[One of the public purposes of education] is to develop citizenship. In the twenty- first century citizenship includes global citizenship. To function effectively, [students] need to develop global citizenship skills of three kinds:
- The promotion of attitudes that reflect an openness, interest, and positive attitude towards cultural differences. This will empower students who do not have the opportunity to develop such attitudes at home, and will also engage students for whom cross-cultural navigation is a more frequent experience.
- Understanding world history, geography and international law and institutions, including human rights.
- Foreign language skills.
- Fernando Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of International Education and Director of Global Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education
Arising from the destruction of two world wars, the United Nations is the world’s vehicle for international understanding and co-operation. The challenges of the 21st century demand that the peoples of the world work together. With the values of the United Nations as our example, UN Youth seeks to engage and equip young New Zealanders as global citizens who can meet these challenges.
Global citizens understand that their decisions have consequences – locally, nationally and internationally. They see themselves as part of a bigger world and can relate their experiences to others. They are equipped to identify their values, and to compare and contrast them with those of others. They actively contribute to their communities.
Goal 1: New Zealand students are equipped to thrive in an inter-connected world.
- The International Education Agenda, Ministry of Education, 2007
Through UN Youth, young New Zealanders learn about issues of global concern and how countries interact with each other in handling these issues.
In the Model United Nations Programme (Model UN), for example, students become delegates for a member state of the United Nations and debate their way through a number of resolutions based on the foreign policy and perspective of that particular state.
Resolutions may concern issues ranging from security and conflict, climate change and disease to the preservation of cultural heritage. Almost all curriculum areas feature. Delegates must first gain a thorough understanding of the issues raised by the resolution, before stepping back from their own views to consider what the views of their designated country would be. They learn about the factors that determine a nation's policies - geography, population, ethnic composition, regional relationships, history and so on. In an environment which replicates UN procedure, delegates seek to obtain the best possible outcome for their country – lobbying, negotiating and advocating as best they can - while also achieving consensus and a durable solution to the issue at hand.
In addition to the Model UN programme, UN Youth’s regional councils organise a variety of speakers, movie-nights and social gatherings throughout the year. In between times, our website, Facebook page and newsletter keep members in touch with news, events and opportunities they may be interested in – from both UN Youth and other organisations with a focus on international affairs and young people in civil society.
Through their learning experiences, students will learn about:
- their own values and those of others;
- different kinds of values, such as moral, social, cultural, aesthetic, and economic values;
- the values on which New Zealand’s cultural and institutional traditions are based;
- the values of other groups and cultures.
Through their learning experiences, students will develop their ability to:
- express their own values;
- explore, with empathy, the values of others;
- critically analyse values and actions based on them;
- discuss disagreements that arise from differences in values and negotiate solutions;
- make ethical decisions and act on them.
- Values, The New Zealand Curriculum, p 10.
In the Model UN programme students consider an issue from a perspective that is not their own. Acting as ‘the delegate for India’, for example, a student must consider the range of values that determine that particular nation’s attitude towards the resolution before them – be they cultural, economic or social. In advocating that position, students learn how those values conflict with the values of other countries, as represented by other students. The programme promotes a culture of peace, through the resolution of conflict by dialogue rather than arms.
In a resolution concerning fresh-water, for example, the economic value of water seen by one delegate may conflict with the cultural or religious values of water held dear by another. Human Rights feature strongly throughout our programmes, as are the values encompassed by the Treaty of Waitangi. This can be seen in resolution topics and conference themes, regarding aspects of cultural heritage and the rights of indigenous peoples. More practically, a range of scholarships allow for substantial Maori representation at our events. For an organisation that seeks to provide forums which reflect our nation, this is important.
It is through considering different kinds of values and the ways in which values conflict and compete with each other, that students understand what 'values' are.
Students who participate and contribute in communities have a sense of belonging and the confidence to participate within new contexts. They understand the importance of balancing rights, roles, and responsibilities and of contributing to the quality and sustainability of social, cultural, physical, and economic environments.
- Key Competencies, The New Zealand Curriculum, p 13.
Young New Zealanders are increasingly active in decision making. In Boards of Trustees, as student leaders and in a range of committees within NGOs and other organisations, there are opportunities for young people to bring their perspective to the table. This is a good thing.
It is important therefore that young people are equipped to contribute as best they can – as clear speakers, vigilant listeners and tactful negotiators. Our programmes develop these skills.
Our programmes are also accessible to a broad range of students. Whereas some may shy away from the competitive, three-on-three nature of schools’ debating or public speaking competitions, for example, most will feel confident contributing their view in a discussion group at the New Zealand Youth Declaration conferenc.
Our programmes are geographically accessible. Four regional branches run events in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin and increasingly, in the regional centres such as Palmerston North, New Plymouth, Nelson and Westport. Financially also, the support of foreign embassies and partner organisations allows us to award an increasing number of scholarships to students who otherwise wouldn't get involved. It's important that our events reflect the true make-up of society as best possible.
Students also learn about procedure and meeting etiquette – about speaking lists, caucusing and points of order. Although second nature to most adults, many young New Zealanders have never known a formal meeting environment.
Networking is at the heart of everything we do. UN Youth brings together like minds. The friendships built are lasting, supported by the quiz nights, movie nights, speakers and social events that occur throughout the year. As students move on to university and into their careers, they will continue to come across each other. A decade after the organisation was established, UN Youth members can be found running university clubs and society, working throughout the private and public sectors and of course, in the United Nations itself.
UN Youth itself is a powerful example to young New Zealanders. We are an organisation run by young people, for young people on a completely voluntary basis. UN Youth office holders are only a few years older (if at all) than those are programmes serve. Those who attend our activities go on to give back. They stand for election at regional and national AGMs and take on roles as conference assistants, delegation directors or programme coordinators.
With the skills and relationships UN Youth nurtures, young New Zealanders are more equipped to contribute to their communities.