Attending New Zealand’s third Universal Periodic Review of human rights at the United Nations in Geneva, one recurrent theme of our delegation’s meetings with UN agencies was the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite the absence of SDGs in UPR recommendations so far, the natural convergence between the development and human rights agenda means combining the two can make them each doubly powerful. Given this under-utilised relationship, I will argue the need for the SDGs to be at the forefront of recommendations made during the current third cycle of the UPR.
Before I could take a break, 2018 has already come to an end. In just less than 2 hours, I will be hopping on a 24-hour flight to Geneva, transitioning at Doha. It has been a rather tough year, transitioning into first year university and officially moving out of home, plus constant travelling around the country and the globe. Since attending the 9th University Scholars Leadership Symposium (USLS) this August in Bangkok Thailand, I have been anticipating attending the UN BHR – United Nations forum on Business and Human Rights conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Although it is not my first time in Europe, it will be my first time flying alone to one of the world’s diplomatic capital since I turn 18.
My very first UN experience occurred earlier this year in Bangkok Thailand, where I was selected as one of the two young journalists in the southern hemisphere on behalf of YRE (Young Reporters for the Environment) global to attend the conference. The experience I have gained from this conference was rather eye opening, as it made me realized that climate change affects all aspects and it is interconnected with all parts of the SDGs. Unlike my two-other amazing delegates Katrine and Libby, I am someone who comes from a strong background of environmentalism, I have focused my activism work around climate actions and environment protection rather than human rights. In saying so, I do have high expectations for this conference as I am going in with an open mind, hoping to hear about some of the world’s most complex problems in person and network with other youth delegates in a global scale.
Leading up to my departure from Auckland, I had some time to reflect on how I would maximise my time in Europe. One particular thing that has crossed my mind is what is the one thing I would like to learn more about, from attending a conference that is in a field that I am unfamiliar with. Just as I was typing away on my laptop and reading upon recent articles, a NZ herald article with the title of “Air New Zealand scraps single use plastic from flights” caught my attention. With the biggest New Zealand airline removing a further of 14 single-use plastic products from its flights over the next year, this sure is good news on reducing anymore single use plastic heading into landfill. Just like that, a thought occurred to me – heading into a UN forum based on business and human rights, I could possibly research into how more NZ business can become more sustainable and contribute to reducing carbon footprints locally. The forum is a perfect opportunity for me to ask the question of how local business in NZ can to be more sustainable; how can we help small enterprise to learn the impact climate change has on them and reduce importing plastic packaging from overseas; lastly, how can we as consumers create a difference in the supply-chain process?
And just like that, anxious and excited at the same time, I am on my way to Geneva. In a year filled with ups and downs, I cannot be readier to expand my horizons furthermore and get to know my other two delegates on our 11-day journey in Europe.
So the end of the conference has reached us, yet, the inspiration from the people who was around me is still so strong. What a lovely bunch of people, I am so very lucky to have met each and every one of you.
For the United Nations, this has been a series of “first’s”, this is the first time they have included the Ocean as its own sustainable development goal, this is the first time a high-level conference has been held to talk about the Ocean and it’s sustainable development and the mitigation/adaptation of climate change, and it is the first time states can come together to talk about partnerships in the first series of “partnership dialogues” held by the UN. The Ocean connects us, that was the overwhelming understanding at the conference, therefore, we need to come together to talk about how we can start to help the Ocean from the many issues that it faces, including climate change, over-fishing, pollution, debris, the list goes on. It is important to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 - Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development- we must start to discuss the progress of each nation as well as what each nation will commit to do in the coming years leading to 2030, through the voluntary commitment scheme for the conference
In all, the conference certainly showed me one thing, how much more we have ahead of us to do if we are to achieve SDG 14 by 2030. The voluntary commitments and growing partnerships are a positive step in the right direction, but we need to do more. As mentioned in my previous blog, the grass root organizations and NGOs are doing a spectacular job in helping to achieve some positive groundwork towards the sustainable development and conservation of our oceans, but it is time that the governments start to take charge.
In New Zealand, our connection with the Ocean is seemingly ingrained in our souls. Each New Zealander which I spoke to detailed their deep, unwavering love for the Ocean, and what they are willing to do to help “her”. However, New Zealand as a whole as a fair way to go before we are able to achieve what we set out to do. The issues which the Oceans face is multi-faceted, and there are a plethora of hurdles to overcome, seemingly simultaneously before we are to start making some traction towards a more sustainable future. To start, we really need to: 1. Bridge the freshwater-marine connection through adequate legislation. In New Zealand, we have no such legislation, and hence, eutrophication from farm run-off is having a significantly negative impact on the health of the Ocean and is negatively feeding into Ocean Acidification. We need to have solid legislation in order to reduce the stress such pollution is having on the Ocean. 2. We need to address over-fishing in our EEZ and across the high seas. 3. We must address our pollution problem, especially plastic pollution. We must look at stopping single-use plastic items as well as prohibit micro-plastics. 4. We need to help our Pacific sisters and brothers, we need to help them in achieving their sustainable development goals and build capacity for research and forming legislation, especially in addressing the impacts of climate change and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and negative fishing subsidies. 5. We need to include the indigenous voice, there is a plethora of traditional knowledge that we need to listen to and bring to the table… the list goes on.
It is time we come together and start pushing forward towards a more sustainable Ocean, and although government can sometimes be a bit of a tortoise, it is comforting to know that we have heros helping the Ocean in the way of the wonderful individuals I have met at the conference and the wonderful organizations who are leading the way towards a much brighter future.
All posts by Institute delegates reflect their own thoughts, opinions and experiences, and do not reflect those of the Institute.
I grew up around the water. Family holidays were spent pottering around on our boat in the Hauraki Gulf, or making sandcastles in Whangamata with my cousins. There was a time where the only summer pocket money I earned was for completing the $10 challenge, a series of water based ‘survival’ challenges off the back of the boat. We were always taught that while the ocean was beautiful, and could provide hours of wonder and fun, it was also to be treated with the utmost respect.
Applications are now open for our Semester 2 delegation to the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador.
The moment we know you've all been waiting for - we're excited to announce that applications are now open for not one, not two - but three international delegations in the first half of 2016.