Young people call for courageous conversations

Graphic featuring key messages from the recent UNESCO Youth Diversity Forum
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Accepted, respected, and connected
Involved and empowered

A recent Youth Diversity Forum held in Ōtautahi Christchurch generated robust discussion, ideas and solutions for the future of race relations in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nearly a hundred young people of diverse faith and cultures from across the country, attended the forum in Christchurch, which was hosted by the National Commission for UNESCO, in collaboration with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Ngāi Tahu and the Human Rights Commission.

The events of March 15 challenged our assumptions and sense of who we are as a country. In line with UNESCO’s mandate of building peace through dialogue, the focus of the forum was the future of race relations in Aotearoa, incorporating Māori values that provide a strong foundation for social cohesion.

“When we talk about whānaungatanga, we all need to connect first of all, and then we go manaakitanga – we have to look after each other and respect each other, create the space and make sure that anyone can come together and have those honest conversations – and sometimes we won’t be on the same page, and that’s ok, as long as it’s done with love,” said one young participant.

The forum provided a safe space for a cross-ethnic discussion - sharing ideas, connecting with and learning from each other. It aimed to help inspire and empower young people to be agents for change.

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?” Workshops reflected on religion and spirituality in Aotearoa and issues surrounding social media.

Young people at the UNESCO Youth Diversity Forum in Christchurch

The young leaders 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.

“We were able to unite and become something stronger – that is what I loved,” said Elizabeth, one of the participants. 

At the end of the weekend’s korero, participants presented their key messages at the forum’s closing ceremony, attended by 35 leaders from a wide range of organisations.

Overall, the young people called for the nurturing of strong and inclusive communities that enable courageous, inter-generational conversations, and where all people can find a sense of belonging and contribute to shaping the future of Aotearoa.

“Our vision for Aotearoa is that everyone will accept, respect and understand each other – regardless of their difference and that will only happen through courageous conversations,” said youth participant Sakhr.

See video highlights of the forum below


Sharing the Forum's messages with the world

The key themes from the forum were also shared at the 40th UNESCO General Conference and the 11th UNESCO Youth Forum 2019, both held in Paris in November.

UNESCO Chair, Robyn Baker and youth leader Ashlee Peacock delivered New Zealand's country statement to the 40th UNESCO

See the video or read the transcript of UNESCO Chair, Robyn Baker and youth leader Ashlee Peacock delivery of New Zealand's country statement to the 40th UNESCO.