Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015

It was just to test my limits and to share my opinion about the topics asked from the site (those were my goals) and I couldn’t believe I passed Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015 because I was content already knowing I passed Phase 1 and what made the chances thinner was the very choppy interview online. Still I became one of the delegates representing Philippines under the Human Rights Panel.

What made so excited was because Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations creates a forum of exchange and facilitates discussion of the most important economic, political, and social issues relevant to the Asia-Pacific region. Since 1991, the annual HPAIR conferences have brought together students from the world’s foremost universities and leaders in the fields of government, business, culture, and academia. Each year, the team organizes two legs for HPAIR: the Harvard Conference in Boston and the Asian conference.

It’s been 21 years since Harvard Project in Asian and International Relations came back to Philippines and it is such a humbling at the same time a challenging experience to be part of history being one of the 20% who are Filipinos. During the length of the event we were exposed in different business plenaries, workshops, panel discussions, case studies and also had a career fair. The speakers were leaders coming from different countries speaking for varied fields. Aside for the human rights, I got to pass other seminars: entrepreneurship, Asean Identity and Diplomacy and Women in the corporate setting.

After the opening program, I made friends with people who are in the Human Rights Panel. They are amazing leaders from different countries and one of them was Alicia Lo despite her disability she was able to come here in the Philippines with her  very supportive mother. Alicia is currently studying in London and she was one of the best people I met in the conference.

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Instant friends because of Human Rights! From the left; Alicia Lo from London, Kelly Wong from Hong Kong, Yusun Lee from South Korea, Camila Alvirado from Peru, Therese Dela Pena from UP Diliman-Manila, and me

Human Rights Panel
The highlight of my experience was being in the Human Rights Panel sessions which later on upgraded into a family. The main goal of the Human Rights family was to evolve solutions for Human Rights in Asia. The organizers brought together practitioners from regional governments, businesses, non-profit organizations and civil society groups to discuss challenges to and innovations in combating human rights issues in Asia. Most importantly, the panel connected and fostered the next generation of human rights leaders in Asia and beyond.
Our moderator was Caitlyn Ryan who is a Master of Public Policy candidate at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government with her assistant, Montita Sowapark. It was amazing to meet my other halves- Human rights advocates and discussed pressing issues in Asia-Pacific region and thus, worked with them during our case studies. As a Spark! Fellow, I was able to relay the activities and advocacies of the organization as well – promoting Spark! Ph to the other nationalities.
Here is the summary of my experience:
Day 1 : Modern- Day Slavery: The Many Faces of Human Trafficking
Today, there are more slaves in the world than ever in human history. An estimated 20 to 30 million people are forced to work against their will, often without compensation and in dismal conditions. Human trafficking takes many forms – forced labor, sex trafficking, forced child labor, child soldiers, child sex tourism, involuntary domestic servitude, debt bondage – and survivors of the crime can be found in every country in the world. We will look at the different forms in which human trafficking is manifested in Asian countries, and the innovative efforts being taken to combat this grave human rights violation.

Nieves Confesor – Chair, Panel of Declaration Expert-Advisers to the International Labor Organization
Natalie Jesionka –
Founder, PRIZM Project and Member of Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA
Sam Inocencio, – Field Office Director, International Justice Mission Philippines

I got the chance to asked our panelists questions and also related with my mates under the panel. They were amazing and it felt amazing too to be with them in the same room. The forum started with a brave soul from Dela Salle and I asked after with a lot of questions and that started the fire in the room ; everyone became brave enough to share the cases in their country and how to solve them.

Day 2 : Dangerous Speech
Access to speech expression are highly restricted by many governments in Asia. This panel will look at how innovations in technology, media, and communication have allowed individuals and groups to catalyze dialogue regarding controversial issues and enact socio-political change.
Pinkaew Laungaramsri – Assistant Professor, Chiang Mai University
Sam Gregory – Program Director, WITNESS
T. Kumar – International Advocacy Director, Amnesty International Asia
Ravi Agrawal – New Delhi Bureau Chief, CNN International

Problably very informative and helpful. Even though I was late I got the chance to listen to the panelists who are activists in their fields and also heard the other youth leaders talk about their stories about this freedom of speech each country must have.

Day 3 : Bending Tradition: The fight for LGBTQI Rights
As Asia continues to develop and democratize, traditional values are often coming into conflict with growing LGBTQI and feminist communities. This panel will explore the current obstacles faced by the LGBTQI communities in many Asian societies and the ways in which these communities and allies are finding solidarity, subverting traditional norms of gender and sexuality, and demanding access to equality.
Cristina Cristobal – Proj. Coordinator, Asia-Pacific International Gay and Human Rights Commission
Joanne Leung – Chairperson, Transperson Research Center Hong Kong
Jennifer HsinChieh Lu – Director, Tongzhi Rexian
Popo Fan – Independent Filmmaker and Director, China Queer Film Festival Tour

THE MOST EMOTIONAL PART OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS PANEL! Everyone was touched by their stories and felt the panelist passion in their struggle for their advocacy. What surprised me was after the forum everyone slowly confessed their true identity. Some shared it was the very first time they shared it to someone and that made me feel so honored that hugged  her so tight.

Day 4 : Case Study presentation and Competition
Our team was composed of a practicing Human Rights lawyer from New Zealand, a student of medicine in Pakistan and two activists from Hong Kong. We were tasked to have a solution for Nepal’s Forced Child Labor in the carpet industry and won the second place.

HPAIR International Night

It was included in the e-mail sent to us and I had this crazy idea to promote Cebu in the international conference and my friends who passed HPAIR as well agreed. Only three of us from Cebu got in, namely; RJ Diana and Seane Aljas they are both from University of San Carlos. It was a nice joke at first and then they realized I wasn’t joking at all. Even though it ‘s a crazy idea well it was a crazy idea that will help promote Cebu and ofcourse, let us show the world how proud Cebuanos we three are.

We had a slot even without any audition tapes because of my strong-worded e-mail I sent. It was one way for us to focus more in our other activities because each of has had responsibilities with our organization so we had no time to practice at all. I was so glad the organizing team agreed to my proposal.

That was one crazy idea I am so proud of! That one in a lifetime opportunity turned into reality.

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The three of us during our performance. Photo courtesy: Ivan Zamorano
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Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations 2015

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