About Aotearoa Youth Declaration
Aotearoa Youth Declaration is UN Youth’s flagship civics education conference. The conference aims to equip participating students with a deeper understanding of their place within the community and the ways they can actively contribute to it. To achieve this, students are guided by facilitators in small groups, each centered around a different policy area. Over four days they participate in a number of workshops, visit various businesses and organisations, and hear from industry experts to engage further with issues in each policy area. The students then develop policy recommendations on the issues and areas most important to them, and these are brought together in the Youth Declaration – a document that represents the youth voice.
More broadly, Aotearoa Youth Declaration is also about introducing young people to new experiences, new people and new opportunities. The event is not just for enthusiastic debaters or youth council members, but rather is for all young people from every corner of society. The conference helps students find the issues they are passionate about, and show them how they can express that passion through advocacy, volunteering or general community involvement. It is important to empower young New Zealanders to become conscientious citizens, aware of the influence of their voice upon the direction of the country. By challenging participants to tackle our country’s biggest social, economic, and cultural issues the conference provides young New Zealanders with the motivation to create positive change in the future.
In 2017, Aotearoa Youth Declaration hosted 196 secondary school students, with over 50 volunteers leading the participants in their discussions.
Role of the Youth Declaration and the Conference
As a culmination of the opinions, ideas and passions of young New Zealanders, the Youth Declaration is sent to Members of Parliament, local government bodies, NGOs, businesses and sponsors.
In 2017, the conference had a significant focus on empowering students to continue being active in their community in accordance to the declaration. By using the Declaration as a tool, young New Zealanders were shown how to engage with their elected representatives, make submissions and foster change in their communities through local community groups and businesses.
You can find an online version of the Youth Declaration 2017 here.
Learn about government
The central goal of Aotearoa Youth Declaration is civics education. Every participant should leave the conference with an understanding about our electoral system and how policy is made, as well as the very important tools of how to make a submission on a piece of legislation, and how to get in touch with their local MP.
Gain ownership of communities
Every young person across the country should recognise they are an important member of society, whose voice is valued and listened to, even at the highest levels of government. The Youth Declaration document contains statements written by youth, for the betterment of New Zealand society.
After contributing to that document, participants feel encouraged that their voice has been heard, empowering them to continue to take action in their communities.
Hear about new opportunities
We have a goal to expose participants to a range of opportunities for organisations or events they can get involved in after the conference. Each Focus Group has close contact with two organisations through the Outreach Programme and the Industry Speaker session, from whom they learn about policy issues and possible solutions.
The Show Debate and Networking Evening social events give participants the chance to hear from, and talk to, a range of people and organisations in a more informal setting.
Make new friends
Participants will spend 4 days in close quarters with the like-minded high school students in their focus groups and at the conference. The trained facilitators aim to create safe environments where all participants feel comfortable, and where strong friendships can form. Several social events throughout the conference are great tools for building team spirit and creating a unified group.