Simon Draper's March 2020 Update

For my March update, I thought I’d bring you up to speed on how Covid-19 is affecting our work at the Foundation.

Its been a month since my last update and, as we’ve seen, a month is a long time in the context of this unfolding situation. Since then, the virus has gone truly global and New Zealand has seen its first cases. On the bright side, the spread of the virus in China has slowed significantly and signs are good in other parts of Asia, showing that with the right measures it may still be possible to mitigate its worst effects. 

That’s the big picture. For us at the Foundation, with our focus on providing experiential activities in Asia, Covid-19 is, obviously, making our work more challenging. 

Our staff are working hard to minimise disruption to planned projects but the fact is many activites have had to be postponed or cancelled. 

We’ve taken a cautious approach and have decided to cancel or postpone travel even to countries that have not reporteded high numbers of Covid-19 cases. We’ve done this with the health of participants and the wider community foremost in our minds, but also because of constraints and on-the-ground dirsuptions that would mean the loss of a quality experience for participants.

Once things have returned to normal, we will pick up our tempo and try to reschedule postponed events, but for now we will continue to monitor the situation and look for ways to grow people’s knowledge of Asia by doing more domestically and through digital connections.

Once again, the impact of the virus demonstrates what an interconnected world we live in. Our work building links and understanding with Asia is a long-term one, with many strands to it. At times like these, the influence of our stakeholders is important as we continue to focus on our goal of equipping New Zealanders to thrive in Asia.

India visit

Simon with fellow New Zealand delegates, including Foundation Honorary Adviser Dr Raghupati Singhania (second from left)  and Valocity Global Founder and CEO Carmen Vicelich at the NZ High Commission in Delhi

Simon with fellow New Zealand delegates, including Foundation Honorary Adviser Dr Raghupati Singhania (second from left) and Valocity Global Founder and CEO Carmen Vicelich at the NZ High Commission function in Delhi

Last month I was in India as part of the business delegation accompanying a ministerial mission led by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade the Rt Hon Winston Peters and Minister of Trade and Export Growth Hon David Parker.

Spending time with and hearing from members of our business community, government officials and Indian business leaders was an edifying experience. Conversations with fellow delegates and those we met affirmed to me that the Foundation is on the right track and is understood and appreciated by those who know our work. The feedback I received was that in the business space, the New Zealand–India relationship needs the sort of ballast the Foundation is able to provide, particularly when an imminent FTA is unlikely.

While in India, I was asked to present on our recently published report, India and New Zealand: Our story, our future. The report, written by former High Commissioner to India Graeme Waters, describes the shared interests between the two countries, and points to the fundamental role that strong people-to-people relationships play.

 It was very well received by those in attendance, especially those in the business community who were appreciative of the fact that it showcased that, with or without government assistance, businesses are getting on with the job at hand, namely developing connections and doing business.

In India, the delegation also met with representatives from one of world’s leading IT services, consultancy and business solutions companies, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). At the meeting, the Foundation agreed to help TCS establish a regular dialogue that will bring together emerging young leaders from both countries to consider ways to strengthen the New Zealand–India relationship.

Finally, I’d like to touch upon the anniversary of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch. A lot has been said and done over the past year to ensure our Muslim community feels safer, but we cannot be complacent and must continue to stand up against discrimination. It’s been heartening to see younger people in the community take the lead in this respect, including members of the Foundation’s Leadership Network who have really stepped up to the plate. I would like to say a big thanks to those members. I’ve written more extensively on the topic in my fortnightly Stuff column, which will be published on Monday.

Noho ora mai

Simon Draper