Young Kiwis tackle global challenges on world stage
Tue, 20 Dec 2011 1:25p.m.
By Darren Zhang
While students enjoy a summer away from study, two young New Zealanders have been busy engaging with international diplomats calling on further action to tackle climate change.
New Zealand Youth Delegation’s co-convenor Rachel Dobric is again representing Kiwi youth at the ongoing 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa.
“Negotiators and observers have been telling us that New Zealand is taking an exceptionally irresponsible position in the talks”
Rachel who is on the ground at the conference centre, suggests that New Zealand appears to have misled other states about a key issue in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations
“This is inconsistent with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade policy, with its past conduct in other treaties, and with suggestions made earlier this year. We are shocked that New Zealand is claiming something they’ve done before is unconstitutional.”
Meanwhile, Alafale Andrew Lesa has just returned from the recent Asia-Pacific NGO’s Environmental Conference in Taiwan where he called for a greater regional approach to ensure the sustainability of small island nations.
“My speech highlighted the urgency required to address the inequality between the more affluent societies that can invest in sustainable practice, and the more aid-dependent who find it almost impossible to do so independently.
“I believe that New Zealand can play a lead role in overseeing the solutions, and it will reflect positively on our ongoing commitment to the Pacific island nations especially”.
The two conferences highlight a growing number of opportunities for young people to become involved in participating and decision making for government and civil society organisations.
According to the Ministry of Youth Development, research shows that “young people who are supported to participate in decision-making are more likely to have increased confidence and self-belief, exercise positive career choices and have greater involvement and responsibility in the future”.
MYD is actively encouraging young people to get involved by joining the Aotearoa Youth Voices Network, an initiative designed to connect young people with decision makers.
From the COP17 conference in South Africa, Rachel is worried the position the government is taking could jeopardise New Zealand’s image overseas.
“They take extreme positions on a number of issues, which make it difficult to reach consensus on anything. They’re not being very cooperative.”
On the other hand, Alafale’s concern is oriented towards the massive challenges small island nations face such as those found in the Pacific.
“I firmly believe that the more affluent societies in the Asia-Pacific have a duty to support the less fortunate; especially those dependent on foreign aid for example. We can not expect much of them by way of creating infrastructure to combat environmental decline. That much is already certain.
“I set about trying to convince the participants to consider giving a lot more to this particular shortfall. China has only just confirmed that it will increase its budget to small-island sustainability by a substantial margin.
“If this conference proposed regional solidarity as one of its keynote themes for the year than there’s no time like the present to guarantee a regional approach to some of the greatest challenges facing our region”
One organisation that has served as the starting point for many young Kiwis including Rachel and Alafale is UN Youth New Zealand, formerly known as the United Nations Youth Association of New Zealand.
“I believe UN Youth New Zealand plays a unique role in educating young New Zealanders - not just the members who participate in our events,” says Chris Park, Vice-President for Communications.
“We’re a group of young people that seeks to equip other young New Zealanders as global citizens, or citizens who understand the connections between their lives and their communities; beyond the local to the global.”
Much closer to home, high flying aspiring diplomat Faith Mitchell believes young people should pilot a course towards these exciting opportunities.
“It's really good because it gives young people chance to get a wider, more informed view of global politics and issues, and even if it's their first time there, youth can learn from the people who have been doing it for years, which would also give greater depth to understanding.
“And with any luck they can fix the mess the previous generations have got us into, if they go into politics.”
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