SG Sandev Ferdinando welcomes delegates to THIMUN Qatar 2018

SG Sandev Ferdinando welcomes delegates to THIMUN Qatar 2018

Over the past few years, MUN has grown beyond the confines of an activity that simulates United Nations debate. Our generation has been the leading force behind the change in the definition of MUN to one that includes community outreach. We were able to do this because THIMUN Qatar taught an entire generation to walk and soon after run towards our goal of peace and social justice, because as an organisation, it understands that now more than ever we need to pave the way for humanity to fly.

Honourable Foreign Dignitaries, Guests, Directors, Delegates, Ladies and Gentleman,

This is what The Hague International Model United Nations Qatar is about, empowering leaders of the future, and I humbly welcome you to its 7th annual conference as the Secretary General and on behalf of the Executive Committee.

In MUN, we often overlook or undervalue our successes choosing to shine an unflattering light on the world instead. But 7 years on, I’d like to change this. To do this, we don’t have to look further than some delegates sitting in this theatre today – we have planted the seeds to change the future of Afghanistan thanks to a dedicated group of students fighting for their Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan. To do this, we look to the Sustainable Development Goals of today, where in just less than two years, a strong momentum towards gender equality has been achieved.

This movement is in part thanks to all of you present today, and for your support towards THIMUN Qatar in organising this conference themed on the Fifth Sustainable Development Goal: Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. Even though the ending of all forms of discrimination against women has not yet been achieved worldwide, we find hope in the small stories to move us in this direction. Stories such as those of a Malawian Chief who annulled 330 child marriages in a country where over 50% of girls are married before the age of 18. Stories from my home country of Sri Lanka, when the government finally said that the Time’s Up after the creation of a Women and Child Abuse Prevention Bureau.

These stories are real, these stories are human, and it’s with this in mind that a project like MUN Impact came to be. We often talk of students engaging in MUN outside of the classroom, but how do they do this? What does it look like? How can a student possibly make a difference in the world? I urge you all to go to the MUN Impact Zone, the first of its kind for this conference, and speak to students and organisations and witness first-hand what real Impact through MUN looks like.

SDG5 is such a vital goal, as we need the full participation of women if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda. The message we send to boys and girls today is that “men simply are who they are, but women have to construct who they are”. If we are to change this damaging social norm, we, men, also have to be a part of the conversation. We should not be trapped by our own masculinity. It isn’t emasculating to be champions of gender equality if we want all victims of domestic violence to stop questioning themselves “why me” ever again.

We run this conference in a background of regional political instability. We are saddened that our friends, long time debate partners, have not been able to come to this conference from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt. But do not be mistaken, though some of us have been made silent, our voices have never been louder.

When we can’t debate together physically in one room, we go to Online Model United Nations, a platform that has revolutionized the way we connect and debate. When we can’t listen to stories of impact and hope, we take our conversation to Twitter and Facebook where we can continue to be passionate advocates for the SDG’s. And when we can’t express our own opinions and fight for peace, and love, and hope, we become more united.

Everything I’ve mentioned is just a glimpse of what you can find and expect at this conference. Take the time to explore outside of your comfort zone, continue to ask questions and voice your own opinions, but most importantly, make memories that last a lifetime. Doing all of this has made my MUN journey so rewarding – so to those I’ve debated alongside with for years or to those I’m yet to meet at this conference, thank you for your support along the way. To my teachers and MUN directors, thank you for making me question the world around me, to my parents you’ve taught me a lot about compassion and perseverance; qualities which are needed in diplomacy today, and to the Executive Committee, thank you for our friendship over the years – Sanskriti for being my debate partner since day 1, Johann for your incredible sense of humour, and Aya for your need to have everything in pink – just to name a few people.

And lastly, to Mrs. Martin, as you move on from your position as the Head of THIMUN Qatar this year to seek new adventure, your presence will be greatly missed. Like so many of us, you’ve made me into a “foot soldier of the United Nations”. You are the reason I’m on this stage today. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I didn’t muster up the courage to speak to this tall lady at an MUN conferences years ago. But your vision for the future of MUN, which you’ve laid out for me on Whatsapp at 2am, tells me that we are only going to be working so much more together from now on.

And to you all I say have the “audacity of hope”, as Barak Obama said, because you can’t understand the preciousness of hope, the pricelessness of hope until hope doesn’t come. But hope only takes you so far. If we, our generation, want to create this new world, we have to be on the table and not on the menu where others dictate what our future is to be. Dare to dream bigger in the face of adversity. Dare to dream, because now more than ever, we need to pave the way for humanity to fly.

Thank you.