Monday, 11 August 2014

SVSG Auckland and International Youth Day 12 August 2014

Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) Auckland joins the international community in observing and celebrating International Youth Day 12th August 2014.
As of January 1 2014, the world’s population totalled 7,137,661,030 and continues to grow. Today’s adolescents and youth are 1.8 billion strong and make up one quarter of the world’s population.  On 17 December 1999,  the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day. The purpose of the day is to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. The first IYD was observed on 12 August, 2000.
It is meant as an opportunity for governments and others to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. During IYD, concerts, workshops, cultural events, and meetings involving national and local government officials and youth organizations take place around the world.
Each year, International Youth Day focuses on a particular theme, drawing its attention particularly to the most vulnerable groups in our populations. In 2013, the thematic focus was ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward’, with a specific focus of raising awareness on young migrants. Whilst the number of young migrants amongst total international migration is staggering, very little is known about these young people. The IYD celebration 2013 was hoped to offer some visibility to the lives of these young migrants through organizing commemoration events on the theme across the globe.
The theme of International Youth Day 2014 is “Youth and Mental Health.” Youth with mental health conditions can often experience stigma and discrimination, which in turn can lead to exclusion and/or discourage people from seeking help for fear of being negatively ‘labelled’. The 2014 observance of International Youth Day will raise awareness on this important topic, as well as highlight the experiences of brave, young individuals who have chosen to speak out about these issues with the objective of overcoming stigma and discrimination to ensure that young people with mental health conditions can lead full and healthy lives free from isolation and unnecessary shame, and openly seek the services and support they need.
This is strategically a significant theme given that young people from the ages of 10-24 make up a staggering 1.8 billion (a quarter) of the world’s population. In Samoa the last census (2011) show youth make up a significant proportion of Samoa’s general population. Of Samoa’s 187,820 general population, 117,113 were between the ages of 0 -29, presenting Samoa with some very unique challenges in the areas of health, education and employment but also several opportunities.
The Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) is currently one of the few organisations that work with young people with mental health issues. The SVSG believes in investing young people as a critical point of Samoa’s development, by promoting healthy habits and ensuring education and employment opportunities, access to health services. Despite this commitment, the SVSG is struggling to provide enough resource and people support under the current limited funding it receives. In the spirit of International Youth Day we are calling upon the government of Samoa, as well as international non-governmental organisations and agencies, particularly those who will gather in Samoa this year for the SIDS conference to prioritise the youth of Samoa, especially those dealing with mental health issues.
Young people are the key to building a sustainable future because the choices they make now will reverberate for decades to come. Providing appropriate mental health services and investing in education – especially for girls – can strengthen communities and help achieve a range of development goals.
*Published on Samoa Victim Support Group (SVSG) Auckland website 11.08.14

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Little progress for New Zealand’s Pacific children

The government's latest budget has been deemed by many as: budget. Grocery snobs will be familiar with the concept, although the difference is, you can usually get some high quality products through the budget brand.
Unless you are from the world of business or part of the "one per cent", the 2014 Budget offers very little quality, and even less hope for genuine progress in the area of child poverty for Pacific communities.
Longitudinal research by Professor Peter Crampton from the University of Otago highlighted that Maori and Pacific peoples still represent the poorest of people in New Zealand, and that the situation has not improved over the course of a 20-year research project. Released a week before the budget, it set a rather gloom and doom tone in anticipation of a forward future thinking and progressive budget.
Unfortunately, Maori and Pacific people will have to continue to wait a bit longer for such a budget to appear.
I learned early on in my studies to appreciate the fact that poverty is multidimensional. Poverty is manifested and affects different people in different ways. It is no surprise then that the authors of the Salvation Army's first State of the Nation report on Pasifika people in New Zealand have argued that Pacific communities have made "modest and tenacious" progress in some areas, whilst struggling in others, and in some cases their situation has worsened.
Genuine progress in the area of child poverty requires more of a concerted and holistic effort by the government. For far too long, the current and previous governments have ignored the interconnections between housing and health, education and finance.
Poorly thought-out policies within these individual policy areas often interact and are interdependent and have a destabilising impact on the ability of Pacific families to progress from their current situations.
A forward-thinking and progressive budget would look to tackle key issues for Pacific children and their families in the area of housing, health, education, finance and welfare support. It would not require the government to do a lot of creative thinking. Extensive research has identified what the issues and possible solutions are. What Pacific children in poverty require is action!
Although the very important advocacy work we do as Child Poverty Action Group Youth will focus a lot on the role the government can play, this indeed needs to be supplemented by a change of thinking within Pacific communities.
My friend Josephine Nickel-Leaupepe talks about expectations embedded within some of our Pacific cultures and the way in which this can often contribute to, and worsen cases of poverty for families.
Pacific communities also need to think carefully and critically about the effectiveness of our engagement in local and national decision-making processes. The last few elections saw a consistently poor voter turn-out, particularly amongst Pacific peoples (youth and adults).
One recent blog post, from Pacific Guardians, would have us all believe Pacific people are "waiting" in church to be saved by Pacific-friendly policies by the government.
Although the accuracy of much of the article is questionable, it does however hit one of the issues on the head; the need to mobilise Pacific communities in contributing to processes and discussions that will determine the quality and outcomes of life we all aspire to in this country.
Darien Fenton describes an epidemic of "downward envy", where people who see themselves as battlers feel they are missing out on something given to others who aren't as deserving or hard-working.
This view, which is rampant in mainstream media/New Zealand and also evident in parts of Pacific communities, needs to be abolished if we are ever genuinely going to work towards the eradication of poverty in this country.
A more positive approach would see that the progress of Pacific children and families in poverty will be beneficial for the country as a whole.
Genuine progress in policy is important. Genuine progress also needs to be well supported by a shift in ideology within mainstream New Zealand. It must be led by a government with a plan (and budget) that is far more ambitious and is critically aware of the situation on the ground, and a New Zealand public (inclusive of Pacific) committed to ensuring all its citizens do well.

* Published in the New Zealand Herald on 22nd May 2014

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The politics of negotiation: the uphill battle for Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The second day of the conference was intense. I found the first day was very much spent on getting to know each other, to see how fabulously patriotic Sri Lanka is and that whole touchy feely 'we are the world, we are the children' sentiment, as the world's youth gather to discuss the prioritisation of youth as a group within and in the construction of the next set of Millennium Development Goals. 

Today I felt like the rug of solidarity (clearly evident on Monday) had been pulled from under our feet, as the world's youth came together to 'negotiate' (hah!) what the priorities will be in the Colombo Declaration - the end product/ outcome document combining the priorities of the world's youth.

'The Colombo declaration, which will be released at the end of the 16th World Conference on Youth to be held in Sri Lanka will be used as a global base to draw policies on youth affairs in the coming decade. All policies with regard to youths from 2015 to 2030 will be drawn according to the terms of this declaration.'

You can imagine the scenario. Over 500 young people from over 169 participating countries, all vying to ensure their interests, and the interests of their constituencies are represented within this comprehensive draft. Good if you're from a large region with plenty of fellow delegates here to support you. Not so good if you're from a smaller region, and have to fight twice as hard to get people to listen.

Today in the regional meeting sessions, we (the Pacific delegates) were part of the Small Islands Developing States region meeting, along with the Caribbean nations and AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea).

What should have been an exercise in determining what was absent in the Colombo draft to help guide what particular issue SIDS countries should be addressing, and given that all countries in SIDS are the most vulnerable to climate change, and that climate change is largely absent within the current draft, you would think this would be the natural issue that would unite us; one that we would all be proud to represent and advocate for. 

It turns out that climate change isn't important to some people within the three regions. We are meeting again tomorrow to see if we have made any progress on this.

On a brighter note, I finally met all of the Pacific delegates including representatives from Fiji, Tuvalu, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Aotearoa. We met separately after the SIDS region meeting to ensure we as the Pacific are on the same page, to agree that climate change, will be our main priority in terms of global issues which impact severely on SIDS youth and their livelihood. We talked, we laughed, we did it ... you know the Island way. And it felt great to give ourselves that space. We are not attempting to recreate the wheel, we are simply asking member states to recommit to existing impacts and policies around climate change, environmental protection and disaster risk management and preparedness, and for other SIDS countries, and the bigger regions to help champion this cause, and ensure it is reflected in the Colombo Declaration. 

Two more days left, and I see we still have a lot of 'negotiation' ahead of us, to ensure that we as (probably) the smallest regional grouping in the world, having the loudest voices when it comes to representing and advocating for the Pacific.

I think this will do for tonight.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Sri Lanka and the World Youth Conference 2014: Day 1 Opening Ceremony

Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka.

I have to admit my knowledge about the country was fairly limited before I was accepted to attend this conference.

What I have seen is a very proud and patriotic country. Kind of reminded me of home, but is also very unique in it's own ways. 

There is a big enough Indian community in NZ to know Sri Lanka is quite different. Pictures of their much loved President splashed in just about every free corner you can find. Not once have I come across one sour faced Sri Lankan. They all appear to be genuinely happy and very friendly people and have gone out of their way to make us delegates feel extra special ..... and extra welcome. 

Everywhere we go we are accompanied by a police escort, partially because the traffic here in Colombo is crazy, but it's also an extension of their warm hospitality. They have stopped at nothing to make sure we are safe and happy. I kind of get the feeling that being happy is the national motto for Sri Lanka.

The Opening Ceremony was splendid, filled with so much life, colour and beautiful insights into Sri Lankan culture. The venue for the ceremony, the Magampura Ruhunupura International Convention Centre is approximately 3 hours away from our hotel, but well worth the wait.

The multimillion dollar complex put on the best of the best to welcome the worlds international youth delegates formally to Sri Lanka and with Sri Lanka's much beloved President Mahinda Rajapaksa, officially declared the conference open. I felt like royalty walking up the aisle past 100's of young Sri Lankan's dressed in their nation's best to welcome us (see photos)

Just as admirable as the opening ceremony is Sri Lanka's genuine commitment to advancing the lives of it's young people, ensuring that young people are part and parcel of decision making processes within the country.

With such a wonderful start I am looking forward to the rest of the conference. There are several key themes and foundations being addressed at this conference, more information here. I am participating under the foundation of empowering margenalised youth including most at risk young people, and in the theme of Environmental Protection, Emergency Preparedness and Youth Centered Urbanisation, two things I am particularly passionate about.

Will keep blogging over the next few days to let people know how the discussions go. The objective is by the end of the conference, that we are able to develop our contribution for 'youth in the post-development agenda', for the United Nations and international community to consider.

Now time for some much needed sleep :)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Lei your Local: Pacific people are not (April) fools.

If you work in the Tertiary Sector and are a member of the Tertiary Education Union, you may have heard of the Komiti Pasifika's (the Pasifika branch of the TEU), latest campaign which is Lei your local MP. The idea is to give your local MP a lei (garland of flowers for the non speakers) and to take a photo with the MP and upload it to Facebook...... Not particularly sure where the Komiti Pasifika were going with this one. You'd be forgiven for assuming this campaign was part of April fools - it was actually revealed a few weeks before today.

I am extremely puzzled that in the face of the lowest levels of government funding in tertiary education, growing debt, growing income inequality, ever increasing fees, the ever progressing commercialisation and commodification of education in this country and, the latest move to remove student and staff representation on University councils, and teacher representation on the Teacher's council, that the Komiti Pasifika has responded with the Lei Your Local MP campaign..... 

A complete contrast to the many other progressive campaigns coming out of the TEU. Yes I know we as Pacific peoples operate differently but really? Is this all we have to offer? Has our critical capacity and ability as Pacific people to be able to respond to issues of national significance really been limited to this?

You really have to wonder sometimes. In the weekend I attended a function held by the Samoa Business Network Incorporated where one Peseta Sam Lotu Iiga, National MP for Maugakiekie and Minister for Pacific Island Affairs (outside of Cabinet) was guest speaker. I do have to say that I am the current secretary for the association and must make clear that in no way does this piece represent the views of the Samoa Business Network and that I hereby solemnly declare that these are my own individual words and thoughts lol. Just me Tim Baice. Pulili. Pheeeewww

Any-who, Peseta was invited to speak to members of the SBN to encourage them in their trade and to share elements of his life/ career journey to help inspire members. Or at least this is what I understand the brief to have been. What transpired in reality was nothing short of what you would expect from a politician during election year. 

Peseta spent a considerable amount of time talking about his vision for Pacific communities in NZ, which although was admirable and are commonly what most of us would like to see (greater achievement in education, greater employment opportunities and enhanced health and life outcomes for our people) it was his lauding of National government policy in education and business as the means to which this has been somewhat already achieved (although he noted there was still a long way to go) that made me feel slightly nauseous.

Clear from Peseta's talk was that National did not have all the answers, nor did they have all the resources at hand, and while he welcomed feedback and discussion and advice from the community, he was clear that National could not guarantee they could do everything. This was strategic in the sense, that he had himself had set the tone by talking about national standards, greater ECE participation followed by the talk about the great vision e.t.c, to which the audience fervently responded to, almost as a technique to subtly quash any major questioning into National's furors into our education system, part of a carefully crafted technique (most likely developed by the party's well paid PR team) designed to almost neutralize and stifle any critical or in-depth commentary and interrogation, whilst at the same time appearing to offer a genuine opportunity for 'robust discussion and community engagement and feedback'. 

I share the Minister's vision for our communities and people but wondered if he'd ever considered there are alternative ways to achieving this, and that the current direction of National Policy on the whole (when you put all the pieces of the policy- puzzle together) has done and is doing more damage then good. 

My next post will be devoted to highlighting concerns from my perspective, which affect members of our vast Pacific community. In the lead up to the election, the only leis we should be giving to our local MP's, and especially those in the current government, are ones that seek to hold them accountable for their actions, or in this case inaction. Change will only ever come about if we change ourselves.

“Those who will not reason, are bigots, those who cannot, are fools, and those who dare not, are slaves.”