The United Nations Association of New Zealand hosted the 2017 National Conference in Wellington on Thursday, 29 June & Friday 30 June
The UNA NZ Conference in 2017 seeks to consider New Zealand’s engagement with the UN system and in particular with the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) which are the core work of the UN. The 17 Goals aim to mobilise global efforts to achieve these by 2030. How will the Goals work? What are the pitfalls? How will they be reviewed? What is the role of civil society? At this Conference we aim to provide a platform for promoting dialogue, providing thought-provoking discussion and mobilising efforts to achieve the SDGs in Aotearoa / New Zealand. The theme this year is: Sustainable Development for all?
Our Conference Programme is available HERE.
OPENING KEYNOTE SPEAKER
Rt Hon Helen Clark, former Administrator of the UN Development Programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand
Localising the Global Goals - what is our plan?
NZ and the UN – New Zealand’s involvement in the United Nations over its First 50 years
The United Nations and the Pacific Islands
Rights and Responsibilities: Indigenous and Introduced
Ki roto i te ngahere: Reducing Inequalities for Rangatahi Māori is a national imperative
National Secondary School Speech Award Finals: Is there a role for nuclear weapons in today’s world?
UNA NZ Annual General Meeting
written by Robyn Holdaway
Communications Officer for UNA NZ
Download the report HERE.
The 2017 National Conference of the United Nations Association of New Zealand focused on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), addressing the risks and opportunities of changing global geopolitical dynamics and the complex role of the United Nations (UN) in this context. The sold-out conference drew focus to New Zealand’s progress in advancing the social and political rights of Māori and refugee and migrant communities. A strong need for political will to advance the SDGs both at home and on the global stage emerged as a key theme of the two-day conference.
The conference’s opening discussion with the Rt Hon Helen Clark, which focused on her former role as the UN Development Programme Administrator, gave the conference insight into future challenges and opportunities facing the UN. The change in administration in the United States and subsequent lack of funding for key UN initiatives was described as a ‘crisis’ by Ms Clark, with initiatives such as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), facing the withdrawal of US funding. The UNFPA, which aims to increase the reproductive health of women around the world, has previously relied on a baseline of US funding and enough political support in Congress to increase allocations. The executive decision to remove funding represents an uncertain future for the initiative. However, on the question of the UN’s future in the face of populist nationalism, Ms Clark argued that the UN had increased in relevance as an intergovernmental institution following Brexit. The United States also retains the same external economic and political dependencies it did prior to the 2016 election and its ideological shift inwards.
Both the discussion with Ms Clark, and Ms Carolyn Schwalger, recently Deputy Permanent Representative to the NZ Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, highlighted the need for greater participation from civil society actors and the media in UN processes. As described by Ms Schwalger, strengthening a robust and inclusive approach within the UN, as well as being pragmatic in focusing on the issues as well as political relationships (‘we spoke truth to power’), was part of New Zealand’s contribution on the Security Council.
Progress in global responses to climate change were discussed with Ms Clark highlighting the pro-active leadership of California Governor, Jerry Brown, following the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Dr Kennedy Graham, MP and former UN official, however warned of the risk of uncoordinated ‘atomisation’ in an increasingly bottom-up response to climate change. Whether or not this transition is understood as a risk or an opportunity, the importance of ‘hearts and minds’ in advancing the objectives of equality and environmental sustainability which underpin the SDGs, emerged as consensus at the conference.
In particular, the role of political will in transforming the objectives of UN frameworks into impact was identified as crucial to the advancement of social and political equality for Māori and migrant and refugee communities in New Zealand. A panel discussion, Rights and Responsibilities: Indigenous and Introduced, considered New Zealand’s progress in advancing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the development of New Zealand’s bi-cultural relationship between tangata whenua and pakeha in the context of increasing multi-culturalism. The discussion on the rights and resettlement of refugees and migrants in 2017 followed from the previous day’s viewing of the Peter Coates’ film New Zealand’s involvement in the United Nations over its first 50 years, which presented New Zealand as a country leading the world in its resettlement programme responding to the Cambodian refugee crisis from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. This raised the question of New Zealand’s current and future role in responding to the Syrian refugee crisis and our policies on migration.
A presentation on identity for rangatahi Māori and New Zealand’s recent colonial past was led by UNA NZ interns, Liletina Vaka and Kahu Kutia, and highlighted ongoing institutional inequalities and the need to ‘de-colonise our minds’. As we face the 2017 election following only 54% voter turn-out for 18-24 year old Māori in 2014, discussions on political participation of indigenous populations seem more relevant than ever. Overall the conference cast the UN as an imperfect and uncertain institution, but one with objectives which are anything but irrelevant in 2017. Whilst the political will needed to back the advancement of the SDGs was evident in the room, engaging broader participation to support sustainable development and greater social and political equality emerged as a key future challenge for both the UNA of New Zealand and the UN.
The Secondary Schools Speech Finalists also spoke on the Friday to the topic “Is There a role for Nuclear Weapons in today’s World?’. Congratulations to Olivia Bennett from St Cuthbert's College in Auckland who won the national competition.
The Sustainable Development Goals:
- No poverty
- Zero hunger
- Good health and wellbeing
- Quality education
- Gender equality
- Clean water and sanitation
- Affordable and clean energy
- Decent work and economic growth
- Industry, innovation and infrastructure
- Reduced inequalities
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Climate action
- Life below water
- Life on land
- Peace justice and strong institutions
- Partnership for the goals
You can now view or download the slides used by many of the presenters during the conference. We were given approval from the presenters to make these public.
Thursday AM - Panel: 'Localising the Global Goals - what is our plan?'
Marjan van den Belt - Victoria University of Wellington
Josie Pagani - Council for International Development
Tara Thurlow-Rae - MFAT
Thursday PM - Panel: 'Development with equal weighting for environmental and social values'
Mike Shone - Association of Former UN Officials
Charmina Saili - Pacific Island Forum Secretariat
Helen Clark outside of the conference venue, following her conversation with Audrey Young, to start off our conference.
Thursday morning's panel on the SDGs was hosted by Wellington based Comedian, Robbie Nicol (White Man Behind A Desk). From left to right panelists are: Col Louisa O'Brien (NZ Defence Force), Tara Thurlow-Rae (MFAT), Sara Kindon (VUW), Robbie Nicol (White Man Behind A Desk), Marjan van den Belt (VUW), Anaru Fraser (Hui E!) and Josie Pagani (CID).
Charmina Saili, with Past UNA NZ President Dr Graham Hassall and conference attendee.
Charmina Saili from the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat presenting on Leadership, Ownership and Accountability for sustainable development in the Pacific
Panelists on Rights and Responsibilities: Indigenous and Introduced. From left to right: Caroline Herewini (Womens Refuge), Zainab Radhi, Vanisa Dhiru (National Council of Women NZ), Valmaine Toki (Waikato University), Nedra Fu (UNA NZ)
Thanks given to Kahu Kutia and Liletina Vaka
Secondary School Speech Finalists and Winner: From left to right: Joseph Sison (St Patricks College), Joy Dunsheath (UNA NZ President), Emelye Brown (Whanganui High School), Elsie Spiers (John Paul College), Sean Millward (Tokoroa High School), Olivia Bennett (St Cuthberths College and 2017 winner), Maddison McQueen-Davies (Palmerston North Girls and 2017 runner-up), Chris Bishop MP
UNA NZ National Council and Youth Delegates to the UN Ocean Conference in New York in June 2017.