By Noor Al-rawi
Qatar Foundation continues its efforts to support sustainability, and empowering the voices of youth in conjunction with Qatar’s national vision 2030 in sustaining the development of the country and providing high standards of living for its people.
In this context, QF assures to be presented in major global events, enabling its students to thrive in a global environment and contribute to the nation’s development.
While QF believes that action is needed in preventing climate crisis; dialogue, education, and the empowerment that comes from that are catalysts for energising and mobilising the youth of every country to lead the charge for climate change
This belief is reflected in the opportunities QF provides for youth to be real change makers through engaging them on global conversations; hence giving them a seat and a voice to de-bate climate change issues facing our world and share their perspectives and actions. Furthermore, through its educational programs from school age onward, QF cultivates a sustainable mindset among students that have their eyes open to the need for sustain-ability to be everyone’s responsibility, and to be part of their everyday habits.
Qatar Foundation has stressed its commitment to advocate for the role of youth in leading climate action at the “Youth4Climate 2021 Global Conference. Being the only entity in Qatar and the region, QF recently participated in “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition”, a civil society event that brought together young climate activists from around the world, to create awareness of the need for climate action and support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As a forerunner event to the COP26 summit, QF and its entities including Doha Debates, THIMUN Qatar, Qatar Debates organised over 10 sessions to engage and connect young climate activists to debate ideas and explore how to solve local sustainability challenges.
QF’s students along with 400 young climate champions from the 193 member countries of the UN Frame-work Convention on Climate Change came together in Milan from September 28-October 2 and participated in working groups with their peers from around the world and developed concrete proposals that were presented to ministers attending the Pre-COP and COP26 global sustainability summit. By leveraging its own ecosystem to provide forums for youth to lead the conversation on climate change and sustainability on innovative, engaging platforms, QF is playing a prominent role in galvanising a new generation of thinkers and change-drivers to take the lead in ensuring the action needed to face down the greatest challenge of our times materialises.
QGBC and THIMUN Qatar participated in educators’ panel discussion
An educators’ panel discussion hosted by THIMUN Qatar, a youth driven program that is part of QF’s Pre-University Education was held on the 1st day of the conference. Panellists stressed that taking an action to fight climate change is everybody’s responsibility not just the leaders.
Meshal al-Shammari, Director of Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Qatar Green Building Council, who was speaking during the panel, emphasised that: “Sustainability is beyond solar panels and water usage”
“It’s a lifestyle, from eating habits to shopping habits to travelling patterns. If you want to make a difference, commit to something. Maybe take a pledge to reduce paper consumption for one week. For you it’s just one week, but in the larger picture, when a lot of people do this, it makes a big difference. It’s not just the role of the government, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to fight climate change. Climate change will impact each and every single one of us. And thankfully, the younger generation is very aware of this.” al-Shammari said.
Qatar Foundation International hosted a talk that looked at how to connect youth globally to empower them to act locally
During the session, panellists shared their journeys in climate change activism and how their roles impact and contribute toward this. Cynthia Bolton, Head of Gifted Edu-cation and Manager of Learning 365 at QF’s Pre-University Education, explained the role of educators in the area of climate change activism. “We support students to explore areas of the world that previously may not been explored in traditional classroom settings – for example, climbing a mountain. In doing this, we are allowing them to explore sustainability and facets of the environment.”
Oweis al-Salahi, an Education Above All Youth Advocate and a student at QF partner university Northwestern University in Qatar, believes education is the foundation in knowing how to approach issues, and that educators shouldn’t limit students to certain sub-jects. Everyone, he said, has a passion and a fire inside them, and: “We should let the youth pick what they want. The topic of climate change is linked to behaviour, and once we are aware of our social abilities and consequences, we will make better choices, which will happen from education.
“It’s crucial that the youth lead the journey of sustainability, I believe that the youth are the key factors in advocating for a sustainable long-term solutions; every member of the com-munity has a fire within them and a passion to develop their surroundings. It’s crucial that the youth have prominent roles in making sustainable changes once they are equipped with the right skills since we are the leaders of the future,” al-Salahi said. He added: “QF offers numerous opportunities that allow the youth to excel in the field of activism and advocacy. The programmes offered really inspire youth to explore their inner passions and equip young activists with relevant negotiation skills to be able to engage on global issues such as climate change. Education Above All provides an amazing platform for the youth to engage with the SDGs and provides them with the necessary tools to excel in the field of activism by focusing on Goal 4; Education which in my opinion is the foundation to empowering generations so that they can innovate solutions that contribute to world issues such as cli-mate change”
A Global Education Consultant at Qatar Foundation International, Jennifer Geist added: “An entire youth conference devoted to amplifying the work of young activists from all over the world sends a sincere message to young people everywhere that their voices, ideas, and leadership is not just wanted, but genuinely needed for real climate action and to reach the 17 Global Goals in the next 8 years. For the last ten years I have watched Qatar Foundation take a leading role in empowering young changemakers; it is evident in the language the organisation uses and the programs they create and support. As an example, Qatar Foundation International (QFI) works through local and international education systems to encourage and sponsor the exchange of ideas amongst both students and educators. We’ve worked with teachers to integrate this dialogue in Arabic language classrooms to cultivate a sense of shared responsibility as well as infinite possibility. Young people who are touched by QFI and QF have not only a sense of hope and agency that they de-serve, but also the language skills and global competencies that will fuel the action we need to cope with climate change. QFI seeks out interdisciplinary curricular projects and collaborations that reveal the diverse perspectives of a variety of stakeholders in the climate crisis. When young people are engaged in this kind of open, inquisitive, collaborative learning, they can innovate beyond the walls of the classroom or the confines of their own limited worldview. And, perhaps most importantly, QF and QFI celebrate young leaders and give them full credit for their efforts, their heart and their genius. I’ve witnessed this over and over again, and it matters”.
“Our youth already have so much passion spilling over, new thinking methods that could spread like wildfire if it’s directed in the relevant path. Stu dents today have a very different sense of community because they are living in a digital age. They have access to any information they want, so in this new generation we can see exceptional eco- activists if we as educators are giving our students the chance to engage in open dialogue and meaningful personal development that extends to the classroom and beyond to seek solutions to the various problems of the world.” “Within the framework of THIMUN Qatar, and as a proud QF programme that operates under PUE, we strive our efforts to engage our students in debates and discussions on global is-sues that they will one day face in the real world. THIMUN Qatar’s work is all about empowering the new genera-tion and instilling in them a confidence to take any challenge or issue they will encounter later in their lives”, Fatima El Mahdi, Head of THIMUN Qatar added.
QatarDebate participants at Youth4Climate addressed societal perspectives on the environment
During a debating panel titled Transforming Societal Views Towards The Environment, QatarDebate participants addressed societal perspectives on the environment.
Moza al-Hajri, a debater from Qatar, explained why she took up veganism, which to her was the single most impactful thing she could do on the personal front to help flight cli-mate change. “When we think about climate change and sustainability, we think about solar energy, plastic waste, car pollution and so forth,” she said. “We never think of the effects of our food choices.”
She highlighted that more 70 billion animals are killed for food every year, saying: “This is a huge number, and shows that humans have interfered with breeding”. This means “plant-based options are better, because every single meal matters.” al-Hajri said.
Another debater from Qatar, Sara al-Maadeed, a science enthusiast who is engaged in fighting electronic climate waste, raised the point that all industries – whether healthcare, medicine, food, or transport, are based on science, and this means environmentalism is uniquely scientific.
“So, the million-dollar question is, how can science fix a problem it creat-ed?” al-Maadeed asked the audience. She pointed out that big polluters, such as oil and pharmaceutical companies, are not going to suddenly stop operating, and the best way to make them answerable for their contribution to climate change is to legally bind them to environment research, which she said would be a small ask that directly offsets their business activities that affect the climate.
QF’s Doha Debates participated in Youth4Climate session that highlighted how effective communication is invaluable to solve even the most challenging issues including climate change
With the aim of equipping young activists with negotiation skills, Doha Debates held a better conversations workshop on the topic of Finding Common Ground: Having Better (Difficult) Conversations, hosted by Govinda Clayton, a Doha Debates Connector, and a Senior Researcher in Peace Processes at ETH Zurich.
Clayton explained that promoting sustainability requires solving some of the most complex challenges that the world faces today, which can be achieved “only through good communication and effective negotiations.”
The experiential workshop had several exercises where participants were paired to learn to negotiate one on one and then placed in larger groups to negotiate with more people.
“There is no right kind of negotiation. Sometimes forceful negotiation works, and sometimes a more empathetic approach works,” Clayton said.
THIMUN Qatar students – including students from Qatar Foundation’s Qatar Academy Doha reflected their experience participating in such global prominent event and how that gave them a seat and to share their real-world solutions to real world issues and connect with other young activists.
“We are the ones who can make a difference and be the leaders of change!! We have a large network of friends, utilising social media as our powerful tool to have our voices heard really helps. Through THIMUN Qatar, I was able to participate as a delegate in the Kyoto Youth Crime Congress as well as Youth4Climate Conference, which empowered me and nurtured my negotiation skills to communicate my climate change framework and initiatives to a wider audience. My participation at the Youth4 Climate Conference gave me a golden opportunity to connect with other youth influential activists, and understand their efforts through a global sustainability lens”, said Nathan Wijayaratne, THIMUN Qatar member and a student at Swiss International School - Grade 12.
“To be real change makers and advocates of climate action, youth should be given a seat at the table and be heard. Participating in an event like #Youth4Climate give us a voice to speak and debate with other youth to exchange of ideas on climate change. Such events clearly boosted our confidence and galvanised our interest to take the lead in taking the action needed to face down the greatest challenge of our times such as climate change. At QF schools, sustainability is an integral part of our curriculum. I am actually part of my schools eco club as well as the MUN club; and they both complement each other re-ally well. Through the eco-club, which comes out of the QGBC’s eco school programme, we work with students across the school to reuse recycle and use less waste for a better sustainable environment”, said Maryam al-Hajari, Grade 10 student at Qatar Academy Doha, Youth4Climate panellist, and QADMUN Secretary 2021-22.
“At Youth4Climate Conference, I was given the golden chance to meet young activists from all over the world who are all fighting the same issues while showcasing their environment-focused projects. I should say that being MUN member taught me communication and collaboration skills, to go beyond debating and public speaking”, said Xiangtong Liu – THIMUN Qatar member and a student at Doha College - Year 12
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