Keeping PACE in the Asia Pacific

Last year, I had the honour to be the Australian Ambassador to the first United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Youth Dialogue. At the time, I had plans for developing a youth platform across the Asia Pacific, which would utilise cultural education as a means of facilitating intercultural dialogue and understanding. Today that platform – PACE 48 – is a reality.

PACE 48 is a multinational youth-led platform, promoting access to cultural education across the Asia Pacific region. In the beginning, I launched PACE 48 with thirty youth volunteers. Today, having just celebrated our eight month anniversary, PACE 48 operates across 36 countries, has more than 150 youth volunteers, and our platforms reach more than 10,000 young people. The process of founding and building its identity has been demanding. The first few months saw our teams working across 13 time zones on a daily basis, with Skype calls to Afghanistan, Japan, America, Iran, and everywhere in between. I’ve come to appreciate how culture influences everything, even our attitude towards time. Working across a multitude of cultures, we have been allowed a unique opportunity to learn and develop cross-cultural leadership skills, which will become invaluable throughout our careers.

PACE 48 was founded because we saw a major gap in the international relations sphere – young people assumed that international relations exists only within a corporate atmosphere with suits and trade negotiations. To me, it’s much more than that. It’s engaging in person-to-person relations, facilitating cross-cultural dialogue, and coming to understand the issues faced by youth at all levels and how we are systematically addressing those problems.

PACE 48’s main project – our discussion groups – operate both online and offline. Online, our young leaders participate in discussion groups on topical regional issues, education and sustainable development, and broader concerns including climate change, peace, security and education. Offline, the PACE 48 Brisbane Discussion Group sees youth leaders from across Brisbane meet to discuss cultural identity, social cohesion, building tolerance and respect for other cultures. Facilitating dialogue between young people is a great step in advancing intercultural relations and accessing cultural education. If our youth will lead future partnerships and relations, and work with people from different backgrounds to their own, they need to be educated on cultural etiquette. Miscommunication often sees tensions arise – it influences how communities interact, particularly in multicultural societies.

Our plans for preserving Indigenous culture have been realised through the development of our Indigenous Cultures Youth Network. This project was developed to address concerns towards the loss of intangible culture in small island developing states. Launching this platform has heightened our understanding around the relative issues faced by youth in neighbouring countries, particularly Papua New Guinea and Small Island Developing States.

Later this year, we will be travelling across six Asian countries to promote PACE 48, work with regional players and expand our discussion groups across Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and India. At the ASEAN Youth Exchange on Education in Vietnam, I’ll be moderating a panel discussion alongside HRH Prince Norodom Sirivudh of Cambodia and the Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal. During this time I will meet a number of phenomenal youth leaders and activists. PACE 48 will also be taking a delegation of eight UQ students to Pakistan to attend the 2nd International Conference on Culture.

The past six months have taken me down a path I’d never envisioned. Last September, I was an undergraduate science student preparing to sit the medical school entrance exams. Overnight, it seemed, I’d been appointed an Associate of the UNESCO Chair in Intercultural and Interreligious Relations, elected to the UQ Academic Board, and launched PACE 48. I was also invited as an Australian delegate to attend APAC4U in Kuala Lumpur – an opportunity that inevitably cemented the success of PACE 48.

Engaging with youth-led intercultural relations has provided me with an incredible insight into the challenges faced by youth across the Asia Pacific. I’m incredibly passionate about advancing diversity at all levels of leadership, and hope that through our work we can encourage young Australians to actively engage with the Asia Pacific and to adopt cross cultural leadership skills. Young people are incredibly resourceful and innovative. We continue to prove that we are capable of mobilising our local communities to engage in intercultural dialogue, and hopefully advance relations for our generation’s leaders in a projected Asian Century.

Last updated:
21 June 2017