Disclaimer: Everything there is to know about the formalities (applications, panels, fees, etc.) of the conference can be found on their website. This is more of a look back on my HPAIR journey.
I have always heard about HPAIR in social media sites, college corridors, seminars and opportunity posts but for some reason the timing to apply never seemed right. The Harvard Project for Asia and International Relation in Hong Kong 2016, however, came at the perfect time and place. It was right before law classes start and near enough for the plane fare not to be sky high expensive.
Growing up, when dreams and hopes were not pegged at the standards of reality, Harvard was the biggest of mine. Being a scholar delegate to the Harvard Project for Asia and International Relations Conference in Hong Kong is my dose of the Harvard dream. While remote from attending the actual university, the pool of delegates and speakers gave me an idea of how it must feel like to constantly be in a crowd of global changemakers- which, for the longest time, is how I think Harvard is. I thought I dream too big (and frankly, unrealistically at times) but the past week showed me otherwise- I came back from HPAIR with the stories of failures and successes deep in my thoughts and the affirmation that few dreams are too big if I set my heart into it. I say few instead of no dreams are too big as another takeaway from HPAIR is that life’s realities do play big roles in end results. It is a matter of working with what life throws at us that enables the creation of multiple great things with unexpected, unplanned and uncalled for twists and turns.
— Law school happened and writing impressions about HPAIR Hong Kong had to be postponed to almost a month after—
In a way, this delay of a month made me see which bits of the conference really stuck with me.
A month after HPAIR, I am still floored with how I was in a room with people who I thought I will only read about in the newspapers or see trend in social media. When I think HPAIR, I think a gathering of minds set on creating real and actual change in their respective fields, of individuals who are already half way through being the changes they wanna see, of made personas who have done what they want to do and are on their way to inspire others to do the same.
Side Note: When I think HPAIR and the people I have met there, I also think about a bunch of people who party to the wee hours of morning and wake up for 8 am socials as if they had 8 hours of sleep. So, no. If you were thinking that this conference was a meeting of the geeks and nerds that old Hollywood portrays able people to be, I hope this note makes you think otherwise. (Although the bits on suits and dresses might be right on point.)
When I think HPAIR, I think about how perfect Panel Topic # 1 of the Humanitarian Affairs Track was for me. It felt like the panel on Asia’s Refugee Crisis was tailor fit to what I wanted to get in an international conference. The panel was composed of the following: Mr. Adnan Tarabishy, co-founder of TAALIM, a non-profit organization that aims to expand access to education and learning opportunities in Syria; Ms. Meimei Leung, Regional Head of Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs for World Visions; Ms Piya Muqit, Executive Directot of Justice Centre Hong Kong; Prof. Yasunobu Sato, Professor of the University of Tokyo and Mr. Yiombi Thona, Deputy Officer of Asia Pacific Refugees Network.
I appreciate the fact that they discussed their views on the crisis not in accordance with each other but on how they see it. Mr. Yiombi, specifically, was very vocal about his views on the role of the state in providing a community of inclusion for those who seek refuge. He was particular in calling out the countries he believes are in better positions to create programs that are specifically oriented for refugees/assylum seekers/displaced individuals to lead a sustainble life. He shared with the Humanitarian Affairs Track how he, as a refugee to South Korea, had to wait for 6 years before he was given refugee status. In that span of 6 years, he could not work and was very much unsettled with what is in store for him in a country he does not have any idea about. It toook time, he said, but eventually, with the help of some human rights activists, they were able to make their voices heard on their stand on the recognition and protection of refugees.
In response to the narrative of Mr. Yiombi, Prof. Sato was quick to acknowledge that there really is more that countries can do in light of the refugee crisis however, as many policies of global nature goes, it will take time and relatively more effort as there are more parties to the matter than just the state and its citizens.
A few months after the conference and the particular discussion, I still ask how is it possible for countries who are struggling domestically to include in their policies and major considerations the plight of refugees. I still wonder how we can establish a standard of refugee protection and accomdation for everyone despite the economically unequal footing of states all over the world. When I think HPAIR, I think of this unanswered question and I bring with me the hopes that there comes the day when the fight that the panel speakers are battling out and the hopes that I have come to a conclusion of standard sustainability.
Before when I thought HPAIR, I think an opportunity to grow as an advocate, to learn as a student and to network as a young professional. After being a delegate, that belief system was reinforced in so many ways, some in ways I did not expect.