Students from throughout the world hone diplomacy, advocacy, and leadership skills at youth-led conference
The United Nations has been called on to recognize “the untapped potential of thousands of passionate teenagers around the world”, as more than 1,900 people from 14 countries gathered at Qatar Foundation for an international showcase of youth diplomacy and leadership.
The ninth annual THIMUN Qatar Conference, which opened today, is giving high school students from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe the opportunity to bring their voices to global conversations as they participate in simulations of 17 United Nations (UN) forums at Qatar National Convention Centre.
Organized by the THIMUN Qatar Regional Office – which comes under Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education (PUE), and was created as a joint project with the THIMUN (The Hague International Model United Nations) Foundation – the conference sees young people aged 14-18 share ideas and experiences, tackle key international issues, and represent the policies of their assigned country in scenarios that replicate committees such as the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council.
’Leaders of tomorrow’ is a phrase which is used to address high school students over and over, but why can’t we be the leaders of today?
During the opening ceremony, Hannah Kollen, President of the General Assembly at THIMUN Qatar and a Grade 12 student at the American School of Doha, read delegates her letter to the UN illustrating the changes she wants to see in the world and the role of youth in making them happen – urging others to write their own.
“We may not be policymakers, entrepreneurs, or scientists yet, but we are demanding that we be taken seriously now,” she said. “’Leaders of tomorrow’ is a phrase which is used to address high school students over and over, but why can’t we be the leaders of today?
“With this letter, I am asking the United Nations to consider the untapped potential of thousands of passionate teenagers around the world who aren’t jaded from years of seeing big changes blocked or slowed. These are the people who are willing to make sacrifices and lead their communities in small steps towards sustainability and equality.
“We are a unit dedicated to making changes within our communities that translate into global action. Whether it is through eliminating single-use plastic at school or lobbying for policies, we are your biggest source of action.”
Following the Parade of Nations, where young delegates carry the flags of nations around the world, the conference – which continues until January 24 and has the 2020 theme of Good Health and Wellbeing, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 – heard THIMUN Qatar Secretary General Tianne Pane describe it as “a platform for us to come together to incubate ideas that we can take back into our community”.
You can draw inspiration and knowledge from everywhere, because people are windows into different worlds.
“This is where you build relationships that shape future diplomats, entrepreneurs, scientists – people who see the interdisciplinary nature of everything, people at the heart of driving positive global change,” she told delegates.
“Learn from one another. You can draw inspiration and knowledge from everywhere, because people are windows into different worlds.”
In his keynote speech, author and happiness and wellbeing expert Dr. Andy Cope said: “I have spent the last 15 years of my life researching a subject called positive psychology, which is basically the signs of happiness.
“Happiness is not a thing, it has not got a shape or a form, and you can’t buy it from the supermarket. Happiness is a feeling and a mental construct, and it comes from your thinking. So what if you can change your thinking, get a different perspective, and be brave enough to think?
“Mental health is what I call mental wealth, when your happiness is bigger than you. That is what positive psychology gives you.”
The opening ceremony also heard from Frederique de Man, Chargé d'Affaires of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Qatar, Fatima El Mahdi, Head of THIMUN Qatar, and Hend Al Delaimi, a student and wellness ambassador at Qatar Academy Sidra – part of PUE – who said: “Wellbeing imposes the ability to manage emotions, behaviors, and other skills to overcome stress and anger. It is important to achieving your full potential”.
“As ambassadors of wellness, our goal is to have daily talks, weekly meetings and posts on social media, a monthly wellness council, and a wellness conference at the end of the year. This is important for several reasons: exchanging new ideas, developing our skills to help people, and knowing what to say when someone comes to you for help. I want to push this program further in Qatar to help people understand the importance and reality of mental health.
“Having wellness ambassadors as advocates to students, offering guidance and compassion to ensure students can deal with emotional issues, is very important, because everyone needs extra support when it comes to dealing with life’s challenges.”
The THIMUN Qatar conference is the largest student-run extracurricular activity in the Middle East, bringing together young people from schools across the world. Reflecting QF’s commitment to empowering and nurturing youth, and to providing platforms for global dialogue and the exchange of knowledge. It aims to inspire the world’s youth to become drivers of change on a local, regional, and international scale.