Peace was at the top of the agenda at the inaugural Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue in Chendu, China, officially launched on 21 September, International Peace Day, attended by two Youth Reference Group members.
The three day forum brought together youth delegates from 46 countries, including young New Zealanders Danielle Newton (Youth Reference Group Chair) and Teina Wells-Smith, who represented the National Commission.
The Dialogue was structured around two core themes; the nexus between Asia Pacific civilizations, cultures, and social cohesion, respect for diversity and peace building, and the role of youth as agents of change and custodians of the future regionally and internationally.
“The strongest connections we made were with our brothers and sisters from the Pacific,” says Danielle. “We all understood the nature of the problems in our region and were able to form recommendations which spoke to how we, as youth, could really make a positive impact around issues such as climate change, preservation of culture and gender equality.”
The duo plan to keep in touch with their new Pacific networks. “We all worked so well together through exciting discussions that these connections must be kept strong andcontinued if we are to progress with the goals and aspirations we've put out there,” says Teina.
Both Danielle and Teina enjoyed the culinary challenge of Chengdu hotpot and the friendliness of the Chinese people. “My first impression of China was that it was actually greener than I thought it would be! I grew to love the city more and more each day,” says Danielle.
“The people were very friendly and helpful, even to those like me that spoke little to no Chinese,” adds Teina. “The cities we visited were filled with huge buildings which at night were filled with bright lights. And Chengdu being known as the city of gastronomy did not disappoint. We tried a local favourite dish ‘hot pot’ which was delicious but hot is an understatement. It was so spicy I had to wipe the sweat from my forehead.”
Each delegate went away from the Dialogue, which is set to become a biennial event, committed to finding ways in which they could become a force for positive peace and development. So what was the strongest take away message?
“Never forget and step back from being young – we are full of creativity, innovation and fresh perspectives and we should use this energy to get excited about a problem, act with integrity, and empower others through our passion,” says Danielle.
Teina agrees. “One of the speakers, Dr Marielza Oliveira, said it well when she said ‘as youth we must be revolutionaries and rebel against the constraints’. She also imprinted in my mind the fact that even though we are from different cultures we are human beings first. We are all members of the human family. So only by joining forces and acting will we be successful in the goals of sustainable development for world peace.”