Young delegates from 50 local and international schools took on diplomatic roles in academic simulations of the real United Nations from 18-21 February.

Dima Khatib, a journalist and Managing Director of AJ+, who heads Al Jazeera network’s innovative digital-only news platform and was ranked as one of the top ten most influential Arabs on Twitter, delivered the keynote address in the opening ceremony launching the conference.

The Georgetown University of Qatar Model United Nations (GU-Q MUN) is the longest running international model United Nations conference in Qatar, and provides hands-on experiential learning by encouraging students to confront contemporary global issues through the perspectives of their assigned country.

Diplomatic role playing strengthens the skills of critical thinking, strategic negotiation, and debate, but also serves to introduce high school students to higher education, said Jacqui Snell, the Educational Enrichment Manager at GU-Q and one of the two staff members involved in organizing logistics for the MUN.

The conference is only three days long, but preparation and training provided by Georgetown’s staff and student mentors continues throughout the year.

Student Development Officer Mohamad Khalil Harb, who works with Jacqui in organizing conference logistics, said:

Not many students would have access to the support we provide through the pre-conference workshops and tailored training we organize for all participating schools, no matter what level their ability.’

The content of the conference is completely organized by Georgetown University students, who choose the theme, topics, speakers, and prepare the background briefing. Qatari senior at GU-Q and MUN Secretary General, Hessa Al-Noaimi, welcomed the delegates and explained this year’s theme, “Contested Boundaries: Redefining Authority”.

This year, around half of the high schools are from Qatar, with the remaining come from schools around the world, and hail from countries such as the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Jordan, Greece, Ethiopia, India, and more. “The diversity of these young people really enhances the authenticity of our MUN as representing the U.N., an international institution,” added Mohamad Khalil Harb.

New at this year’s GU-Q MUN is a Press Committee that has left the printing press behind, using a shared online portal instead to disseminate photos, videos, and daily updates. This year also marks the first time local students enrolled in GU-Q’s Planet Georgetown pre-college preparatory program are able to participate. This enables students whose schools don’t participate in the MUN, due to lack of support or resources, the opportunity to join the conference.

Related post: Georgetown University in Qatar Takes the Model United Nations to India

Some of the topics student committees negotiated in the mock UN panels include the legality of torture, the nuclear threat to security, borders and refugees, the situation in Yemen, and the social-media inspired and hashtagged topic, #CombatingCyberWarfare.

The conference culminated with the Cultural Night, a fun celebration of each school’s national heritage featuring a showcase of cultural items, food, and artistic performances.