Daniel Davis: Disenchantments and the flame of hope

As you might have been able to work out from the title, I have become disillusioned with the UN. I thought this would be a place of motion, of action, where the movers and shakers of the world got together to enhance the future of the planet. I thought this would be a place where people respected, communicated, and opened themselves up to each other. A place of sharing.

I have learnt a lot of lessons over the week I spent in the UN, and some I was very sad to have broken my shell of innocence. They are lessons I thought the world would have moved past in this era of equity and acknowledgement of the future. But I am glad for the small graces of kindness and welcomeness that have held afloat a flame of hope.


I’ve heard recently, from the AYLI trip to the UNESCO conference, of the extent of pettiness and abuse within the halls of the UN. The UN is a place in which power, insults, lies and half-truths are thrown in almost equal proportions to the statements that yield growth in our world. Diplomats walk with a such a sense of entitlement that is barely seen in New Zealand. The casualness of their lack of respect makes the breaking of common courtesy seem normal in the halls and rooms. It makes me ashamed to think that the global organisation that is held as a central power of peace and cooperation is not so clean on the inside. From the little experiences I went through, to the major problems of UN Peacekeeping abuse, there are many changes that need to happen.

But on the other end of the scale, there were people and moments that brought back my hope of a better world. Hope that we could work together, learn together, save the world together.

My very first meeting, on deep ocean science, was the kick-off of these thoughts. It was a smart talk with a group of scientists from around the world speaking on global connection and a realistic view on how to make things work. They were open, they were clear. Statements saying: “We need to change how we interact”, “We need to do more”, “We have the information online, we should use it”. It was into this that I threw the question “You talk of needing more students, more scientists, how are you going to bring them to this obscure field of study? How are you going to interest them in studying this when there is no money, no funds?” What made me happy was that the question was debated, people started to think, people were interested in learning and making solutions for this problem. But the problem was that although these people will make a difference in their field, the major players, the governments and diplomats could not be bothered coming to such a meeting, it was too small fry, so they could not be involved in the change that we were creating.

This was a theme through the conference. In events where people thought new, where ideas were exchanged and people connected, it was the scientists, the public sector, the volunteers that were there. The bigger events, the ones where countries went to, or those with more power and influence, were flat and boring, with more emphasis on congratulations and showing off than seemingly anything with significance to the true welfare of nature.

Another awesome talk I went to was on ocean literacy, which was basically getting knowledge and interest to society and “normal” people. The event was amazingly-run, with maybe 5 speakers doing a short talk on their background and on the topic, and then it was down to questions from the audience. It was the best layout of event I had been to, as the speeches were easy to listen to, engaging and the speakers were truly interested in what they were talking about. The large question section really opened up the floor, especially as the MC made sure that you could only question, rather than make statements (which is the bane on UN question times). So… me, some of my team, and a youth we had “adopted” were all busy asking questions from youth perspectives, and getting a really nice engagement with the rest of the audience and the panellists. Finally, someone put up their hand and asked “Can we ask the youth how they think we should increase attention from younger people?” The group of us quickly looked at each other, and I spoke for us all in a speech I had actually quickly written up about 5 minutes earlier. “On the fact of reading and access, I spend a decent amount of time online, and I also am quite interested in science, it’s why I’m here. But even I get annoyed with anything that is written longer than a paragraph. If you want to catch someone with social media, on facebook, snapchat, twitter, instagram, it’s the short sharp videos, the awesome photos, the ones that hook and catch within the very first 5 seconds. Not 10 seconds, not 30, but about 5. These are the people who are choosing what they want to do in life, if they want to be scientists, adventurers. Yes TED is good, but it is one of the only collections of highly-scientific well-spread video libraries that I ever see, and even for me, it loses me.” I spoke a bit more, but I didn’t have it typed up.

It is these types of experiences that are so amazing and life-changing. I would never have believed in a million years that I would speak in a conference room in UNHQ, with the whole room listening to what I had to say, listening to my view on youth perspectives, and having such a major effect on people who would listen to me. To be able to speak for such a large proportion of people, in a situation that is generally run by bland, old, white men, I was humbled (and thoroughly invigorated). 

I was split in two by the conference. On one hand, a disappointment on the lack of interest, the lack of push, the lack of future from the diplomats and representatives. But on the other, rejuvenation through the depth of heart, the strength of fire, the power of purpose from the scientists and those personally attached to the ocean. We can change who we are, and I believe that a future for nature comes from just that, a personal adjustment of yourself, and those around you. Everyone is connected, so create a splash where you are, and the ripples may flow around the world and back to you.


Apologies for the unedited nature, I feel like I couldn't read over this without wanting to delete the whole thing, so here it is instead.
Catch ya later,

All posts from AYLI delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences.

Posted on August 10, 2017 and filed under UN Ocean Conference 2017.