History vs geography; a new generation of policy makers - Latrobe OurSay
By Patrick Gilligan
“In this century, the Asia-Pacific will be at the forefront of global economic growth and rising power.”
Declared Senator Bob Carr the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Senator in a speech delivered in Washington D.C. in April this year.
Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser also highlighted Australia’s future role in the Asia-Pacific region at the 2012 Whitlam Oration. His question:
“How can we best contribute to peace, to progress, to stability in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia?”
The 21st century, often called the ‘Asian Century’, will shift the focus from the West to the East. Australia, traditionally linked with the West in history, culture and strong diplomatic relations is now awakening to the reality that it cannot continue to ignore its geographical location in the face of our Asian neighbours.
Between these two statements by Carr and Fraser, it is apparent there is a strong call for Australia to play a leader role in the continuing development of the Asia –Pacific region.
From trade relations and the fair, just and humane treatment of asylum seekers, to the environmental considerations progressively being made through the recognition of climate change that increasingly reshape the way our societies operate; these are just some of the larger issues Australia will strive to influence with leadership in the coming years.
In a year that has seen particularly fierce contest between Australia’s federal political parties and leaders, many of the issues most prominent throughout 2012 will provide the perfect backdrop for this year’s Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference.
While issues of climate change and asylum seekers are passed back and forth in Canberra, some 600 students from across the Asia-Pacific will bear down on Melbourne to explore new and different strategies to solving complex foreign relations problems.
The 2012 Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference (AMUNC) will revolve around the theme ‘Rights, Recognition, Responsibility’; with great focus on the refugee and asylum seeker debate that continues to pose a significant challenge for our chief political leaders. This theme will see students revisiting the relevant international and national laws in place that provide rights to those seeking asylum around the globe. The theme also serves as a reminder that those rights must recognised by policy makers. And where the responsibility for asylum seekers lies will be also be explored – a question that proves itself to be an ongoing dilemma for recent and the current Australian government and its allies in the Asia-Pacific.
Communications and Publicity Under Secretary General of the AMUNC Secretariat, Gary Dickson, believes the importance of this year’s theme is about developing healthy cooperation between the Asia-Pacific region’s future policy developers.
“Our theme of ‘Rights, Recognition, Responsibility’ is directly related to an issue of global importance and one that the Australian public and politicians are constantly preoccupied with, the question of asylum seekers. The AMUNC2012 Secretariat is hoping that by starting the conversation among people from the Asia-Pacific who will one day have the power to write policy, we can encourage come to a mutual understanding about the shared responsibility of nations towards refugees and encourage a better approach to their treatment,” said Gary.
The Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference is an event hosted once a year by a university in the Asia-Pacific and is conducted by students, for students.
Beginning in 1995 at the University of New South Wales by the Model UN Society, the AMUNC is the largest Model UN in the southern hemisphere and the largest regional Model UN in the world. It now attracts over 600 tertiary students from across Australia and overseas.
Participant students will congregate for 6-7 days in the city of the host university, this year being Melbourne’s La Trobe University, to simulate a United Nations conference by engaging in debate about foreign policy and international relations issues.
Over the course of the week, students will act as delegates to committees – committees based on actual UN bodies. A delegate can be a representative of a number of things: from a nation to a non-government organisation, or perhaps even an independent body such as a media organisation.
During the conference La Trobe Generations – a new direction for the La Trobe University encompassing its dedicated approach to sustainability and social responsibility - will be using the online platform OurSay Australia to conjure questions of a quality that would usually only be heard at the UN in New York.
La Trobe Generations and OurSay Australia will host an online forum at OurSay.org from June 13th until the July 10, allowing the conference attendees and the wider community to pose and vote for questions asking: can we create a better future?
“The OurSay event is deeply connected with what we hope delegates will take out of the conference, as it allows them to ask the experts what we as individuals can and should do to improve the world.” according to Gary Dickson “The issue of climate change and situations that involve human rights abuses are inextricably linked with the creation and perpetuation of refugee crises and will become an increasingly prominent feature of Australian and global political and public life the longer we fail to address them,”
On July 12, near to the conclusion of AMUNC, the top three questions as voted by the site’s users will be put to a distinguished panel consisting of Professor Kate Auty, Victorian Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability; Professor Dennis Altman, academic and author; Andrew Hewett, Executive Director of Oxfam Australia; and Professor Carol Adams, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Sustainability) of La Trobe University.
Combining their collective experience through careers in varying elements of human rights, the three panellists will provide profound insight in responses to those questions that garner the most support on Oursay.org by the close of the round on July 10.