Could you be the next youth voice of UNESCO?

Are you aged between 18 and 25 and want to take action to promote peace and social justice in New Zealand and the Pacific? Then we want to hear from you.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is recruiting new members for its UNESCO NZ Youth Reference Group (YRG) to advise us on an ongoing basis.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) is the global organisation that contributes to the building of peace, sustainable development, intercultural dialogue and the eradication of poverty through the five programme areas of education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO works through these five areas within the context of New Zealand and the Pacific.

Hearing the voice of youth within our work is vital, so we are looking for people who have:

  • a strong commitment to the UNESCO ideals
  • knowledge and interest in at least one of five programme areas of UNESCO
  • demonstrable interest in activities or organisations involving youth
  • an understanding of youth issues
  • the availability to actively participate and commit to the work of UNESCO and
  • the ability to express views clearly at meetings.

Successful applicants will form a group chaired by the Special Advisor – Youth that provides advice to the National Commission. During the year, there will be up to three National Commission meetings in Wellington that you must attend. You will also need to be available on email to communicate with the Youth Advisor and the Secretariat. Terms are either for one year or two years.

If you want be part of the UNESCO NZ Youth Reference Group, send your one page expression of interest (including current occupation, area of interest and reasons for wishing to contribute to the values of UNESCO) and your CV as soon as possible but no later than Monday 21 August 2017.

Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Advisor, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, if you have any questions.

Note: This is an unpaid role, although all associated expenses will be covered. The role requires domestic and possibly some international travel.

Celebrating Imagining Decolonised Cities prizewinners

IDC winners with RobynThe winners of the Imagining Decolonised Cities (IDC) contest, supported by our last round of contestable funding, were announced in May. Chair Robyn Baker attended a prizegiving of one of the winning teams (Runner Up Under 18) this month, comprising four high school students from Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna in Wellington — (pictured from left with Robyn Baker) Paige Scruton Nepe Apatu, Watene Campbell, Christian Mauriri and Te Hoera Sullivan (absent). Submissions to the contest can now be viewed on the IDC website

Contestable funding round 2017/18 now open

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is calling for Expressions of Interest for its contestable funding round by 30 June.

Applications are primarily being sought for ‘major grant’ funding from $15,000 to the level of $40,000. Minor grant funding is also available for amounts under $5,000.

“We are seeking innovative projects, events, programmes or initiatives that reflect our mission and strategic priorities,” says Robyn Baker, Chair of the National Commission.

“As UNESCO is an organisation of ‘ideas’, we are especially interested in projects that demonstrate new ways of working and which have the potential to lead to positive long-term change at a national or regional level.”

Intangible Cultural Heritage workshop

CRIHAPRepresentatives from 10 South Pacific countries gathered in Auckland in May for a capacity building workshop on intangible cultural heritage.

Organised by the International Training Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (CRIHAP) under the auspices of UNESCO Apia Office and supported by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the workshop was based on the ratification and implementation of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A UNESCO treaty, the 2003 Convention is aimed at safeguarding the uses, representations, expressions, knowledge and techniques that communities and groups (and in some cases individuals) recognise as an integral part of their cultural heritage. This intangible heritage can be found in forms such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, and traditional craftsmanship knowledge and techniques.

Imaginative digital journeys

Nature Through ArtsHow can young people make a difference in their natural environments?

Nature Through Arts Collective is enabling young people and their families to learn about and get involved in some of New Zealand’s critical conservation challenges through a series of dynamic and imaginative digital journeys at nature sites.

Supported by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the project explores new ways for young people to have an active voice and become innovative thinkers in sustainable development. Creative and artistic activity, innovative technology and immersion in nature are combined to empower a wide community of adventurers who can be both virtual and real ‘super-heroes’ in their own backyards and reserves.

The project builds on the success of the Collective’s recent pilot ‘Imagine My City 100 Day creative challenge’, also supported by the National Commission. This was a community-based project to ignite the imaginations and dreams of young people for a neighbourhood full of nature.

Visit from Assistant Director General Natural Sciences

ADG visitIt was the National Commission’s great pleasure to welcome the Assistant Director General Natural Sciences, Dr Flavia Schlegel to New Zealand in March.

Dr Schlegel was in New Zealand as part of a three week visit to the Pacific region, participating in a workshop organised by the International Network for Government Science Advice in Auckland and the 150th anniversary celebrations of the New Zealand Royal Society in Wellington.

Free Global Citizenship Education seminar

gced visual en1 e1440949511407What is global citizenship education? Why is it important? And how do we encourage New Zealanders from all walks of life and at all ages to become responsible and active global citizens?

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is holding an evening seminar in Wellington on Monday 22 May from 5.30-7pm, featuring:

  • Libby Giles (Global Citizenship Education facilitator, member of the New Zealand Centre for Global Studies (NZCGS) and the Alliance for Responsible and Sustainable Societies)
  • Scarlett Parkes (Auckland Girls’ Grammar Deputy Head Girl, co-author of an International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship)
  • Cheryl Stephens (education specialist; National Commissioner for Education, NZ National Commission for UNESCO).

Don't miss this opportunity to hear from three individuals from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about helping people become engaged global citizens.

Dunedin authors showcased at international children's book fair

Bologna standChildren’s books created by Dunedin authors and illustrators were showcased at the iconic Bologna Children’s Book Fair earlier this month, thanks to a successful bid for a free stand by the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature.

Bologna UNESCO City of Music invited the 116 UNESCO Creative Cities to apply, and the literary city’s proposal was selected.

Director City of Literature Nicky Page says, “Winning the stand means we were able showcase our wonderful local writers and illustrators and provide a hub for New Zealand children’s books at a trade fair that attracts tens of thousands of publishing industry players worldwide.”

Peer tutoring book launched

Beeby book launchFormer Beeby Fellow Jesse Pirini launched his book Peer Tutoring: A training and facilitation guide at the end of March.

Developed during his Beeby Fellowship, the book provides practical, research-based strategies for anyone wanting to run a peer tutoring programme or to improve their own tutoring practice.

“Jesse’s work is the perfect match for the National Commission’s goal of providing equitable access to education,” said National Commission Chair Robyn Baker in her speech at the launch. “His resource aims to make tutoring programmes more accessible, particularly in communities where there are a scarcity of resources. By helping communities develop and sustain their own tutoring programmes, his work benefits students whose families can’t afford private tuition fees.

Representing the voice of youth

Co writers holding up White PaperA standing ovation at an international UNESCO forum in March made the culmination of many months and long hours of work all worthwhile for 17-year-old Auckland Girls’ Grammar deputy head girl Scarlett Parkes.

The driven year 13 student co-wrote an international youth White Paper on Global Citizenship with youth teams from 11 different countries, collaborating virtually across multiple time zones.

Scarlett was one of 10 representatives who travelled to Ottawa, Canada to complete the finishing touches and present the paper at the Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education.

Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education

Cheryl and LibbyThe National Commission shone the spotlight on global citizenship education in March, funding three representatives to attend the Third UNESCO Forum on Global Citizenship Education in Ottawa, Canada. Education Commissioner Cheryl Stephens attended, along with teacher and global citizenship advisor Libby Giles and Year 13 student Scarlett Parkes from Auckland Girls’ Grammar who co-wrote and presented an International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship with an international team of young people. 

Drawing together around 500 participants from all regions of the world, the forum connected to discussions, activities and events in UNESCO’s week for Peace and Sustainable Development: The Role of Education.

Visit to UNESCO Office for the Pacific States

group photo Apia March 2017The National Commission strengthened its Pacific connections with a visit to the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States in Apia in March.

Chair Robyn Baker and Secretary General Vicki Soanes were hosted by the newly appointed Director of the UNESCO Apia office, Ms Nisha over three days. During their visit they participated in a series of meetings with UNESCO specialists in each of the programme areas.

“It was a great opportunity to discuss and exchange UNESCO’s work and the National Commission’s priorities, investigating possible work together,” says Vicki. “Our strategic focus prioritises the Pacific region, so being able to build our relationships in this way is invaluable.”

‘Big Girls’ celebrate New Zealand’s ethnic diversity

Big GirlsSeventeen ‘larger than life’ women dancing in the streets of Palmerston North caused a sensation at the city’s International Women’s Day Parade on 8 March. 

The Big Girl giant puppets, designed to celebrate diversity in Aotearoa, represented women from a wide range of communities, including Latin America, South East Asia, Syria, Japan and Samoa. Some had been created collectively this year by women in Palmerston North and the Wellington region through workshops run by Rangiwahia Environmental Arts Centre Trust (REACT) and funded by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

Holocaust remembrance in Wellington

Robyn Baker attended her first event as Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO at the observance of United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Wellington on 27 January.

The serene rural surroundings at the Jewish Cemetery, Makara, were backdrop for the event, where Robyn and other dignitaries laid commemorative stones.

Robyn Baker speaking Holocaust commemoration webIn breezy sunshine, Mayor of Wellington Justin Lester, German Ambassador H E Gerhard Thiedemann, and Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy made strong statements on upping the opposition to hate speech, as well as the need for remembrance to also include personal commitment to individual action.

A major theme was the 70 years since the 1947 Nuremberg trials of doctors and lawyers who were complicit in Nazi Germany’s devastating anti-Jewish policies.

The German ambassador referred to those trials, their influence on subsequent international law, and the setting up of the International Nuremberg Principles Academy. It is dedicated to the promotion of international criminal justice and human rights.

“In a world today that seems darker, with hate and intolerance on the rise, it’s easy to fear that we are forgetting the hard won lessons of history,” said Mayor Justin Lester. “All of us have a moral responsibility to stand up to hate, to intolerance, to injustice. We all have a role to play.”

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature activities

Literature continues to be a vibrant part of Dunedin life. Here’s a taste of what’s been happening in the UNESCO City of Literature lately, and a preview of the year ahead.

Poems in the Waiting Room

The Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ) project, based in Dunedin, distributes 8000 free poetry cards every season to medical waiting rooms, rest homes, hospices and prisons throughout New Zealand. The three-fold brightly coloured cards usually contain eight poems, including one for children and a haiku. Poets and publishers from Dunedin and the world over, including Bloodaxe Books and Faber & Faber, have generously loaned requested poems for each edition. 

poems in waiting room

Improving water quality in Samoa

Water sampling lowresA major project aimed at assessing and improving water quality in Samoa has been in operation this year, with support from the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

A team of researchers from Massey University’s Pacific Research and Policy Centre have been working with Pacific Island researchers led by Patila Amosa from the National University of Samoa (NUS) to collect and analyse water samples. Their findings will provide baseline standards for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Samoa to routinely assess water quality and develop management strategies that ensure communities, especially the young, are safe when using natural water bodies.

Beeby Fellowship to create mental health education resource

Katie Fitzpatrick and Kat WellsThe Beeby Fellowship for 2016-2017 has been won by a university researcher and a secondary school teacher, who will collaborate on a mental health education teaching resource for students in Years 7-13.

Associate Professor Katie Fitzpatrick (pictured left), an internationally recognised authority in health education from the University of Auckland, and Kat Wells, head of the health and physical education faculty at Lynfield College, Auckland, have been announced as the co-Beeby Fellows, following a selection process.

The fellowship, worth $30,000, will enable them to write a resource book for teachers on mental health and hauora, which is an area of health education that is currently under-resourced. A recent youth health survey highlighted concerns about depression, deliberate self-harm and suicidal thoughts in the 13-18 age group.

The book will provide practical information for teachers on educating students about resilience, interpersonal skills and wellbeing. It will also help students gain the skills to communicate effectively, reflect on their needs and wellbeing, and develop resilience, stress management tools and anti-bullying strategies.

Million Dollar Mouse protects world heritage

megaherb plantA major pest control operation that has required three years of planning is underway in the Antipodes Island, one of the Sub-Antarctic Islands UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Called ‘Million Dollar Mouse’, the project is one of the most complex island eradication operations ever attempted by the Department of Conservation (DOC). It has faced a number of logistical challenges, including the island’s remote location, unpredictable weather and lack of harbour for shelter when loading and unloading ships. Despite this, DOC has managed to transport 18 staff, 65 tonnes of bait and 30 tonnes of fuel across 800 kilometres of Southern Ocean. The safe delivery of two bait applications across the island has involved detailed planning and careful execution, using every window of good weather.

Vicki Soanes appointed Secretary General

Vicki Soanes use this oneThe New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is delighted to announce Vicki Soanes’ appointment to the position of Secretary General.

Vicki has been Acting Secretary General for the past nine months. She was originally recruited to the Secretariat six years ago as the Programme Officer for education and youth. During that time Vicki has led a number of flagship initiatives for the National Commission in New Zealand including ‘Looking Beyond Disaster’ (promoting youth-led disaster resilience), the Associated Schools Network, global citizenship education initiatives and setting up the youth reference group for the National Commission. Vicki led the New Zealand delegation to the 60th Anniversary of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network in Suwon, Korea in 2013, and was part of the delegation to the UNESCO General Conference in Paris the same year, and the recent National Commissions Inter-Regional meeting in Shanghai. 

Meet our new Natural Science Commissioner, Geoff Hicks

Geoff Hicks image providedDr Geoff Hicks replaced Dr Bob Frame as National Commissioner for Natural Science on 13 November. Geoff recently retired from the role of Chief Scientist at the Department of Conservation where he led and advised on the development of a long-term strategic agenda for research and managed the department’s science relationships and investment activities. Trained as a marine biologist, he had a productive research career spanning 25 years in both academic and cultural settings. He was Conceptual Leader and was responsible for creating the three popular natural environment exhibitions (Awesome Forces, Mountains to Sea and Bush City) at Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand.

Geoff has considerable experience working across UN agencies and for the last eight years has been New Zealand’s head of delegation to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Serving on a number of governance and advisory committees, most recently as co-chair of the End-User Advisory Panel of the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, he maintains strong science system networks and is an Emeritus Research Associate at Landcare Research. He holds a Diploma from the World Cultural Council (Consejo Cultural Mundial) and is a standing member of its Interdisciplinary Committee that elects the annual Albert Einstein World Award of Science. 

What attracted you to the role?

I have represented New Zealand at a number of UN related conventions and agreements, working at the science-policy interface. The opportunity to join the National Commission and contribute further to the internationalisation of New Zealand’s natural sciences is very appealing. At my retirement earlier this year I was delighted to be appointed Emeritus Research Associate at Landcare Research, which will assist the creation of stronger links between domestic and global natural sciences.