inspire those around them to make sustainable positive change. Ideally, you would be able to utilise both approaches in any endeavour you pursue. Both these traits were exhibited by Gandhi during the British occupation of India, was was determined to only hold peaceful protesters void of violence, and he strove to be the change he wished to see in the world.

Secondly, there is the obligation for one to be active in their civic responsibilities. The term ‘civic responsibilities’ quite literally means ‘the responsibilities of a citizen’. This does not necessarily mean being involved in politics, but more so being an active member of society. The difference that just one person who chooses to better themselves and their community can make is monumental. Fundamentally this concept hinges on the idea that by bettering yourself you create an environment in which those around you can grow and thrive. In that same line of thought, if you are included in a community that chooses to better themselves, your own environment will mirror these elements. This comradeship can be expressed in an old African saying which loosely translates to “I am therefore we are and since we are therefore I am.”

In this day and age there are many forces that aim to divide us due to our race, our age, our  religion, our gender, or our sexuality, and while we may differ in the way we look, the way we speak, the way we act, and the way we live; our membership to this global community will never cease to bind us. Being a global citizen is not a box that we choose to tick, or a position that we earn the right to hold, it is a way of life that we chose to live in order to better ourselves and our global community.

 

By Ishan Kokulan

 

Paris: Looking at Human Rights, the OECD and a Boulangerie

Our last day in Paris was very intense and packed full of things to do and see before we left for Geneva. We had a brilliant morning meeting with Roger Duncan who works in the OECD but was originally from Wellington. The delegates who had been tested on the PISA tests at school were really surprised that they had contributed to the international statistics which shows how NZ students fare compared to other countries who also completed these tests.

 “Roger’s insight into Multilateralism allowed me to understand how large organisations such as OECD are constantly attempting to make the world a better place.” – Shereen

Meeting at the New Zealand House in Paris on the work of the OECD

The delegates were also really interested to see how the OECD is working across all sectors of the SDGs so that the SDGs are relevant to the continual work of the OECD. Comically, Roger mentioned there are over 100 committees, including one named the ‘Tractor Committee’.

We then went to a French bakery which was rated one of the best in Paris!

Our next meeting was with Antoine from the International Federation of Human Rights. The federation is an international human rights Non-Governmental Organisation representing 184 organisations from 112 countries.

“There were interesting discussions from Antoine about the need for more critical-thinking skills at an earlier age because of the proliferation of fake news and questionable sources for news gathered through social media. But it was cool to see that everything that the IDHR did in terms of human rights advocacy was related to the SDGs.” – Julia and Lara

The aim of the organisation is to defend all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights as set out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The delegates brought in a lot of topical events such as the Arab Spring and France’s controversial prohibition on religious dress and how that relates to Human Rights.

Meeting with the International Advocacy Director of the International Federation of Human Rights

After our meeting with Antoine finished, we hustled back to catch our evening train to Switzerland!

Paris: ‘Qui vivra verra’

Charles Dickens noted that Paris “is the most extraordinary place in the world” and as a delegation, we understood its charm. Our first two days were a wintery weekend in Paris but we were lucky enough to explore the city’s many gems.

Arriving early to the Louvre to observe the Pyramide designed by I.M. Pei

Photo Credit: Jason

We headed first-thing in the morning to the Louvre to see the iconic permanent artworks (a.k.a. Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and other artworks) before the lines became too unmanageable. The delegates were very impressed with the variety of collection of artworks here including sculptures from Antiquity, artwork from Africa and Oceania, and Northern Renaissance pieces.

After the Louvre, we walked down Champs Elysees, the famous shopping district of Paris. Delegates had free time to spend around this area before we re-grouped to go to the overarching Arc de Triomphe.

Outside the Arc de Triomphe

After the Arc de Triomphe, we went to the beautiful Parc Monceau to make the most of the sunlight while we had it. It was built in the 17th century, and is one of the most elegant gardens in Paris.

Delegates posing outside a structure in the Park Monceau

We concluded our first day with a lovely dinner at a French restaurant to try the local fare, all very much looking forward to another day of exploring this exciting and creative city.

The next day was a leisurely Sunday and we were fortunate enough to walk along a full Seine River. We were also fortunate enough to listen to part of a service at the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral. Delegates were able to visit the Crypt and learn more about the ancient history of Paris (previously known as Lutetia during the 2nd and 4th century) or to walk up to the top of Notre Dame.

We then went to the Eiffel Tower and although we were not able to climb to the top due to construction, it was a fine day to be seeing it from the base.

After we had time for photos and viewing of the Eiffel Tower, our delegation went to see more modern art at the Paris MOMA. There were key American and French modern artists including Monet, Matisse, Delauney, Holzer and Kruger as well as contemporary exhibitions.

And as Parisians say in the title of this blog above, “he/she who lives, shall see.”

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!