Josh fuels diplomacy skills at Aotearoa Youth Declaration

04 May 2018

Year 12 student Joshua Stevenson got a real taste of youth politics when he was selected to attend the Aotearoa Youth Declaration in Auckland during the first term holidays.

A four-day national event organized by UN Youth, the AYD saw 224 attendees from around the country looking at issues in New Zealand that need to be fixed and presenting their different viewpoints and solutions.

Joshua, who is keenly interested in world affairs and political discussion, was in the foreign affairs focus group, one of 18 different groups including innovation and enterprise, hauora and youth development.

“Over the first three days each group worked out a list of statements on key points we saw as essential to New Zealand in our focus area, debating our different viewpoints,” he told the second term assembly at College this week.

“The whole while you’re learning and enjoying through many workshops and social events. It was a really buzzing vibe and a chance to make new friendships.”

Day one saw every focus group go on an outreach programme to relevant facilities for a behind-the-scenes look at how what they were interested in really worked.

“For instance my group, Foreign Affairs, went to the British consulate and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade – both fantastic insights and opportunities.”

At night the youngsters were treated to a show watching quickfire questions for NZ political party representatives including youth leaders Leo Hong from Labour and Robert Gore from NZ First, National MP Nikki Kaye and ACT leader David Seymour.

On the final two days all 224 attendees assembled, with each group’s contribution entered into one combined document.

“If you had a strong opinion against any point, you could contend it, allowing for back-and-forward debate, followed by a vote. We all learnt so much and built so many great relationships.”

Once completed the 2018 AYD was handed to National MP Chris Bishop who was present.

“Even now it’s being sent out to MPs, local councils and other government bodies across the country. Regardless of how much of a change we really make now, we had an awesome time and we learnt so many things that we’ll be able to put to good use in the future.”

Joshua urged other students to look at attending the NZ Model United Nations in July, and to consider the NZ Model Parliament taking place in September in Christchurch.