Last weekend, for the first time ever, Afghan youth participated in a Model UN conference alongside 1500 of their international peers representing over 70 different countries – all the way in Doha, Qatar.
The event focused on the Middle East and North Africa and was hosted by THIMUN Qatar. Skateistan Youth Leaders Sulaiman, Rahmat, Madina, and Mursal were joined by their friend Samir as the very first Afghan representatives at an international Model UN conference in known history. The group spent more than two months preparing from Kabul using the Online Model UN program designed by Lisa Martin, head of THIMUN Qatar. The group received online tutoring and support form their peers around the globe through the THIMUN Qatar Afghanistan Initiative, specially organized to ensure the Afghan youth would have the support they needed to participate in their first Model UN. They represented the small African nation of Djibouti, and each student presented on a specific set of issues concerning the country. They then had to present their solutions to the issues and lobby their peers for support – a microcosm of the process that takes place in the offices of the actual United Nations.
The Afghan delegation spoke passionately about their assigned issues, each to a room of 100 youth from around the globe, and were met with sincere interest and respect by their peers. We hope that the people of Djibouti would be proud! We've saved some exerpts from their speeches and resolutions below:
Regarding Child Labour:
“The United Nations Development Program and Djibouti’s government together must invest money into the welfare of the children of Djibouti. The investment must be in the following two major focus areas:
Firstly, education - to make schools and educational facilities accessible to all the children of Djibouti.
Second, releasing children from the harsh conditions of work, and instead recruiting and training older youth and able-bodied experienced elders as their workforce.”
“The preamble of the draft constitution should guarantee the universality of human rights for all people, regardless of their citizenship status or religious beliefs. The fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the constitution must include: the right to equality, freedom of expression (including media freedom), the right of access to information, and the right for people to organize and participate in peaceful protests.”
And Undocumented Migrants:
"All member states should make and implement treaties to avoid illegal immigration. This may be done in cooperation with the UNHCR, one of the most effective organizations in helping undocumented migrant workers.
Firstly, we wish to ensure undocumented migrant workers understand their rights by the means of public information campaigns initiated by the government of Djibouti, and hopes other member nations will follow this lead. And secondly, we strongly suggest that Djibouti asserts undocumented migrant workers' rights in the legal system, so that the individual’s rights are protected by the government of Djibouti regardless of their legal status.”
Not only was this the group's first opportunity to participate in a Model UN Conference, it was also the first time leaving Afghanistan for many. They got to meet and socialize with other youth from all over the world, and see the incredible city of Doha live and in color. They explored the city alongside Skateistan's Programs Director who acted as their chaperone, and their friend and longtime Skateistan supporter (and Director of UN-HABITAT in Afghanistan), Peter Dalglish. A big highlight of the trip was spending time with students from John Burroughs school in Missouri, USA. Over 20 students from the school generously fundraised and planned for the Afghan representatives to join them for a very memorable day, beginning with the Museum of Islamic Art, followed by a traditional Qatari Dhow boat ride, and later dinner and a trip to the Souk crafts market and amusement park.
“Before we participated in the conference my fear was that people wouldn’t be nice to us – Because I thought we are from a bad quality country and they are from a very developed country. But when we went and met American students on the first day they were so nice to us. They proved that nations are one and people of the world are one.”
“When I saw the whole city I thought to myself, I wish the whole world could be like this city. Everything was fancy, even the taxis. The taxis were very beautiful! It was the most wonderful day of my life I think.”
“On the last day it was like we became famous. Our pictures were printed in magazines and when they invited us on the stage, I mean I felt really different. We had our ambassador with us there, and Mr Peter and [Skateistan Programs Director] Miss Talia and we five. We were a complete team. When the conference was finished everyone said that they were really proud of us, even the our ambassador said he was proud of us and we were making our country more strong.”
Learning how to use the Library at the Museum of Islamic Art.
Peter Dalglish delivering the keynote speech on how the youth at THIMUN Qatar can use their influence to address challenges faced by youth in Afghanistan and around the world.
It was a very, very full house.
Rahmat fishing for the very first time, on the Dhow boat cruise!
The Afghan representatives with their new friends from John Burroughs school in St. Louis, Missouri.
A view of the spectacular Doha skyline from a traditional Qatari Dhow boat.
We would like to offer a sincere thank you to several individuals without whom this trip could not have happened:
Lisa Martin, head of THIMUN Qatar and founder of Online Model United Nations.
Al Habtoor Leighton Group, which extremely generously contributed all five of the round trip flights from Kabul to Doha with Qatar Airways.
The Lexington Gloria Hotel in Doha, for providing first class accommodation free of charge for six nights for all five delegates and their chaperone.
Peter Dalglish, keynote THIMUN Qatar speaker, friend and supporter of the Afghan representatives, who was able to temporarily leave his current post as Capital Crisis Manager at the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia to attend the conference.
Andrew Newman and the representatives of John Burroughs High School in the USA for providing friendship and an incredible introduction to Doha.
This trip has paved the way for Model UN to take off in Afghanistan, and for Afghan youth to represent their beautiful country in the future at THIMUN conferences around the world! Thank you!