Posted on January 20, 2020

When more than 1,900 young people from Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East gather in Doha next week to share ideas, experiences, and perspectives, they will do so in a setting that mirrors one of the world’s great platforms for diplomacy and dialogue.

Through the annual THIMUN Qatar conference, school students from Qatar and across the world play their part in a simulation of the United Nations, taking on the roles of diplomats representing a nation or NGO and putting their critical thinking and communication skills to the test to represent policies and tackle some of the world’s greatest issues. The conference is organized by the THIMUN Qatar Regional Office – a joint project between Qatar Academy Doha, part of Qatar Foundation’s Pre-University Education, and the THIMUN (The Hague Model United Nations) Foundation. And, more impressively, it’s organized entirely by school students, as they balance lessons, homework, and interests with putting together a snapshot of the world of diplomacy in action.

Ahead of the eighth edition of the event, which takes place at Qatar National Convention Centre from January 21-24 and will welcome students and presenters from 14 countries, Khadija Elmagarmid – a Grade 12 student at Qatar Academy Doha, and THIMUN Qatar’s deputy head of administration – explained the challenges involved in making it happen. “The most important is finding the ideal balance between schoolwork and conference duties,” she said. “However, as part of being a student in an International Baccalaureate school like Qatar Academy Doha, we are taught important skills to ensure we can address these challenges when we are faced with them. “The THIMUN Qatar conference promotes student leadership and youth contributions to society, and works toward ensuring the voice of youth is heard in the community. This is something I believe is essential for all students to develop and work on.”

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THIMUN Qatar participants research a country, assume a diplomatic role, investigate international issues, debate and consult on them, and develop solutions to problems facing the world. From research, policy analysis, and conflict resolution to public speaking, listening, and negotiation, the range of skills they have to deploy during the conference is extensive. Sessions reflect the format of UN committees – including its General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, and Human Rights Commission – and this year’s agenda will also include a special committee on Good Health and Wellbeing, THIMUN Qatar’s theme for 2020.

“I realized I wanted to help in organizing THIMUN Qatar after I attended my first conference in Grade 7,” says Khadija. “As the years went on, it became a place where I felt I could make a change within my community. “Many people don’t realize the important role of admins in organizing this conference, but, as some say, the admin team is the backbone of THIMUN Qatar. And it helps with my personal development – I aspire to become a doctor, and with this career comes much emphasis on communication and advocacy. “Being part of THIMUN Qatar has allowed me to develop those skills and ensure my voice will be heard.”

Hanan Kollen, a Grade 12 student at the American School of Doha, is the President of the General Assembly at THIMUN Qatar, and points to teamwork as the key to the conference’s success. “The THIMUN team has amazing, supportive people who are always willing to help each other out,” she said. “If one person has time to spare, they will always offer to help others finish things. But the work is fun, so it’s not as hard to get it done. “Balancing the work is challenging, but manageable – it just requires motivation, and the ability to organize your time.”

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According to Hanan, THIMUN Qatar gives those involved in it something extra. “I love organizing events and I take on leadership roles in many organizations, but THIMUN was particularly special because I’m so passionate about the Model United Nations concept,” she explained. “I saw how other teams always managed to put their own spin on the conference and do unique things, and I wanted to be able to do the same. I was particularly struck by the increasing focus on service and student leadership, and I wanted to be able to introduce new ideas to help promote this. And I also wanted to push people out of their comfort zone when it comes to service. Being involved with THIMUN has allowed me to do that.”

At THIMUN Qatar, students who are looking to develop their media skills can also act as a press corps, including running social media channels and producing a daily newspaper. Among them is Hind Al Thani, a Qatar Academy Doha Grade 11 student and THIMUN Qatar’s Head of Press, says: “Balancing my schoolwork, personal life, and my team started off being very difficult, but I adapted – I just had to divide my time rationally and stick to my priorities. “There are many challenges in running a team and managing the workload, but myself and the deputy head of press, Nowair Al Tamimi, manage to run it successfully. And it’s made me realize many things about myself – the strong voice that lives within me, and my leadership skills.”

So has it inspired her to want to work for the UN itself? “I would love to have a role there some day,” she says, “as the THIMUN team have truly shown me the leader I can become.”

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