In Pursuit of Nuclear Disarmament

Like many Millennial and Gen X New Zealanders of my generation, my knowledge of New Zealand’s nuclear history has been told through my parents’ stories. My mum protested after the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in the 1980s and my dad traveled throughout the Middle East when the Soviet Union was the dangerous part of the world to travel to. But aside from studying these events and time periods in high school history, I have little firsthand knowledge and understanding of the impact nuclear weapons have had on our society. Despite the Soviet Union collapsing only a few years before I was born, I really have no idea what it was like to live in a society which feared nuclear war.

We don’t really appreciate how lucky we are to live in an isolated country where exposure to nuclear weapons is unlikely. We don’t live in fear, although being nuclear-free is a big part of our identity. Our generation is actually largely apathetic towards nuclear issues as we feel the war has already been won. It’s hard to imagine the destruction which these types of weapons have caused the planet or to imagine that we could still potentially experience it again in our lifetimes.

 

Sculpture depicting St. George slaying the dragon. The dragon is created from fragments of Soviet SS-20 and United States Pershing nuclear missiles. UN Photo/Milton Grant

The Cold War is over, the arms race is over. Despite this, there is still a risk that nuclear weapons will continue to pose a threat to the world. They are difficult to disarm in a way which ensures their very existence is a continuing threat. In the wrong hands, one nuclear weapon has the potential to destroy the world as we know it, hence the need for disarmament and neutralization of nuclear weapons. As much as they may form part of a state’s identity and sense of pride, they pose grave danger to the rest of the world.

While nuclear energy can also form a crucial aspect of a state’s energy reserves, it can too pose a grave danger if left unchecked. Nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima demonstrated the deadly and destructive power of nuclear energy, even when they are not weaponized. The nuclear forces of today are hundreds of times more powerful than the weaponized bombs of World War II, and could destroy our planet with a mere press of a button.

 

By Eliza Thurlow

 

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

 

World Humanitarian Day

Central to the work a humanitarian does, is the care of people and promotion of their welfare.  

A couple of weeks ago World Humanitarian Day recognised the incredible work done by our many humanitarians across the world, particularly aid workers who put their lives at risk for the welfare of others. This day also strives to raise awareness of the countless people adversely impacted by armed conflict. Where finding safe drinking water and nutritious food is a daily struggle. Where children are stripped of their innocence and right to education by being used to fight wars they didn’t start or want. Where women are degraded. Where every citizen, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and occupation are put in a compromised position of mental and physical safety day in and day out.

The work our countless humanitarians do is particularly important when considering our contemporary societal contexts; where conflicts are rampant.

 

Participants in the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG)’s World Humanitarian Day activities, pose for a photo.

We, as citizens of Aotearoa are placed in a fortunate position in the sense that these aren’t problems for us – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about the welfare of others; that doesn’t mean we can’t be humanitarians in our own respects. I challenge anyone reading this to be a humanitarian – to thank your friends, families, caregivers, bus drivers and teachers for doing all they do to make your life a safe and enjoyable one. I challenge you to take the time to reach out to both those you know, and those you don’t, and offer a hand, a shoulder to cry on.

My high school principal used to tell a lot of super inspiring stories. There are a few that stand out. Among these, lies the message that small acts of kindness can go a long way. Therefore, I challenge you to be there for those around you, to support them; to be a humanitarian. Let’s do our part to help make a world ridden of conflict, one a little brighter and a little safer.

 

By Ayush Sharma

A Reflection on the Global Development Tour

With the 2019 delegation of the Global Development Tour being announced, I thought it was a good opportunity to share some of the 2018 delegations experience, in the hope that it can inspire the next delegation and encourage those wanting to apply in the future.

Overview:

In January this year I was fortunate enough to be part of the 2018 Global Development Tour delegation.

We travelled around Europe and to New York learning about global development, international cooperation, and the role the United Nations plays in both. In essence we were shown the world through a future lens – as it could be in 2030, meeting policy makers, businesses and NGOs and being shown how they are working to meet the Global Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Each of the cities we visited represented a theme within the Sustainable Development Agenda and we looked at the SDGs from three different angles; Policy, Business and Community. It was incredibly inspiring to see the work and connectedness of these organisations in different parts of the world.  

We also were very lucky to attend a Model United Nations conference at Columbia University in New York.  CMUNCE hosts delegates from all over the world and it gave us an opportunity to actively participate and engage with like-minded delegates from varied backgrounds and the chance to engage in real-world diplomacy and listen to some fabulous speakers! My role as China on the Security Council debating the situation in Myanmar enabled me to further interact with Human Rights NGO’s and learn about the real work that is being done on the ground.

The trip is a chance to meet new friends and create amazing memories. This has been an incredible life-changing experience and for those, thinking about applying in the future, DO IT, you will not regret it.

 

The 2018 delegation gathers for a photo in front of the United Nations Office at Geneva.

 

Further Reflections from other delegates:

Being one of the few delegates coming new into UN Youth in the GDT group, the trip had very different impacts on me. I had heard of the organisation but had not engaged with the events offered to people my age until the application for the Tour. I was honoured to have been picked from so many outstanding candidates and veterans of the organisation. The Tour changed my life because it opened me up to so many new people and new experiences. On the Tour we met many amazing people doing important jobs to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, people who could make real differences. We had the chance to listen to their past achievements, plans and future goals; while picking their brains and giving our own suggestions. Along the way we got to interact with the landscape of the world, living the cultural and historical differences. Since getting back from the Tour I have strongly kept in touch with others from the delegation as we all embark upon new chapters of our lives. I was inspired to give back to the organisation and enjoy frequently volunteering at UN Youth events, meeting new people and making connections. GDT changed my outlook on sustainable development, helped me make lifelong friends and connected me with an organisation which encourages civics interaction through youth facilitating youth events. It is fair to say my life was clearly changed for the better. 

Emily, 18 Wellington

 

When people call something life-changing they usually mean it in a cliched way, and I guess it’s unfair to say that GDT totally changed my life, but it did make it better and it made me better. I’m now a much more confident, assertive person than I was before embarking on the tour. Seeing the world has given me experience that is directly applicable in the law and arts conjoint I’m studying. GDT was an amazing experience and I’m feeling it’s impact still. I’d recommend it and other UN Youth events for anyone and everyone. It was such a great time.’

Chris, 18 Auckland

 

The Global Development Tour was an incredible experience and something I had dreamed of for a long time. The message that stood out to me the most from our meetings was that development and sustainable development was not an isolated problem that only impacted small parts of the world far away from me, instead if we truly want change and progress, then a concerted united global effort was necessary. This has completely changed how I viewed a number of global issues. Following the tour, I have had the chance to speak to groups about my experience and helped to organise Victoria University’s very first Sustainability Week. But more importantly to me, it has shifted how I talk about international issues such as the health of our waters, gender equality and ending poverty. I have realised that I can make a difference in my own life, in my community and in my country – which all contributes to changing the world and being a global citizen.

Manraj, 18 Wellington

 

By Julia Caulfield

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

 

World Friendship Day

When someone mentions political friendships the first thing that pops into my mind is the Obama-Biden bromance. While I wish this blog post was all about the iconic pair, it’s arguably a little old news, and also not surprising given they hold similar values and work closely together in the same political party striving for the same outcomes. As heartwarming as that might be, and certainly a great friendship to celebrate on international friendship day, it doesn’t challenge us or broaden our perspectives.

The world is becoming an increasingly polarized and divided place. From facebook algorithms that ensure we only see news and blogs that reinforce our already narrowing beliefs, to the research that shows spatial geographical patterning of people based on political views. This is a scary trend for communities and individuals, the more we hear about our perspective on any issue without actively challenging it, the more deeply rooted we become in it. Arguably sometimes even blindly rooted. We lose flexibility in our opinions or even the desire to try to understand a different perspective.

 

Vice President Joe Biden and President Barack Obama look at an app on an iPhone in the Outer Oval Office, Saturday, July 16, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

 

Edward De Bono calls it the ‘logic bubble’. When you genuinely listen and understand someone’s place in the world, you can see into their ‘logic bubble’. Their view of the world which influences their opinions. The more we only interact with people who possess the same logic bubble as us, the harder it is to break out. Understanding someone else’s ‘logic bubble’ means that we are aware of our own- what created it, what it looks like, why it’s there and how this impacts our view of the world. It creates empathy and helps us recognise our subconscious biases. It also allows us to detach the emotion and deep-rooted “difference” we feel when we are confronted with someone who has different opinions. It allows us to look logically at the experiences and knowledge that has led us to this point. We can critique, embrace or disregard any new experience and knowledge that may change our opinion and how we act as a result.

Somewhat surprisingly, politicians maybe understand this best. They are so deeply rooted in their political beliefs that they make it their life’s work to implements them. They are also continually facing critique of these logic bubbles, justifying them and refining them. So, while some people find cross-party political friendships unusual or surprising, they are a great demonstration of how we can put differences aside and prioritize friendship through communal challenges or triumphs.

The increasingly humourous ‘bromance’ between National spokesperson for youth, Chris Bishop and Act party leader David Seymour, shows while their party lines differ on political ideas such as housing, education and immigration, their desire for wanting the nation to endure through another week of Seymours twerking on dancing with the stars and posting throwback Thursday photos of their younger selves prevails.

Further from our shores, we have seen Bill Clinton call George W. Bush “a brother from another mother,” despite campaigning against many things he stood for. Their shared stories of grandparenting allowed them to work towards common goals rather than divide over differences. Similar to Bob Dole and George McGovern who “knew what we had in common was far more important than our different political philosophies” and allowed them to work on fighting hunger around the world.

These individuals and their unusual friendship demonstrate that the common goals and shared stories friendship can offer go beyond political boundaries. Now more than ever we need people to consciously go against the system that is continually dividing us and seek out people with differing perspectives and understand not only other’s ‘logic bubbles’ but also our own.

While it’s tempting to simply hold on to the idealism of the Obama-Biden friendship and tag your friends in the great memes it has produced all while keeping your conversations safely within your ‘logic bubble’. Communal challenge and triumph as opposed to highlighting differences makes us better people, better friends, better communities and allows us to create a better world.

 

By Maisy Bentley

 

 

World Refugee Day

To celebrate World Refugee Day we spoke to one of New Zealand’s most inspiring former refugees, Rez Gardi. Rez was named Young New Zealander of the Year 2017 for her services to human rights. She was born in a refugee camp and arrived in New Zealand under the refugee quota.

Rez told us that growing up, she was embarrassed of her refugee background. The desire to fit in and be as “Kiwi” as possible was strong. Now, she has learnt to be proud of her background. Her unique refugee journey has instilled her with drive and passion to make a difference. She says she is only one, among many incredible former refugees who make a huge impact locally and globally. However, negative opinions and thoughts about refugees still linger.

Her organisation Empower is trying to change the negative connotations and stigma attached to being a refugee and re-define it as a term that embraces resilience and strength.

We asked Rez in more detail about some of her work, life as a young refugee, and what other young people can do to support people of refugee backgrounds.

 

Refugees divide their monthly rations at a food distribution site in the Imvepi refugee camp in Northern Uganda on Saturday, 24 June, 2017. Record numbers of South Sudanese have fled their home country crossing the border into Uganda, a country now hosting now more than 1.2 million refugees. Food shortages continue to be an issue in the camp due to the humanitarian response struggling to meet the overwhelming needs of the refugees.

 

What work do you do that lead to you winning the Young New Zealander of the Year Award in 2017?

I foster and support participation, leadership, and empowerment opportunities for young refugees in New Zealand. I founded the Empower Youth Trust, a mentoring and support initiative aimed at addressing the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education.

Our mission is to empower, educate, and enable refugee youth in New Zealand through education, leadership, and capacity-building to pursue meaningful paths of their choice.

This initiative goes in hand with the University of Auckland refugee scholarships I have helped establish. I was one of the original founding members of the Global Refugee Youth Consultations, which led to the establishment of the Global Youth Advisory Council (GYAC) for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Through my work as a global youth advocate, I reinforce youth as connectors and peacebuilders by channeling and reinforcing youths’ abilities to build connections across social, cultural, linguistic, political, and other differences, and support them to contribute meaningfully to peacebuilding processes. I have used this award as a platform to raise awareness about the adversity and challenges that many marginalised groups face in New Zealand, and globally, and to promote a greater tolerance and acceptance for diversity.

 

How are the challenges that a young refugee faces different from those the average young person in New Zealand faces?

Through the Global Refugee Youth Consultations in 2015/2016, young refugees analysed causes and impacts of the difficulties they face. Although the context of each country is specific, the challenges that refugee youth identified are remarkably consistent. We identified ten challenges:

  1. Difficulties with legal recognition and obtaining personal documents;
  2. Difficulty in accessing quality learning, education, and skills-building opportunities;
  3. Poor access to youth-sensitive healthcare, including psychological support;
  4. Lack of safety, security and freedom of movement;
  5. Discrimination, racism, xenophobia, and “culture clash”;
  6. Few youth employment and livelihood opportunities;
  7. Challenges for unaccompanied youth;
  8. Lack of opportunities to participate, be engaged, or access decision makers;
  9. Lack of information about asylum, refugee rights, and available services; and
  10. Gender inequality, discrimination, exploitation, and violence, including for LGBTI youth.

In addition to all the usual challenges young people face in New Zealand, the situation is exacerbated for those of refugee background who have come to New Zealand with absolutely nothing and are thrown into a completely foreign and new world. They are starting on a back foot for a number of reasons.

Firstly, due to the trauma they may have experienced having fled their homes and being exposed to violence, the culture shock of arriving in New Zealand with no understanding of culture or norms. Coupled with language barriers, assumptions and xenophobia in regard to their experiences and culture many refugee youth experience bullying and discrimination.

Many young refugees experience and interrupted or lack of education so they have to play ‘catch up’. Aside from financial issues, when youth miss years of schooling due to being on the move, some refugee and migrant youth face issues enrolling in the level from where they left off as legally they are too old and have no available options to catch up. This requires us to be innovative in the way we approach education issues. It is common for many refugee youth to encounter a reversal in roles with their parents. At such a young age, they are called

upon to translate for their parents at the doctors, appointment, supermarket and even during their own parent-teacher interviews. There is a sense of responsibility as a refugee youth that is never placed upon mainstream New Zealanders.

 

What can young New Zealanders do to support refugees within their local communities and globally?

New Zealand is one of the most ethnically diverse nations on earth and we are also one of the most peaceful: it’s up to us, as everyday New Zealanders to ensure this is a legacy we leave for future generations.

Our biggest challenge is how we choose to live our lives and what kind of country we let New Zealand become. I ask all young New Zealanders to welcome and get to know the people in our community. What you do makes all the difference.

Simply accepting new New Zealanders into our country with open arms can contribute to their resettlement in a completely foreign place and shape their integration process and sense of self-worth. Pause a moment in what were once my shoes. How would you want to be treated?

What will you do to help your community? What will you do to help make the world a better place? What role will you play?

We don’t have to wait until we’re older. We can all do something now. Empowered youths transform societies and we can all be champions of change.

 

Why is it important to have organisations such as empower which support people from refugee backgrounds?

View of Smara Refugee Camp, where the Sahwari people have been living as refugees for over forty years.

When it comes to the needs of children and young people, education is paramount. However, the reality for refugee children globally is that only 1 out of 2 get primary education. No child should have to pay the cost by missing out on schooling. Yet we see whole generations of refugee children from areas of conflict that have to leave their homes and schools, and other children on the move unable to secure an education. Education is every child’s basic human right. When these young people arrive in New Zealand, we need to provide them with a nurturing environment for the full realisation of their rights and capabilities.

Higher education serves as a powerful driver for change, by maintaining their hopes for the future, fosters inclusion and non-discrimination and acts as a catalyst for the recovery and rebuilding of post-conflict countries.

I believe education is pivotal to changing the future for child refugees and migrants; there is no future unless children learn today, and receive an education that gives them the tools and skills to be empowered to make positive change. Education empowers not only the individual, but their family, and entire community.

My charity, Empower provides a mentoring and support initiative to try to address the underrepresentation of refugees in higher education in New Zealand. We are the only organisation dedicated to refugee youth which focuses on assisting and supporting individuals with both their professional and personal development.

If we empower, educate, and enable refugee youth in New Zealand through education, leadership, and capacity-building to pursue meaningful paths of their choice then they will be empowered to contribute to Aotearoa socially, economically, and environmentally.

 

 

It’s not hard to see why Rez was named young New Zealander of the Year. She delivers a great message for all young people wanting to create positive change. “We are all in a position to make a difference to the world we live in – how big or small that may be. Only you can decide that. Champions are people prepared to face difficulty…They’re defined by passion, confidence and the strength from within. We can all be champions but our task it to discover and unlock our greatness.”

 

By Maisy Bentley

International Day of UN Peacekeepers

We hear a lot about conflict; scenes of war flood television, computer and smartphone screens almost as quickly as they disappear from our minds and thoughts. We see cities destroyed by bombs and guns, we see millions of displaced people in refugee camps and we see terrible suffering. We might not be personally affected by war and unrest overseas, but we will always feel relief when the conflicts come to an end.

But what happens next, after a conflict has ended and left a decimated society to rebuild itself? This is where peacekeepers come in. Contrary to common knowledge, the role of peacekeepers is not to enforce peace, but to facilitate it after an agreement has been reached. Their presence is to demonstrate ongoing stability, as opposed to a protection from violence. Many criticise peacekeepers for being ineffective; early peacekeeping missions have demonstrated the potential pitfalls of installing non-combat personnel in what may be a fractured, unstable and frightened society which is clinging desperately to a tentatively-held peace. The reality is that peacekeeping is a new concept, one which reflects new values which the world strives to share – peace and cooperation, while still recognising and reflecting individual states’ sovereignty and right to self-govern.

 

Bolivian UN peacekeepers distribute water and meals to the residents in Cite Soleil after an earthquake measuring 7 plus on the Richter scale rocked Port au Prince Haiti on Tuesday January 12, 2009. Photo Marco Dormino

 

Above all, peacekeepers are human beings; they work in dangerous and frightening conditions at considerable risk to their own personal safety, all in furtherance of an ideal of world peace. Since the end of World War II 3,700 peacekeepers have lost their lives while serving. They are an example of how governments can cooperate and work together and can signify commitment to upholding ongoing peace and stability. They are not a foreign invasion seeking to dominate a tentative, fledgling state; they are there to facilitate and strengthen law and order.

The International Day of UN Peacekeepers reminds us of those who had lost their lives facilitating peace and reminds us of 100,000 who serve across the world today. The aim is to prompt discussion around the roles of peacekeepers, honour the one million peacekeepers who have served since World War II, and to look to the future at how peacekeeping can be improved. Peacekeepers signify a commitment to peace which is worth upholding and worth striving to improve.

 

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