Youth Diversity Forum Ōtautahi Christchurch

Nearly a hundred youth leaders from Christchurch and around the country came together in Ōtautahi Christchurch over the weekend of 4-6 October.  The NZ National Commission for UNESCO, in collaboration with the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and mana whenua Ngāi Tūāhuriri and Ngāi Tahu, held the Youth Diversity Forum to support a cross-ethnic discussion, addressing racism, education and spirituality in response to the mosque attacks of 15 March.

Providing a safe space for sharing ideas, connecting with and learning from each other was the intention – to help inspire and empower rangatahi to be agents for change. The focus was on the future of race relations in Aotearoa in line with UNESCO’s mandate of building peace through dialogue.

The opening pōwhiri was followed by motivational addresses by the MP for Te Tai Tonga, Rino Tirikatene who spoke on behalf of Minister Jenny Salesa, National Commission Education Commissioner Carol Mutch, UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leader Shahin Najak, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt and Human Rights Commission officials Vanushi Walters and Bart English.

The events of March 15 challenged our assumptions and sense of who we are as a country. From manaakitanga to kotahitanga, there are a range of Māori values that provide a strong foundation for social cohesion. Panel discussions addressed questions such as “What does Te Tiriti-based multiculturalism look like and how do we get there?”; “What makes a New Zealander and what does belongingness look like?”. Workshop reflections included religion and spirituality in Aotearoa and issues surrounding social media.

Rangatahi also enjoyed the opportunity to learn waiata, the history of Ngāi Tahu and to be welcomed by mana whenua to the Tūhaitara Coastal Park to plant 100 kahikatea trees. Kahikatea compete with each other to grow taller but underneath their roots are interconnected, which strengthens them to grow higher.

At the end of the weekend’s korero, our participants shared the key messages they had developed and presented these at the forum’s closing ceremony. 35 leaders from a wide range of organisations (including Ronna Seyleck-Lee from the Apia UNESCO Office). These messages will be shared at the 11th UNESCO Youth Forum 2019 and   discussions at the 40th UNESCO General Conference, both in November in Paris.