August 22, 2016 at 2:24 PM

With thanks to student reporter, Alex Gordon

In early August, six College students travelled to Wellington to take part in the annual, national Student Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (SCHOGM). The event is part of Commonwealth Youth New Zealand’s efforts to immerse young people in the issues of our world. Hosted in the halls of the Parliament’s Beehive, students from around New Zealand took on the roles of either Head of Government,or Foreign Minister of a Commonwealth member state. After learning all there was of diplomacy and the issues within their designated countries, two days of fierce debate began. Topics ranged from the refugee crisis and climate change, to international terrorism and good governance within the Commonwealth.

Jono Lee and Lanlie Zheng represented the country of Bangladesh, while Jess Hunt and Kurt Hawkins took on the challenging role of acting for Singapore, while Alex Gordon was paired with a Wellington student in representing the Republic of the Maldives. Sam Tait played an integral role as part of the Media delegation, who made the delegates accountable by questioning them further on comments made during debate.

Throughout the two days, students were also given opportunities to step away from their role as a country delegate and hear presentations of the work by various organisations. These included Amnesty International, the Department of the Interior, as well as a settled refugee who had set up a foundation for teenage refugees within New Zealand. Being offered the opportunity to interact with such a variety of knowledgeable people all focused on bettering international diplomacy and human rights saw a new level of awareness invested in debates, as delegates were able to relate information first hand to their points of view.

The first night of the conference concluded with a special event; a dinner for delegates hosted in the Beehive Ballroom. This event hosted New Zealand’s most recent recipient of the Queen’s Young Leader Award. Brad Olsen was inspirational in the telling of his story, and motivated many students to think on how they, themselves, are able to become active within their own communities.

The second day of the conference saw events similar to that of the day before, though with a reserved visit to watch the MP’s of New Zealand in the debate chamber. At the conclusion, delegates were presented with certificates of participation from MP Peter Dunn and congratulated for the effort put into embodying the role of each of their Commonwealth nations.

Overall, the 2016 SCHOGM was a truly inspiring event that allowed students to get a taste of international diplomacy and relations, as well as meet other young people with the same passion to make a difference as a generation. 

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