Four Australian university students had the opportunity to attend Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development which happens every twenty years. This was through an initiative that allows young people to gain insight and experience of events of global significance, Global Voices.

Global Voices funds delegations and offers practical experiences to young Australians interested in international policy and diplomacy. The Habitat III delegation was led by Riley McAuliffe.

Former Cities Programme intern and RMIT Bachelor of Communication (Professional Communication) student Cassandra Cohen was one of those delegates. She was joined by Caleb Adams, Rufael Tsegay and Sadman Shafiq.

Whilst in Quito, Cassandra also met with numerous Australian academics and the Cities Programme international secretariat team members: Director, Ralph Horne; Chair, Michael Nolan; and Deputy Director, Elizabeth Ryan. The team Global Voices delegates provided valuable support to the Cities Programme side event, ‘City Diagnostic Tools’.

Cassandra shares her perspective on the Habitat III experience.

She said she valued joining the Opening Plenary Session where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched the event and Habitat III Secretary-General Dr Joan Clos discussed the importance of the New Urban Agenda in promoting equality and sustainability in cities.

“I was also fortunate to attend the session ‘Urban Journalism Academy’, where journalists from the New York Times, The Guardian and Reuters discussed how urbanisation issues can be better communicated to the public to ensure the issues are understood and addressed”.

After an apparently “enthralling” morning of events and networking, Cassie met with Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, Gillian Bird. They discussed the country’s involvement at the UN including its role in negotiations, its operations in the Security Council and its recent campaign to join the United Nations Human Rights Council. They also talked about working in foreign affairs and the nature of starting a career as a young diplomat.

Cassandra’s concluding remarks say it all.

“It was surreal to be in the company of these highly esteemed leaders, as well as delegates from the UN member states.”


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