Guest blog post by Robbie Morrison, 2017 U.S.-NZ Youth Council member.
Christchurch U.S.-NZ Youth Council chatting science, technology, health, and trade promotion with U.S. diplomat Craig Halbmaier.
The Christchurch branch of the U.S. Embassy Youth Council is always excited to engage with experts, dignitaries and officials from the United States. On Friday 14 July the Christchurch Council had the privilege of hosting a forum with Craig Halbmaier, a Political and Economic Officer at the United States Consulate General based in Auckland.
Mr Halbmaier received his Master of Arts in International Security Policy and Conflict Resolution from Columbia University. Prior to being stationed in New Zealand, he served as a Foreign Service Officer in Uganda, Burma and Kenya, providing him with a wealth of experience in international relations and immersion in different cultural environments. A natural story-teller, we were hanging off every word as Mr Halbmaier discussed his experiences working abroad on environment, science, technology, health and trade promotion issues.
I found the discussion particularly pertinent to my own personal development. I am in my final year of study at the University of Canterbury undertaking both a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Information Systems. My career aspirations are in legal advisory and reform. I joined the Youth Council because I am interested in the important bilateral relationship between the United States and New Zealand and opportunities to meet exceptional leaders like Mr. Halbmaier.
I found the forum’s comparisons on the legal and political environment of the United States, South East Asia and Africa very insightful. As a group, we considered the economic and political relationship between the United States, China and Korea in light of the 2016 U.S. election, and the effect of potential trade sanctions. Of particular interest to me, Mr Halbmaier discussed how the political systems and the legal frameworks of different countries impact the way that aid is both given and received.
We also discussed the work the United States and New Zealand governments conduct with NGO’s abroad to produce favourable outcomes for citizens of third world countries and for our relationships with these nations. Laura Murton, a council member said: “I previously only envisaged myself working in a commercial law firm but after listening to Mr. Halbmaier’s account of his role as a Foreign Service Officer and also of the groundwork that the UN does in underdeveloped, unstable countries, I’ve been giving more consideration to alternative career paths which involve making a real, lasting contribution to my country and our relationship with other nations.”
Beyond discussions of working as a Foreign Service Officer, we discussed the collaboration between the United States and New Zealand from inter-generational perspectives. As part of this, Mr Halbmaier asked our perspectives on the upcoming New Zealand general elections. As a group, we discussed our views on the environment, housing and other political issues facing young people in New Zealand. We were also able to compare our views on the youth involvement in the U.S. political elections of 2016.
It was quite a privilege to contribute our perspective on such issues. We felt it was a worthwhile way to offer a New Zealand youth perspective to the U.S. Embassy. Ultimately, we all found the event incredibly rewarding. We are all looking forward to next time.