To the people of Moria: There is always hope, دائما في امل

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The lifejacket graveyard, an active landfill that collects all of the lifejackets that people drop or wash up on the shore of the island upon refugee’s arrival from Turkey. 

One of our UNESCO Aotearoa Youth Leaders, Shaymaa Arif, has been working as an Arabic/English interpreter at Moria Refugee Camp in Greece. She reports on her experience. Note: The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the National Commission’s work.

Perhaps prior to taking on the journey to Lesvos, my perspective and views and assumptions on how I would answer questions regarding it would have been completely different.

But being on Lesvos and working in Moria Refugee Camp, it changes you. Whether you are there for a week or a month.Shay at supermarket

I left to go to Greece to actually see what was happening in the real world. The entire reason I studied law and pursued a law career was because of the refugee crisis. Being originally Iraqi and Syrian, it always played a major role in my identity and my life. I wanted to do something but after five years of learning everything by book through the news, I was done. How can I help if I didn’t really experience what was happening first-hand?

So within a week, I contacted a Greek NGO in Lesvos that I had been following for over a year, Emergency Response Center International, rushed my paperwork, and booked my tickets for 14th of April 2018. After a week, I got my final confirmation to work with ERCI as an Arabic/ English interpreter at their medical clinic at the Camp.

ERCI is a shoreline emergency response NGO. This means, if the boats making their way from Izmir to Lesvos don’t get intercepted by the Turkish Coast Guards or are not picked up by the Hellenic Coast guards, ERCI immediately responds to assist refugees arriving on the shoreline.

UNESCO Creative Cities representatives in Poland

Mark Roach

A report by Mark Roach, Auckland UNESCO City of Music

Network XII Annual Meeting, Kraków and Katowice, Poland 12-16 June.

Kraków (City of Literature) and Katowice (City of Music) jointly hosted the 12th Annual Meeting of the Creative Cities Network which I attended, representing Auckland City of Music. The meeting was also attended by Nicky Page and Mayor Dave Cull from Dunedin City of Literature.

This was the first meeting that Auckland had attended after joining the network in the 2017 intake, and presented an opportunity to meet others from across the entire network of 180 cities, and specifically those from the 31 cities that comprise the music subnetwork.

The week began with an integration day for new cities on Monday 11th in Kraków, followed by an informal catch-up with fellow new music cities. The following day began with presentations and talks, after which we split off into subnetwork workshops.

Along with other new cities, I showcased Auckand’s rich music heritage to the rest of our subnetwork. We then discussed our respective city projects and explored ideas on how we might collaborate in the coming months and years. In a very short space of time, we brainstormed exciting inter-city project concepts and I made promising connections for New Zealand artists in other countries.

National Commissions meeting in Kenya

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Chair Robyn Baker at the interregional meeting in Kenya.

‘More information sharing’ was one of the key takeaway messages from the fifth interregional meeting of National Commissions, held in Kenya this month.

New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Chair Robyn Baker attended the meeting, which included representatives from over 100 countries. She reports that UNESCO is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of its programmes and operations.

“UNESCO is seeking to align its work even more strongly with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030,” says Robyn. “In the context of this mission it wants its activities to be more relevant to the needs of the world today. The conference was an opportunity for National Commissions in member states to contribute to this review.”

The conference was an opportunity to give feedback, share promising national practices, and reinforce the many ways that national initiatives are contributing benefits locally, as well as to the overall UNESCO agenda.

Major Grants funding round now open

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is calling for Expressions of Interest for its 2018/19 Major Grants contestable funding round by 6 July.

Applications are primarily being sought for ‘major grant’ funding from $5,000 to the level of $40,000. Minor grant funding is also available for amounts under $5,000.

The National Commission is seeking to fund innovative projects, events, programmes or initiatives that reflect its mission and strategic priorities. As UNESCO is an organisation of ‘ideas’, we are especially interested in projects that demonstrate new ways of working and which have the potential to lead to positive long-term change at a national or regional level.

$30,000 award to support an innovative learning resource

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2016 Award winners Kat Wells (left) and Associate Professor Katie Fitzpatrick.

People with a great idea for turning high-quality research into an innovative learning resource are invited to apply for the Beeby Award 2018.

The Beeby Award is a joint initiative by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. The Award is worth $30,000 and the resulting resource may be published by NZCER Press.

Both organisations aspire to a socially just and equitable society, and invite applications for resources that will support this by:

  • supporting active participation in the democratic process
  • connecting indigenous knowledge and science
  • understanding the contribution of cultural diversity.

Applications will be accepted until 5pm, Friday 31 July 2018. See the selection criteria and instructions for applicants for details of how to apply.

‘Waitaki Whitestone’ preferred candidate for UNESCO Global Geoparks programme

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Moeraki Boulders, one of the well-known tourist sites that would be part of Waitaki Whitestone. Credit: Kirsten van der Zee

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO has endorsed the ‘Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring Geopark’ to bid for international UNESCO Global Geopark status.

Waitaki District Council submitted an expression of interest to become a Geopark in April this year. The proposed Geopark would encompass most of the Waitaki District. It includes well-known tourist sites such as Vanished World and Moeraki Boulders.

Waitaki district Mayor Gary Kircher says, “This is a real acknowledgment of the international uniqueness of our beautiful part of New Zealand. The Waitaki Whitestone Aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark is not only an asset for the Waitaki and Otago, but the entire South Island, and New Zealand as a whole.”

An independent Geoparks Expert Advisory Panel, established by the National Commission late last year, carefully considered all expressions of interest in the context of UNESCO’s criteria.

“We were impressed by Waitaki Whitestone’s well-considered, high quality application, which is already in an advanced stage of development,” says Dr Geoff Hicks, Natural Sciences Commissioner, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, who chaired the Panel.

Speaking for the (kauri) trees

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Scientists, artists and iwi representatives listen to Tāne Mahuta Ambassador Conrad Marsh, at left, tell the story of Tohora and Kauri in front of Tāne Mahuta after the Matatina Hui.

Kauri plays a significant role as a national icon in Aotearoa yet the species is under threat. Auckland based The Kauri Project received major grant funding through the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO last year to develop a platform for creative action to protect this precious taonga across the kauri lands region.

At the beginning of May the group invited a network of kauri advocates and kaitiaki: people and organisations who have a vested interest in care and protection of kauri ecosystems, to a hui in Waipoua Forest. The two days of discussion covered a broad range of topics, from awareness-raising ideas to how to find a good relationship between iwi and science.

The purpose of the hui was to make connections between Northland iwi, the Trust and other agencies who are acting to address kauri dieback, with the view to holding further events in 2018 and early 2019. The wānanga will bring artists, scientists, iwi and other caretakers and communicators to develop and create a shared understanding of the needs of the forest and find creative ways to take action based on these shared understandings.

Dunedin rugby team encourages love of reading

Group laughing Dunedin City of Literature smallPine Hill School pupils with the Highlanders. Credit: Sharron Bennett

Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature is excited to partner with the Pulse Energy Highlanders rugby team in a new pilot programme, Little Landers Literature, designed to encourage primary school pupils to read more. A significant body of research shows that reading for pleasure at a young age leads to a range of improved life outcomes, including health and wellbeing.

“Together we’re reminding young Dunedinites that reading is cool!” says Nicky Page, Director City of Literature. “The players and the children are swapping stories about their favourite books and lyrics and reading to each other – it’s a great way to make friends.”

The programme sees Highlanders making repeat visits to the schools during term two for informal sessions, with plenty of opportunity for the children to interact with the players. Local writer-illustrators Robyn Belton and Kathryn van Beek, whose latest books have been read to the children by the players, are also visiting each school for a lively session on writing and illustrating.

Exploring Education for Sustainable Development approaches

Paparangi kindergartenPhoto courtesy of Paparārangi Kindergarten.

An Enviroschools Kindergarten that focuses on embedding place-based education, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and global citizenship into their programme is providing inspiration for a research project funded by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

The project ‘Exploring Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) approaches in relation to benefits for Māori and Pacific Island children and whānau’ received one of the Commission’s major 2017/8 grants. It is part of a global research project ‘Reorienting Education and Training Systems to Improve the Lives of Indigenous and Marginalized Youth’ led by Professor Charles Hopkins of York University, Toronto.

To inform their research, Victoria University of Wellington academics Associate Professor Jenny Ritchie and Associate Professor Sandy Morrison are working with education settings in Wellington and the Waikato. Three teachers from Paparārangi Kindergarten presented at the Victoria University of Wellington Institute for Early Childhood Studies Autumn Seminar in May to share their journey towards cultural sustainable practice. The teachers at Paparārangi Kindergarten have been layering their disciplinary approach, drawing from place-based, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, enviroschools and global citizenship principles. They incorporate notions of civic learning, democracy, equity and social justice in their teaching.

Hate and the Internet panel discussion

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From left: Panellists Stacey Morrison, Golriz Ghahraman and Megan Whelan. Credit: Dianna Thomson

There is increasing discussion about hate speech and the issues associated with the publishing and circulation of hateful content online. But what is hate speech? And what does it mean in a New Zealand context? Is it a significant issue in New Zealand – and for whom? And what are the appropriate responses?

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO supported InternetNZ’s public lunchtime panel discussion ‘Hate and the Internet’ on 22 May to discuss these questions and more.

The panellists came from academic, media and political backgrounds. All of them have personally experienced hate online.

Panel members were:

  • Megan Whelan, RNZ’s Community Engagement Editor
  • MP Golriz Ghahraman, the first refugee to be elected to New Zealand Parliament
  • Dave Moskovitz, member of the Abrahamic, Open Polytechnic, and InternetNZ Councils as well as being a startup investor and director.
  • Stacey Morrison, a television and radio presenter and part of Massey University’s Te Pūtahi-a-Toi Department.

Update: Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature

Director City of Literature Nicky Page shares the latest news from Dunedin.

PB280072 smallIt has been a lively time for Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature. One of the best parts is working with our wonderful writers, and alongside Dunedin Public Libraries and other local institutions and community groups. Collaboration was celebrated during our Creative Cities Southern Hui in December, generously supported by the NZ National Commission for UNESCO, and is something Dunedinites have always done well.

It’s exciting to be part, in a small way, of the Regent 24 Hour Book Sale’s new Books As Art competition. The iconic Book Sale is inviting artists, crafters, school students and community groups to give a second life to damaged books by transforming them into sculptures and artworks. The judging panel will be headed by Dunedin Public Art Gallery Director Cam McCracken, and the book art will be displayed during the Regent 24 Hour Book Sale this year (starting at midday on Friday 8 June). It is hoped that the competition will encourage creative people of all ages to celebrate and reconnect with books and the pleasure of reading.

Award in Global Citizenship Education winners announced

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The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO today announced the winners of its inaugural Award in Global Citizenship Education (GCED).

The recipients are: Patea Area School (Education Sector), Generation Zero (Community) and Tiaki Early Learning Centre (Innovation). St Johns College and UN Youth were also highly commended.

Each winner received a certificate and $3000 at a prize giving ceremony and reception at Parliament, hosted by Hon Jenny Salesa, Associate Minister of Education.

“We were delighted by the quality of the applications we received,” says Robyn Baker, Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. “It was heartening to read about the outstanding work that is being done across the country to encourage responsible and active global citizenship.”

International science plenary explores ways to halt biodiversity decline

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Dr Geoff Hicks with Joanne Perry from the Department of Conservation, New Zealand head of the delegation to IPBES.

Biodiversity – the essential variety of life forms on Earth – continues to decline in every region of the world, significantly reducing nature’s capacity to contribute to people’s wellbeing. This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere, according to four landmark regional science reports released at the 6th Plenary of the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in Medellin, Colombia in March.

The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO provided funding for Dr Geoff Hicks to participate as an expert advisor to the New Zealand delegation at the plenary.

“The Platform was in good heart as the reports provide a strong knowledge base for global action,” says Dr Hicks. “There was also a sense of urgency and cohesion amongst the 129 nations represented to get stuck in and implement the findings.”

The science reports that were released at the plenary, written by more than 550 leading experts from over 100 countries, is the result of three years of work. The four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services cover the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, as well as Europe and Central Asia – the entire planet except the poles and the open oceans. IPBES also released an assessment report on land degradation and restoration.

Seeking Expressions of Interest: Memory of the World New Zealand register


Trafalgar Street, Queen Victoria Jubilee, 1887. Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection: 181975

The UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand Trust is calling for Expressions of Interest for new inscriptions to the New Zealand register by 30 April 2018. 

Advantages of an inscription on the register include:

  • ensuring that our history and our stories are not forgotten
  • highlighting the significance of the information /knowledge contained in collections
  • recognition by an independent organisation (UNESCO)
  • public recognition of the importance of documentary heritage
  • publicity and promotion for your institution
  • to be part of an international network of the most important documentary heritage in the world
  • increased possibility of attracting resources (to care for, preserve and promote the collection)
  • raised awareness of the work done by custodians of documentary heritage.

UNESCO Global Geoparks programme to be established in New Zealand

GL7284 WEBThe New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO is delighted to announce the establishment of a UNESCO Global Geoparks programme in New Zealand. 

“This will bring global recognition to areas of internationally significant geology in New Zealand that meet UNESCO’s criteria,” says Dr Geoff Hicks, Natural Sciences Commissioner, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO (pictured).

The National Commission has appointed a Geoparks Expert Advisory Panel to encourage and support New Zealand nominations for UNESCO Global Geopark status. Expressions of interest are open until April 2018 and shortlisted applicants will then be invited to develop a full dossier.

The National Commission is able to recommend up to two New Zealand candidates per year for Global Geopark status. The full application process, including assessment by UNESCO, can potentially take a number of years.

Talking climate change and Global Citizenship Education

“Climate action is not only a moral responsibility, it is a necessity for human survival.”

From left: Libby Giles, Ronja Ievers, Mareike Hachemer.

This was one of the key takeaway messages Ronja Ievers and Libby Giles took from the 23rd meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Bonn, Germany.

The pair received minor grant funding from the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO to attend the conference, with Ronja attending in week one and Libby in week two. The conference was held under the presidency of the government of Fiji, the first time a small island nation has served in this role.

Youth Leadership training on Education for Sustainable Development

A three-day workshop in Bangkok, Thailand has set Special Advisor Youth Danielle Newton on a new path – to live more sustainably and to empower others to do the same.Danielle Newton in group cropped

Danielle was selected to attend the Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop for Youth Leadership Training on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from 15-17 November. The workshop is part of a series of youth training taking place globally under the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development. It aims to create a network of active youth leaders who are mobilising others to take action for sustainability.

“This workshop was incredibly valuable for building professional and personal networks, particularly with leaders from the Pacific,” says Danielle. “It really inspired a lot of personal reflection and commitment to make changes in my own life and lead by example.”

The training included two online sessions and a three-day workshop. During the workshop, participants went on an experiential field trip to the Bang Krachao “Green Lung” community, an urban oasis alongside Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Overview of 2017 UNESCO General Conference

Report by Vicki Soanes, Secretary General, New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO

The biennial UNESCO General Conference was held in Paris between 30 October and 14 November.

The New Zealand delegation was led by the Chair of the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO Robyn Baker, and included New Zealand’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Charles Kingston, his Deputy Emma Delage, National Commission Secretary General Vicki Soanes, and Culture Commissioner Dr Arapata Hakiwai, who joined the delegation for the second week to cover the Culture Commission.From left: Charles Kingston, Dr Arapata Hakiwai, Vicki Soanes, Robyn Baker.

The UNESCO General Conference brings together UNESCO’s 195 Member States and 10 Associate Members, together with observers, intergovernmental organisations and NGOs. The Member States make decisions on a range of agenda items, including the adoption of the Programme and Budget. Other decisions taken during the General Conference include a revision of the Recommendation on the Status of Scientific Researchers, a Declaration on the Ethical Principles of Climate Change and a resolution on strengthening UNESCO leadership in the implementation of the ‘UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity’.

Seven new inscriptions on UNESCO Memory of the World NZ register

Seven new inscriptions have been added to the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register.

Memory of the World New Zealand Trust Chair Dianne Macaskill announced the new inscriptions at a function at Auckland Libraries on 29 November.

There are now 27 documentary heritage collections on the New Zealand register.  Each is a valuable source of research for historians, researchers, educators and many others in New Zealand and the world.

UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the importance of ensuring it is preserved and made accessible.

The successful inscriptions are:

J.T. Diamond Collection (nominated by Auckland Libraries)

The personal archive of John (Jack) Thomas Diamond MBE. As a self-described amateur historian and archeologist, Jack documented the history of West Auckland over a time of significant change from the 1930s to the 1980s.

Ng New Zealand Chinese Heritage Collection (nominated by the Presbyterian Research Centre, Dunedin)

A collection of documents gathered since 1959 by Dr James Ng and his wife Eva Ng which sheds considerable light on 19th and early 20th Century Chinese history in New Zealand.

Update on Wellington Zoo’s Rangatahi Roots & Shoots Programme

Report by Sarah Morris, Learning Experience Manager, Wellington Zoo Trust

The New Zealand National Commission provided minor grant funding to Wellington Zoo’s Rangatahi Roots & Shoots programme. Sarah Morris provides an update on how the pilot programme is going so far.

As part of the Zoo revolution we have been piloting a Rangatahi Roots & Shoots for young people who are passionate about animals, people and the environment (A.P.E.). Because these three things are vital to all of us, they can be used as a common building block to unite communities.


The rangatahi participate in a variety of activities both inside and outside of the Zoo. Participants get the opportunity to learn about many aspects of our Zoo, while the Zoo benefits from having access to a group of young people with energy, motivation and a genuine interest in taking action on the mounting issues their generation face.