Monday, 11 August 2014
Thursday, 22 May 2014
Thursday, 8 May 2014
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, 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.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
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.