International Day of Democracy

Every 15th of September, we celebrate the International Day of Democracy, which was established by the United Nations in 2007 to celebrate, promote and recognize the principles of democracy. While the way in which democracy is expressed across the world may vary, it is defined by citizens’ ability to participate in public decision-making, typically through choosing their government.

In New Zealand, we accept democracy as a fact of life, perhaps to the extent that we forget that many other countries around the world do not have the right to choose their political representatives based on their policies and ideas. Not only do we take for granted our right to choose our leader, but also the other freedoms associated with democracy – our rights to freedom of association, of assembly, of protest, of speech and expression. We feel that we can ultimately hold the government accountable for decisions we disagree with, so the government is wise to largely adhere to its voters’ views.

To understand how democracy forms an integral part of society, you only need to spend some time on the steps of New Zealand’s Parliament, watching groups with posters, banners, microphones and passion, loudly and visibly bringing public and political attention to an issue which is important to them and holding the government to account, no matter how big or small the issue. New Zealanders feel secure in their right to criticize the government directly, in the news media, or online. We take these rights for granted, however, it is important to remember that people overseas in 2018 have been arrested for less.

 

A woman writes a message during the Hong Kong democracy protests of 2014.

In many ways, democracy is about more than just casting a vote. It represents a system where the government serves the people, not subdues or controls them. We give over money through taxes and some rights to our personal autonomy in favour of a government which administers the collective funds and rights for the good of the majority. We trust the government to do well by us and if it fails, it loses in the ballot box.

For most New Zealanders, the thought of living under a non-democratic or one-party government is resigned largely to dystopian literature and films. The turnout of young people at the voting booths is low; we underestimate the power our vote has to influence the future of tomorrow. However, some of our closest geographic neighbours have restrictions on political freedoms which we really cannot fathom living under. We are lucky in this regard – New Zealand can look forward to a future where everyone is free to express their views, disagree with or criticize the government, protest, and be actively encouraged to do so.

To celebrate the International Day of Democracy, think about how you can participate fully in political life. Did you vote in the last election? If you didn’t vote or you aren’t yet old enough to vote, do some research into the importance of voting in a democratic society, find political parties whose policies align with your beliefs, and understand what is important to you and how best you can have your voice heard by the leaders of our country.

 

 

By Grace Thurlow

What’s Next for Tech

Where do we look to when we long for change? For a long time now, people have started to lose faith in traditional arenas like government. Instead, people have turned to technology. From Google to Amazon, tech companies have had a tremendous impact on society, transforming how we work, play, and communicate.

But have our hopes been misplaced?

Consider Elon Musk, who was once seen as a self-made visionary. Tesla and SpaceX promised to revolutionise the way we travel, now and in the distant future. Yet a series of alarming events have cast his reputation into doubt. In the span of a few weeks, Musk has had multiple public meltdowns on Twitter, baselessly accused a diver involved in the Thai cave rescue operations a “pedophile”, and invited investigations from regulatory agencies following a failed plan to privatise Tesla. Meanwhile, Tesla continues to bleed money quarter after quarter with no discernible path to profitability amidst reports of human rights abuses.

Now consider Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon recently struck $1 trillion market cap. Reports after reports unveil questionable practices within its warehouses, where workers are allegedly denied bathroom breaks. One survey suggests that over half of workers have suffered from depression since working at Amazon. In its search for a second headquarters, cities across the US offered tax breaks and other incentives in a bidding war, hoping to boost their local economies. Yet the effect of Amazon on these cities remains uncertain. Many argue that these incentives outweigh any potential benefits that Amazon might offer, while others fear the inevitable gentrification that this move might bring. Don’t forget decades of anti-competitive practices, including its questionable use of patents to force out competitors and even completely removing their products from its website.

 

Protesters gather in London following the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook data scandal

 

These issues are rampant throughout the tech world. On one spectrum, Apple, accused of human rights violations within its supply chains; Facebook, embroiled within “fake news”  and free speech debates; Google, fined €2.42 billion by EU anti-trust regulators; Uber, the poster-child for negative workplace culture. On the other end, Juicero, a startup focused on high-end juice subscriptions, whose products required a proprietary $700 juicer that was ultimately revealed to be unnecessary. Even as startups grow into full-fledged companies, they often remain being seen and treated as if their purpose remains the same, to disrupt. Never mind what needs to be done to fix the mess they leave behind.

Recently, governments have begun to hold tech companies accountable for their decisions. San Francisco decided to temporarily ban ride-share scooters from its streets, a contrast to Uber’s early days. Auckland itself is considering taxing properties used for Airbnb, given its well-documented negative effects on local rental supply. Under public scrutiny, tech companies have conceived plans to improve diversity, doing away with metrics like “personal fit,” often used arbitrarily to justify discriminatory hiring practices.

Technology remains a place where people can, and are, making positive differences. At the same time, we still need to acknowledge its very real shortcomings. Regardless of our attitudes towards tech, as global citizens, we need to hold tech accountable for the decisions it makes, the impact it has, and the values it upholds. If we long for change, instead of looking towards elsewhere, we should begin with ourselves and see our own potential to do good.

 

By Justin Chen

 

Festival for the Future 2018

Around half of New Zealanders are under the age of thirty-five, yet the average Member of Parliament in this country is in their fifties. Aged 23, Chloe Swarbrick became the youngest MP since Marilyn Waring entered Parliament in 1975. When a government is designed to represent the people it governs, it seems odd that the voices of young people have very little representation at the decision-making table.

I was lucky enough to attend the 2018 Festival for the Future, an event which both celebrates and amplifies the voices of some of Aotearoa’s most inspirational young change-makers. Hearing about the achievements, the accomplishments and the selfless service so many inspiring rangatahi already packed into their young lives was truly moving. So many of the young speakers and panelists were wise beyond their years and it was easy to forget that they were the same age as me, many actually younger.

The most profound characteristic of the Festival was that the panels and speakers were not just politicians, industry experts and academics – they were people who had experienced first-hand some of the most devastating and challenging issues facing our society. It made me think – why is it that in the debates around homelessness, poverty, mental health, or any other challenge our generation faces, I’ve never heard the voice of someone who has lived through the reality? We need to remember that behind every dire statistic in the news headlines, every fierce debate between those of different political ideals as to how exactly we measure the issue, our people, our next generation are suffering. One child growing up in poverty is one too many. It is so important to amplify these voices – you can turn your head from a statistic but it is much harder to look away from another human being.

 

Participants at an event entitled “Youth Building Peace”, commemorating International Youth Day (12 August).

 

Never let anyone tell you that your age prevents you from being the change you want to see in the world. At the Festival, influential young people from across the country came together to share how they have lobbied, advocated, invested, studied and served their communities in order to affect change. They have started businesses, changed laws and policies, given a voice to those who are unable to express themselves, and achieved their goals. They are influential teenagers, twenty-somethings, and thirty-somethings who have already made our world a better place.

August 12th is International Youth Day, an excellent chance to celebrate your individual achievements, the amazing accomplishments of your friends and peers, and to appreciate that anyone, no matter how old, can be a voice for change.

 

By Grace Thurlow

 

Economic Development

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Economic Development Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

1. We recommend the Government take action to address the root causes of the present levels of inequality, and to ensure that future growth is both inclusive and sustainable.
2.

In order to alleviate poverty we support the Government in:

  1. Investigating the use of a negative income tax to either replace or supplement the current transfer payments system as a simplification measure;
  2. Increasing the minimum wage, but only in proportion to the rate of in inflation so as to avoid unnecessary unemployment as a result of placing an excessive burden on employers.
3.

The income tax rates should be amended by zero-rating the first $10,000 earned, decreasing tax rates on those earning $70,000-100,000 and increasing the rates on those earning greater than $100,000. This should be done by introducing new tax brackets and the changes should be revenue neutral.

4.

We support the Government’s goal to reduce net debt to 20% of GDP, but we believe that the superannuation scheme should be changed to ensure the long-term sustainability of New Zealand’s public finances.

5.

We recommend the Government introduce a land value tax, whereby taxpayers can choose whether they are taxed on accrual or on a realisation basis (plus interest) with an exception for Māori customary land.

6.

We support the Government agreeing to new Free Trade Agreements, and we believe that current intellectual property laws should be retained unless the benefits of the deal exceed the costs to New Zealanders.

7.

We understand the benefits of closed-door negotiations and investor-state dispute settlements with adequate exceptions provided for the interests of public health and security, but we encourage government to provide more time and resources so there can be more meaningful public debate.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – James and Cameron, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Culture & Heritage

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Culture & Heritage Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

1.

Te Reo Māori, as an offcial and our indigenous language, is central to our identity and heritage. We endorse the compulsory learning of Te Reo Māori language and culture in primary school. We would like to see local iwi and local schools partnering to develop the teaching of Te Reo and tikanga in primary schools. Loss of language is parallel to loss of culture and we think action must be taken to revitalise the national taonga of Māori language and culture.

2.

We would like a broader implementation of Whānau Ora in the sphere of social welfare. Welfare options are difficult to access for Kiwis. WINZ currently does not assess the personal hardships of individuals in the context of their cultural backgrounds, familial responsibilities and roles in their communities. A broader approach can allow support received from the state to sit alongside family support, empowering individuals and encouraging upward social mobility.

3.

We see a need for the heritage and culture of all cultures in New Zealand to be fostered by a central organisation. We suggest the creation of a national culture and heritage organisation that brings together regional corporations that highlight the diversity of Aotearoa. New Zealanders should be able to remain connected to their roots while also appreciating the heritage of other cultures. This organisation should partner with local iwi to showcase the history and culture of Aotearoa.

4.

We believe immigration is important to New Zealand’s culture, heritage, and demographic make-up. We endorse:

  1. Incentivising immigration to regions outside Auckland by changing current immigration regulations to offer non-financial incentives, such as increasing regional visa allowance.
  2. The creation of a whānau buddy system, where families of different cultures can connect and exchange cultures with one another. Connecting people in this way will foster kotahitanga (the princi- ple of unity and solidarity). We want to see total understanding and inclusion of all cultures, particularly immigrant, indigenous, and refugee cultures.
5.

We promote the balanced portrayal of positive characters in New Zealand film, television shows and advertisements to dismantle racist stigmas within our society.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – James and Te Wai, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Education

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Education Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

3.1 We encourage schools to consider education from a variety of perspectives, including Progressive Education. We want schools to operate beyond traditional formats, which includes:

    1. Open access to devices, particularly in lower decile schools via increased government funding;
    2. Further focus on subjects that endorse hands-on learning and connectivity between related subjects;
    3. Time set aside for students to independently select and pursue educationally productive projects.
3.2 We acknowledge the Government’s intended review of the National Curriculum, and recommend:

    1. The credits awarded by subjects be more proportional to work-
      load, to avoid incentivising ‘easy credit’ subjects;
    2. Increased subject standardization in both internal assessments and numeracy or literacy credits offered;
    3. Increase subject diversity within the curriculum, including but not limited to civics education, philosophy, cultural studies, Asian and multicultural studies.
3.3 We view quality professional development as fundamental to providing Aotearoa with empowering teachers and strongly encourage:

    1. Schools implement professional development programmes, such as but not limited to Ka Hikitia;
    2. Professional development in regards to multiculturalism to empathise with identities;
    3. Teachers to embrace the digital age and undergo digital-specific training.
3.4 We recognise the obvious disparity and issues with educational accessibility. We strongly encourage a government review, seeking alternatives to:

    1. Zoning, in order to better balance comfortable school size, freedom of school choice, and equity in the classroom;
    2. The decile system, highly endorsing the anonymization of a schools decile rating.
3.5 We acknowledge the institutionalised issues facing indigenous students, and we deeply aspire to see these issues mitigated by means of:

    1. A comprehensive implementation of Māori history and culture in the curriculum;
    2. Increased government funding towards inter-school cultural events that celebrate indigenous cultures in particular.
3.6 We acknowledge the importance of streaming for excelling, proficient students, and particularly endorse:

  1. Subject-based streaming as opposed to streaming by overall performance and;
  2. Increased tests and increased focus on past internal grades in determining said stream placement.
3.7 We request teacher wages are increased within the public school education system to encourage positive learning, and decrease New Zealand’s current teacher shortage.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Romy and Mark, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Environment

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Environment Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

1.

We want Aotearoa to be a world leader in mobilising action against climate change. We strongly endorse the implementation of the Zero Carbon Act and call upon the New Zealand Government to adopt more ambitious short-term targets under the Paris Agreement. New Zealand’s Emission Trading Scheme must also be reformed to balance environmental and economic concerns and enhance accountability. We recommend the inclusion of agriculture in the scheme and the restriction of offshore carbon credits.

2.

We acknowledge the signifcance of agriculture to Aotearoa’s economy but its detrimental consequences require urgent action. We advocate for the cessation of agricultural expansion and dairy intensification. We recommend a shift in focus to enhancing agricultural efficiency and adopting more sustainable farming practices in line with circular economy. To enable this transition, we encourage greater government support and funding in collaboration with industry and iwi stakeholders.

3.

We recognise our responsibility as kaitiaki of Aotearoa’s biodiversity and the need to simultaneously protect our economy and national identity. We urge the preservation of native species and vulnerable ecosystems through increased funding towards the success of collaborative programmes such as Predator Free 2050. We strongly support the inclusive creation of new national parks and networks of marine reserves. This includes the increased protection of Great Barrier and creation of the Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary.

4.

We encourage New Zealand’s transition to a circular economy and believe New Zealanders and businesses must be better enabled to adopt a zero waste paradigm. In order to achieve this, we urge the Government to:

  1. Eliminate single use plastics following a similar process to the banning of microbeads in New Zealand;
  2. Increase waste minimisation funding and subsidies;
  3. Mandate the composting or donation of surplus food from businesses.
5.

We demand a clean energy future for Aotearoa where diverse, culturally appropriate resource development is embraced at both the regional and national level. The transition towards 100% renewable electricity production is urgent, particularly a focus on increasing solar and wind infrastructure. We promote the use and subsidisation of local energy technologies such as micro wind turbines and solar systems positioned in public spaces as educational mechanisms for enhancing public engagement with sustainability issues.

6.

We endorse the Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021 and urge that strong governance is provided to enable progress and measure impact. We particularly support programmes such as Enviroschools which provide opportunities for experiential learning. We encourage a holistic approach which emphasises engagement with a diversity of perspectives, including mātauranga Māori.

7.

We call on the Government to increase investment in infrastructure that supports and enables low carbon transport options. We want to see reliable public and shared transport alternatives, promotion of the cycle-share programme and implementation of safer bike lanes.

8.

We urge the Government to increase research and development of low carbon fuel alternatives and the implementation of electric vehicles and other sustainable alternatives.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Danielle and Hanna, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Equity

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Equity Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

1.

We believe it is difficult for those in the LGBTQIA+ community to express their identity and feel self-worth in employment or training. We expect workplaces to actively work with the Rainbow Tick organisation to better promote health and welfare to sustain healthy and emotional well being.

2.

We request that the Health curriculum is updated to reflect the wide spectrum of sexual and gender identities in order to create an inclusive, safe, and positive environment for all students. We think this will help normalise attitudes towards individual and sexual diversity and lead to healthy relationships between young people.

3.

We believe societal expectations of disability can negatively impact the mental wellbeing of those affected. We suggest the creation of educational media and resources to raise awareness about recognition and treatment of learning and physical disabilities.

4.

We are concerned that a high proportion of youth go through the school system suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability (including but not limited to dyslexia, ADHD, and dyspraxia). We call for the Government to subsidise the diagnosis of learning disabilities along with the screening of primary aged children to promote early diagnosis and access to assistance for people from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

5.

We think there is a lack of meaningful discussion and understanding in New Zealand about rape culture. We recommend a greater emphasis on removing damaging societal stigmas and promote discussion around issues such as sexual consent, rape and its impact, and sexual and domestic violence. It is instrumental that victims feel safe and respected in detailing and sharing their experiences.

6.

We think there are issues regarding accessibility and distribution of benefits in the social welfare system. We urge that the criteria are changed to allow greater access to vulnerable people in need of additional resources to attain a healthy living standard.

7.

We believe there is insufficient education on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) to create an inclusive environment for those with hearing impairments. We call for a greater accessibility to resources for learning NZSL to prevent social exclusion of the hearing impaired.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Akshat and Tracy, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Foreign Affairs

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Foreign Affairs Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

1.

We think New Zealand’s independent foreign policy is increasingly relevant as the interests of our strategic partners continue to diverge. We see New Zealand having a constructive role in intergovernmental organisations. Simultaneously, we support policy in the pursuit of development of New Zealand’s relationships with member states of the Commonwealth in multiple forms, including but not limited to:

  1. Economic, in the form of Free Trade Agreements;
  2. Security, in the form of emboldened collaborative defence arrangements; and
  3. Immigration, in the form of exploration into the potential for freer movement between their citizens.
2.

New Zealand has a pivotal responsibility to maintain and develop relationships with fellow Paci c Island nations. We have common cultures and should utilise measures within the Commonwealth, connections with organisations, aid and diplomatic presence to further our common interests.

3.

In the past, New Zealand has been a leader in world issues. We want to see this role continue through:

  1. Greater commitment to addressing climate change and implementing sustainable development within New Zealand;
  2. Encouragement for the international community to move toward sustainable models of development;
  3. Maintained public interaction with our programmes in the Antarctic.
4.

Further developing our precedent for a defined stance on world issues, we encourage New Zealand to continue to hold states to account in circumstances of proven violations of international law, especially proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, and encouraging other states with common interests to do likewise.

5.

We endorse the continued funding and support of ethical and accountable non-governmental organisations that provide aid to the refugee crisis. We also see a need to address root issues of displacement such as climate change and conflict. Finally, we would like an increase to New Zealand’s refugee quota.

6.

We recognise the importance of the New Zealand Navy in relation to our extensive exclusive economic zone. We strongly suggest increasing the funding and functionality of the New Zealand Navy, in order to better equip them to carry out their role in the areas of: interaction with the Antarctic; humanitarian aid peacekeeping; search and rescue; defence agreements; and Pacific development.

7.

We want to see more public awareness of the New Zealand Government’s actions, particularly in the area of foreign policy. To that end, we encourage:

  1. Greater publicity and media awareness of New Zealand’s international interactions, including its contributions to intergovernmental organisations, particularly through social media;
  2. More active promotion of engagements and events facilitated by foreign diplomatic missions and immigrant communities;
  3. Investigation into the potential introduction of a New Zealand Youth Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, to encourage youth political engagement and participation.

 

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Lexi and Ishan, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration

 

Infrastructure & Housing

 

Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Infrastructure & Civil Defence Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

 

9.1

We recommend housing developments build up into high-density areas, such as apartments, to future-proof our cities and create more affordable housing. We think Kiwibuild’s emphasis on building sprawling suburban houses rather than on central city apartments is not a sustainable long-term solution. We understand the ‘Quarter Acre Dream’ is important to many Kiwis, but think we need to be looking to high-density residential housing that is energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, community-focused and facilitates less car-focused cities.

9.2

We want accessible and affordable housing. We recommend first home buyers are prioritised for entry-level properties, and that foreign investment can only be directed into high rise apartments. We would like it to be easier for first-home buyers to break into the market and prevent low and middle income earners moving out of main centres.

9.3

We encourage more foresight to ensure lasting quality and versatility of transport, particularly in regard to future technologies like autonomous systems. We recommend infrastructure investment consider:

  1. The potential of rail freight becoming obsolete, due to future technologies which would require high quality roading which can be shared by all vehicles;
  2. Urban infrastructure, specifically future planning for population growth.
9.4

We acknowledge that the poor housing standards and decreasing livability in some parts of the country is driving us to impulsively and unsustainably build large numbers of free standing homes with no future planning. We propose:

  1. Improving the minimum housing and building standards to promote high rise buildings, and increase lasting livability, appeal, worth, and sustainability in the introduction of government housing schemes.
  2. Implementation of a nationwide housing warrant of fitness on both private and social rental housing sectors.
9.5

We are excited that the Christchurch rebuild is a chance to reimagine how we build and live in cities. We hope to see the Government and Christchurch City Council learn from urban planning mistakes of the past, improve existing infrastructure and use innovative human centred design for urban spaces. We also wish to see construction follow international earthquake proofing best-practice to make Christchurch the most functional, liveable city possible.

9.6

We would like to see infrastructure investment attuned to future developments like projected population growth or a future aging population. We don’t want to see repeats of the current situation in Queenstown which needs urgent infrastructure support to accommodate its growing population.

9.7

We lament the neglect of infrastructure investment outside urban areas. We advocate the Government introduces incentives for businesses and residents to move to rural areas, by:

  1. Investing in neglected service infrastructure in rural areas such as water, power and internet where these areas are lacking;
  2. Increasing public transport links in city fringes that are currently being cut o from city centres.
9.7

We think the traffic woes in major New Zealand cities would be alleviated if more investment went into public transport. We would like New Zealand to build on the success of recent public transport projects such as the Northern Busway and Train Electrification in Auckland and:

  1. Invest in public transport capacity, such as in the form of the Third and Fourth mains or Light Rail in Auckland,
  2. Prevent significant underestimates in passenger traffic that have occurred in the past modelling of public transport projects, namely the Northern Busway and Train Electrification projects, in future and current investment into public transport infrastructure, such as the City Rail Link project in Auckland;
  3. Increased public consultation on future transport projects to attract public opinion that benefits the quality of outcomes.

 

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Jonah and Hayley, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.

 

Download the 2018 Youth Declaration