High school students from nine countries gathered at the Qatar National Convention Centre recently to engage in mock international negotiations as a part of the Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) Model United Nations (MUN). The event, now in its 13th year, is the longest-running international MUN conference in Qatar.
The MUN brought together young delegates from 33 local and 11 international schools to take on diplomatic roles in a simulated version of real life United Nations negotiations. Under this year’s theme, ‘Redefining the role of the individual in the information revolution’, participants represented their assigned countries in complex discussions to reach consensus on key global issues.
While the topics discussed can result in heated debates between parties with opposing views and beliefs, the conference encourages participants to engage in debates respectfully to enhance their inter-cultural understanding. The delegates this year hailed from a diverse range of countries, including South Africa, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Turkey, and Oman.
“MUN is a tool that fosters growth and personal development in youth, allowing these future leaders to devise creative solutions to global problems and expand their understanding of the world,” said MUN Secretary-General Nayab Rana. “These conferences are not just simply events, but rather are experiences for students to actually apply what they have learnt in the classroom and go beyond what they have just read in their textbooks.”
This year’s event featured a keynote speech by Clayton Swisher, a Georgetown University alumnus and director of investigative journalism for Al Jazeera Media Network. Swisher, whose 11 years with the network have resulted in some of its biggest scoops, shared words of inspiration ahead of three days of intense negotiations for the delegates.
The subjects under discussion were devised by the student-run MUN board, which comprises experienced GU-Q students who have been involved in previous MUN events. Topics this year included diverse subjects such as counter-terrorism efforts, the blockade on Qatar, climate change, privacy in the digital age, and modern border disputes.
“The theme for this year urged delegates to challenge the status quo in a constructive manner and become more active citizens of the world,” explained Rana. “We wanted them to push the boundaries that they feel they are limited by and understand that they are the ones who can make the difference.”
The event was the culmination of months of training and preparation by delegates and advisers. Before they could participate in the MUN conference, high school students needed to attend three rounds of intensive training to boost their negotiation skills. These sessions also helped GU-Q students gain experience chairing discussions, in order to obtain the proficiency needed to perform their roles in the main MUN event.