UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders Reflect on their time at Diplosphere Conference

Diplosphere’s Navigating a Stormy World: Te Ao Māori Perspectives conference, which was held in Wellington in early July, provided plenty of thought-provoking takeaways for our UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders.

Conference Theme

The conference asked the question: What does “western values” mean in Aotearoa New Zealand 2022? It explored the cultural, trade and political links that have long existed between Māori and the Asia Pacific region, and what the future holds.

Iwi, business, academic, and youth leaders stimulated public discussion on current affairs including the pandemic response, conflict, climate change, the rise of Asia and the international system.

Read our UNESCO Aotearoa’s Youth Leaders reflections on the Conference below.

Ethan Jerome-Leota

Ethan Jerome-Leota – UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Chair and NZ National Commission Special Advisor Youth. Ethan was also involved in organising the Conference.

It's been my honour and privilege to be a part of organising the first ever foreign affairs conference with a unique Te Ao Maaori perspective. I was excited about the new idea of Maaori and youth coming together to learn, understand and engage in meaningful dialogue about foreign affairs issues in Aotearoa. It was important for me to ensure Maaori voices were at the heart of the conference, different perspectives were represented, and an in-depth breadth of knowledge was discussed during the conference.

I chose to speak about how our tikanga Maaori values are verbs not nouns. But most importantly, taking the people with you on that journey. In my view, it's no use talking about tikanga Maaori values, if they are not actioned in the correct way and for the betterment of the people. Tikanga Maaori values aren't recommendations or suggestions about how one should engage with others, it's simply a way of life that involves ensuring that future generations will benefit from the decisions we make in the present.

The key takeaway from the conference for me, was that we as Aotearoa are unique in the way we choose to engage with the world. We take our responsibility of manaakitanga seriously and continue to strengthen our relationships abroad based on common values and shared aspirations.

However, there is still much more work to be done here in Aotearoa in how we apply tikanga Maaori values across government agencies in particular MFAT and more importantly ensuring there are tangible outcomes for Maaori and Pasifika moving forward.

Sabrina Mānu

Sabrina Mānu – UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader, Deputy Chair.

Refreshed and grounded would be the two words to best describe my experience.

Refreshed - to be in the presence of such mana-enhancing speakers, attendees, groups and communities. To have conversations led by Māori, presenting diverse perspectives rooted in mutual Te Ao Māori values. To be in a safe space that allowed those present to challenge with grace and be challenged respectfully. This feeling could also be a response mechanism to the lack of authentically Māori-led spaces being resourced for our communities, and a desire for more similar events moving forward.

Grounded - by the wealth of indigenous knowledge and expertise shared, including that of our UNESCO New Zealand Secretary General, Vicki Soanes, and our 2022 UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Chair, Ethan Jerome-Leota. Through the reminder of our ranging collective responsibilities as kaitiaki; iwi, hapū or diaspora, from protecting the whenua, to actively practicing Te Ao Māori values and aligning our actions with mātauranga Māori. Grounded in the hopes and dreams of our tūpuna.

One theme that deeply resonated with me was the ‘Destination: Our Planet’ kōrero discussing intergenerational transmissions of knowledge. The idea of unlearning colonialist practices and reclaiming the wisdom of our ancestors is not only an increasing act within young indigenous communities, but also a reminder of the pain that saw the culture and reo of many being stripped. A point was made along the lines of “it takes 3 generations to build, and only 1 generation to lose”, which only reiterates the need for long-term visions of rebuilding and living the ‘tangas’ with our future generations in mind. What are our generational roles in delivering these outcomes and reclaiming narratives? What does capacity-building look like here?

All in all, a thought-provoking day full of valuable kōrero, great food, excellent company, and many takeaways.

As it was said, let us “walk backwards into the future with our eyes firmly on the past”.

Kauri Tearaura

Kauri Tearaura - UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader

Mā whero, mā pango, ka oti te mahi

With red, with black, the work will be done

I was inspired to be in a room filled with past, present and future movers & shakers of our country - and our world. The central theme of 'navigating a stormy world' with 'te ao Māori perspectives' was a strong anchor with much to explore within. Each speaker and panel member had a unique gift to offer which stoked the flames of pensive wonder.

I found myself reflecting deeply on my own identity, how it shapes my worldview and my actions. I concluded that we each share the privilege and responsibility of shaping a national identity as denizens of Aotearoa New Zealand. Only together can we realise the dreams of a nation of lasting peace; that fosters inclusion and celebrates diversity, acknowledges the past whilst moving towards the future, and provides meaningful opportunities for the following generations to thrive.

Proud Funder

The NZ National Commission is incredibly proud to have supported such an inspirational and successful conference, through its’ Major Grants scheme.

NZ National Commission staff, Commissioners and UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders at the Conference.
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