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9 November 2019

Amplifying the voice of youth

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Three of the biggest issues of our time have been tackled by young leaders at the second Doha Forum Youth Edition

Hundreds of young people have gathered at Qatar Foundation to participate in discussions about three key issues confronting the world – climate change, education in conflict zones, and uprooting radicalism – at the second Doha Forum Youth Edition.

Organized through a collaboration between Doha Forum and Qatar Foundation, and held at the Minaretein building (College of Islamic Studies) at Education City, the event centered on dialogue, diplomacy, and diversity, and gave young people from Qatar and beyond the chance to lend their voice to key global conversations.

Designed to nurture leadership and advocacy skills among youth and highlight the importance of education in tackling the world’s greatest challenges, the Doha Forum Youth Edition was attended by guests including Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, His Excellency Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali, Minister of Culture and Sports, His Excellency Sheikh Thani bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

Her Excellency Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, Vice Chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, attended the Doha Forum Youth Edition.

Speaking at the event, Wickramanayake told the audience: “Education is a birthright. 262 million young people between the ages of six and 17 are not in school, and over 60 million can’t get an education because they live in conflict zones.”

In his speech, His Excellency the Minister of Culture of Sports told attendees that the “individuals, not institutions” have brought about history’s greatest changes, saying: “When we talk about true and great paradigm shifts; those are experienced within me, you, him and her.”

Muzoon Almellehan spoke of how personal identity is “not a privilege, but a right”.

His Excellency Salah bin Ghanem Al Ali, Minister of Culture and Sports, delivering his speech.

Panel debates were steered by youth leaders in a range of fields, including activist Muzoon Almellehan, the youngest Goodwill Ambassador to UNICEF; Rümeysa Kadak, member of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey; and Shoaib Rahim, former Acting Mayor of Kabul and senior advisor to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Peace.

Education can play an important role in battling climate change. People have to have a personal connection to the issue and know that everyone can contribute to fighting the problem.

Mohammed Al-Housani

The climate change panel featured sustainable energy activist and researcher Mohammed Al-Housani; Abdalla Al Suwaidi, Chairman of Elite Paper Recycling; and Dina Al Tarawneh, co-founder of Green Mangroves, with issues tackled including recycling, conservation, and the problem of plastic waste.

“Education can play an important role in battling climate change,” said Al-Housani. “People have to have a personal connection to the issue and know that everyone can contribute to fighting the problem. We need to use our resources to research new technologies to conserve our existing resources.”

Shoaib Rahim, former acting mayor of Kabul and senior advisor to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Peace, was interviewed during the event.

Between the first and second panel discussions, Rahim was interviewed by Nelufar Hedayet, a correspondent for Qatar Foundation production Doha Debates, and said of his Afghan homeland: “As a country, we are a very young population.

“We are trying to recruit young people into the government to make it more responsive to their needs. We have a very critical constituency who use social media to criticize us if we are not providing the services they need.

“We had a ceasefire that nobody said was possible on the Eid holiday. It changed the air in the city and had a profound effect on the people. It gave us hope that peace is possible.”

Education in conflict zones can help children learn about different cultures, respect them and coexist with them.

Muzoon Almellehan

Rahim and Almellehan joined the second panel discussion, which addressed education politics in conflict zones, together with Arwa Elsanosi, a Master’s student in humanitarian action. “I realized the importance of education the moment I had to leave my country,” said Almellehan, who is from Syria.

“When I left my country, I left everything behind, but the only thing I kept was my education. Personal identity is not a privilege, but a right recognized by international law. Education in conflict zones can help children learn about different cultures, respect them and coexist with them.”

The third panel focused on radicalization and how education can prevent it, with contributions from Kadak, Rahim, and Khansa Maria, a disability rights activist. “Education is the biggest challenge a government faces during an ongoing conflict,” said Rahim.

“The conflict in Afghanistan is the biggest impediment we face. We can build schools, hire teachers but we don’t have the bandwidth to address the substance of education and whether we are doing the best service to students.”

The event is a precursor to the annual Doha Forum, a two-day forum that will gather global leaders for constructive dialogue, and will be held in Doha on 14-15 December.

Her Excellency Lolwah Al Khater, Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Executive Director of Doha Forum commented, “I am delighted at the success of this year’s second Doha Forum Youth Edition. “Providing a dedicated youth platform and opportunity to engage and debate on high profile topics such as climate change, it is clear to see just how much the youth of today have to contribute to thought leadership, while engaging in the culture of diplomacy, dialogue and diversity. It is with great anticipation that we now await this year’s Doha Forum in December.”

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The Doha Forum Youth Edition saw young leaders tackle issues surrounding climate change, education in conflict zones, and how education can prevent radicalization.

Mayan Zebeib, Chief Communications Officer, Qatar Foundation, said: “Through the Doha Forum Youth Edition, young people have applied their perspectives, their experiences, and their passion to some of the most important topics affecting and influencing our world today – topics through which the common thread of education runs.

“From opening the eyes of youth to the importance of sustainability and how they can take ownership of it, to bringing hope amid conflict and turmoil and steering young people away from the risk of radicalization, education is where we find the roots and creators of the solutions to our world’s greatest challenges. It is what stands between an optimistic future and an uncertain one.

“The Doha Forum Youth Edition has demonstrated the depth of awareness of global issues among our youth, their determination to have their say on how their world will evolve and unfold, and their recognition of what education means not just to them, but to all of humanity.”

The Doha Forum Youth Edition was established last year as an initiative to enhance the participation and debating skills of youth on global issues by providing them with a platform to voice their opinions.

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