MUN Conferences in the Time of Blockades

There is probably not an MUN program or conference in the GCC region that has not felt the bite of the blockade currently in place against Qatar. I will leave it to future delegate-diplomats to sort through the chaos and find solutions to an events such as these. But for the poor-suffering conference manager trying to keep a chaotic situation from blowing a hole in their conference preparations? Well, here’s a breif recap of the challenges we are facing.

Before I share this, let’s just reflect on the fact that the MUN community is that, A COMMUNITY. As Model United Nations has grown in the region, many of us have worked together, closely together, to support our students in this meaningful academic simulation.  Conferences have been started, student leadership developed, increasing numbers of schools participating in MUN, and more and more teachers receiving Best Delegate training.  Quality of debate has gone up, student initiatives around MUN have gone up, and the prestige of the program in many schools has become an important and driving force in the life of many students.  And many of us have worked very hard for many years to get us to this point.

The blockade has impacted every country with MUN programs and it’s a two way street.

  • Schools cannot travel to Doha for THIMUN Qatar. We lost over 20 schools due to travel restrictions.
  • Airfare in the region has become prohibitively expensive. Schools in Oman got priced out due to airfare costs. They were not alone.
  • Conferences in Bahrain and Dubai, having slowly built up their international clientele for years, found THAT crippled due to Qatar programs not being able to participate in their events.
  • And then there’s Egypt…and Jordan….

And it’s not just conference attendance. This also affects the leadership development of student officers and executives. A skilled student officer can chair at multiple conference, and these experiences help prepare them for leadership roles back at their schools. THIMUN Middle East conferences  are driven by unparalleled student control and leadership. Delegates are not able to debate, but student leaders aren’t able to lead.  The first is bad; the second is unconscionable.

To all my fellow MUN Directors and conference organizers, delegates and students out there, all I can say is ‘hang tough’. This too shall pass. Stand strong in the face of adversity. Schools and Administrations grappling with struggling regional conferences and attendance? Show your MUN programs some love! Your support and a willingness to be flexible will make all the difference in the world to the programs that we all know and love. The MUN community in the GCC region thanks you for that!

And until we can see you in person, THIMUN Qatar sends our love!  We missed you, and we hope next year will be different.

And with that, we now yield the floor to the diplomats in the region. The floor is open.  You may begin….

Shaping Tomorrow: THIMUN celebrates 50 years with anniversary book

Visitors to the THIMUN Hague 50th anniversary conference were in for a special treat: a wonderful book celebrating 50 years of student debate and MUN action, spanning 1968 to the very recent. The book highlighted stories from former delegates, MUN Directors, and individuals who have shaped the organization over its illustrious history.

The book was co-authored by two individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to the THIMUN Foundation, David Williams, former chairman of the THIMUN Foundation, and Reinhardt Smit, former THIMUN Conference Manager. Together they clocked in hundreds of hours, sorting through old photos, newspaper clippings and reconnecting with dozens of individuals who have shaped the organization over the past 50 years.

Special highlights include a forward by HRH Princess Mabel van Oranje and special message from the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake. THIMUN Qatar related stories were submitted by THIMUN Qatar’s founder, Cameron Janzen, SG and DSG for THIMUN Qatar 2018, Sandev Ferdinando and Sanskriti Tandon, TQ/O-MUN leader Kabir Sethi, and the HELA story by Rahmatullah Hamdard.

You can still purchase Shaping Tomorrow:50 years of inspiring youth.See this link to order. A worthwhile trip down memory lane and a book that should have a place of pride on any THIMUN enthusiast’s bookshelf!

 

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.

DSG Sanskriti Tandon Closes out THIMUN Qatar 2018

Honored guests, chairs, delegates, ladies and gentlemen, and mom, my name is Sanskriti Tandon and it is an honor to welcome you to the closing ceremony of my very last high school MUN conference.

A Russian painter once said that everything starts with a dot. Similarly, our stories start with a dot. A small gesture towards a person can make a friend for a life. The smallest compliment can make someone’s day. A small step into a committee as a delegate can turn into a life changing experience as I hope it did for most of you. The history of the human race and the challenges we have faced all together, only goes to show our resilience and our ability to take one small dot, and turn it into a painting.

Despite this however we are not humans. Or at least not yet. We were all humans until race disconnected us, religion separated us, politics divided us, and wealth classified us. In a world claiming to be united, we are unconsciously putting up barriers, unrealistic expectations and a sense of detachment from those around us.

I consider myself to be a fairly average person. I constantly think ‘if I can do this, so can everyone else’. Growing up in India I had very little exposure to the English language. As a 4 year old, my mom tried to teach me the alphabets so I could get accepted into kindergarten. Although I wasn’t fluent in English, my very first sentence in English was ‘I love you’. I didn’t know what it meant but it seemed natural to say it to my grandmother right before she dropped me on the school bus. But today I wonder, if a 4 year old could muster enough love and care at such an early age, why can’t we? Why is it that as we get older, our sense of compassion diminishes?

As an 18 year old standing in front of you today, I never thought I would have the opportunity but more importantly, I never thought I would have the confidence to speak in front of the 30 delegates in my committee at my very first conference.

However, imagine if we lived in early 1900s. I would not stand here today. Nor would any female in this room. Or any female in the world for that matter. Although it is minor, this conference stands as a testament that the scar of gender inequality is healing. But we can do so much more. We are fortunate in our seats of privilege hence it is why we should do something. Be it taking an initiative to make a refugee feel more welcomed, be it helping to sustain the lives of the elderly in your community or be it as simple as educating a child.

But is not a journey you can take alone and neither did I. For this I want to thank my parents for being the pillars on which I stand here today. Your guidance, vision and endless criticism has never failed to push me past my next hurdles. Thank you to the THIMUN Office for giving me these opportunities to become a different person. To my executive team. Seo Hee, my kimchi and korean BBQ dealer, Juntae to be honest you looked better in that man bun, Aya I wish we got those pink executive badges. Zoe you’re the only person I have been on 2 executive team with and it’s been a pleasure both times. Johann my respect for you went down exponentially this conference but you can’t hate on the Bambino’s. Umm where’s Jeeve? And Sandev for being my day one since debate one. I also want to thank Sanju, Acacia, Sara Ibrahim and Grace for constantly being my support system. And before I forget, Yara, you are still the butter to my chicken.

I know the theme we set for this conference was gender equality but really, there’s only one word in there that you should focus on. If we forget gender, forget race, socioeconomic backgrounds, what do we have left? Equality. But even in a perfect world, we’re all going to have our differences. But those differences can become one of our similarities. Religion, wealth, political structures, these aren’t the problems. The problem is us. We blindly follow in the paths of the generations before us. We blindly put up walls to those who are different to us. Have you ever asked yourself why? Why do you not like that girl just because she has a different skin color? Why do you not like her because she has a different belief?

So I want to leave you with this. The sustainable development goals are just the colors. Gender equality is just a dot. This is what we need to use to create our own painting. Because ultimately, that dot can only ever become a Michelangelo piece if we – each and every individual – moves the brush to create the masterpiece our world can be.

 

MUNImpact: HELA Night

MUNImpact: HELA Night 
Natali Al Jundy

“We need to work today to shape tomorrow; if we do not work today, we will not be able to shape tomorrow.” says Sulaiman Sulaimankhil, co-founder and deputy CEO of HELA.

When asked how MUN has impacted HELA’s growth over the years, both Sulaiman and Sana Dawari, the program’s manager, agreed that as they worked towards broadening their impact and focusing on SDG5, MUN enabled them to “create a new vision for Afghan youth”. Through that, they have been able to empower women, which they believe will allow them to shape a better future for the country. Dawari added that MUN has allowed the younger participants to gain the “maturity and responsibility to speak and realize the power of words”. Furthermore, Sulaimankhil stresses how vital MUN has been in inspiring willing participants and make a difference. He says, “this has enabled HELA to encourage their audience to start their own initiatives and, in Gandhi’s words, “be the change they want to see in the world”.

Moreover, when prompted about HELA night, which occured on the 22nd of January in the American School of Doha, both Sulaimankhil and Dawari emphasized how grateful they were for ASD MUN’s executive team, including the hosts, Neil Udassi and Nada Haddad.

Lastly, they reiterated how shocked they were that HELA was well-known in Doha. Dawari ended the interview by talking about how the support and kindness of the audience surprised them, making them feel valued, motivating them to work as hard as they do in order to make a real difference in their country and in the world.

Qatar Under Siege

Qatar Under Siege
Faiq Raedaya

On the decisive day of June 5, 2017, a blockade of the air, land and sea was imposed on Qatar by neighboring Arab countries. Relations were severed, ambassadors withdrawn, and bans on trade and travel were imposed. Despite widespread panic amongst the general public, the Qatari government has maintained an atmosphere of safety and stability in the country.

Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the initial announcements by rejecting the accusations made against it as they had “no legitimate justification”, as well as viewing the blockade itself as a “violation of its sovereignty”.

Despite the detachment of relations by 13 countries, there are 89 diplomatic missions operating in Qatar.

Cooperation is perhaps the most prominent with Turkey, who has continuously provided diplomatic and food support. Trade relations between the two countries have witnessed rapid development in recent years. Qatar has signed agreements to export LNG, while several Turkish construction companies have agreements with the Qatari government.

In addition to Turkey, the Emir of Kuwait has been an active mediator in the crisis, travelling between capitals in an attempt to bridge the countries together. Political analysts believe that any escalation of the conflict could be detrimental to the future of the GCC.

On 27 July 2017, Qatari foreign minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain were showing “stubbornness” to Qatar and had not taken any steps to solve the crisis. Al Thani added that the Security Council, the General Assembly and “all the United Nations mechanisms” could play roles in resolving the situation.

The Price of Naivety

The Price of Naivety
Nafilah Khan

Rotting in a four-by-four cell for over three years gives one a lot to think about. Whether for an actual criminal, or one who was simply framed, a life sentence in prison ultimately means hell.

So how did I end up in this murky, abominable place? It was all because of one devious soul.

My sister looked up to me. But unfortunately for Matilda, I’m here now, deteriorating in this horrific place for a crime I never committed. Apparently, I’d pilfered an unaccountable sum. Overnight. But it wasn’t me. It was that disgrace to humanity, Marcus. He set my name up for embezzlement when he himself laundered only God knows how many million dollars.

Once I had gone, Marcus wasted no time taking my place. Unfortunately for us, my grandfather was sick and in need of aid but we could not afford a ticket back home for my dear, naïve mother to reach out to help from the family. She was so desperate to leave, she would’ve travelled a thousand miles by sea, but Marcus came to the rescue, ‘gifting’ her with a plane ticket. No one’s heard from her in two years.

That’s not all.

Matilda had a best friend, one who loved her so much that she was willing to die for her. Seemingly, she did die, too many spiked drinks causing a drug overdose.  Marcus held a funeral for her. She’s not even dead. In fact, she doesn’t even drink, nor has she ever. She was threatened for her life if she didn’t give up her existence in Matilda’s life within moments of being told to do so.

My sister became all alone, and he was the only one there to console her. All her loved ones had abandoned her, I myself being forced in doing so, and he found it the perfect opportunity to strike my fragile dear sister. Despite how pathetic he felt, he assuaged her. Being too helpless to do anything else for my sister, I can only pray that Marcus has changed his ways and didn’t abandon her. Of course, he could leave her, but he won’t, because he’s desperate for someone to care for him, even if under a false image- because nobody can love his true, hypocritical soul.

How do I know all this? He was so proud to tell me of his deeds. And I know that, unlike me, Matilda will refuse to believe that Marcus is not who he appears to be, because he is the only person she has.

Perhaps it is best that she never knows that her husband is the conspirator behind the disappearances of her actual loved ones. He is a fraud. If I could, I would murder him without mercy, regardless of the fact that it would make me a real criminal.

Almost a Whole New World

Almost A Whole New World
Zoya Salahuddin

THIMUN-Q is a conference known to bring together a plethora of opinions from all around the world, coming from various ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds. As many students come to Qatar to engage in invigorating debate sessions, they are given the opportunity to experience a foreign culture, which may propose significant differences from their own.

Qatari culture is often praised for its versatility; many aspects of the locals’ way of life are incredibly unique in their own way, yet not too surreal. Many international delegates commented on how Qatari landmarks were adorned with many culturally specific designs, yet were familiar to the Western eye. The strong influences of traditional bedouin culture on the design and structure of landmark areas, such as Katara, truly depict the stunning beauty of Qatar to tourists (or MUN delegates!).

International delegates also were given to opportunity to attend cultural events and completely indulge themselves in the Qatari experience, venturing deep into the heart of the culture – Qatari food! A delegate remarked that her favourite meal had changed from pizza to machboos immediately after her first bite – evidently, Qatari culture succeeds at making its way to people’s hearts through their stomachs.

A truly appreciable quality of international conferences like THIMUN-Q is the inclusive nature of their sessions – every opinion, from every individual is valued and thoroughly considered, making THIMUN-Q a monumental event treasured deeply by hundreds. To delegates from Qatar, or from anywhere else around the world: I hope you will all leave this conference inspired and fueled up for change. The future is ours!

The Threat Behind the Screen

The Threat Behind the Screen
Nafilah Khan

The growth of technology – is it really as a good as the world makes it seem?

On your one Saturday off from work, you decide to stay home and spend your day scrolling through (and shopping from) various online websites. Quite a relatable scenario, don’t you think?
The next day you open up your bank account only to find out that all of your hard work’s savings have vanished into thin air.

This practice is known as cybercrime. Cybercrime is literally what the word suggests: the usage of the internet to commit crime.

To be brutally honest, it is a far too common occurrence. According to Cybint Solutions, a hackers attack occurs every 39 seconds.

If matters get any more out of hand than they already are, technological development and increased dependency on the use of technology to go about with daily life will have done anything but prevent this crimes from taking place.

A notorious example of a cybercrime that took place in Qatar was the hacking of the Qatar News Agency in mid-2017 which sparked the ongoing rift between Qatar and its neighbors.

Despite the leaked information being recovered soon after the hacking, A hideous stain remains between Qatar and its neighbors, making us wonder whether the relations between the countries will ever be the same again.

One can only hope that the future is in favour of us. But until then remain safe online, as you may have your very own hacker waiting to make their move…