After a year full of youth activism, engagement and empowerment, Doha’s turn as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) Youth Capital of the Islamic World in 2019 ended. The symbolic torch has been transferred to Bangladesh, as Dhaka is now the new capital of Islamic youth.
The Islamic Cooperation Youth Forum (ICYF), pioneered by ICYF President Taha Ayhan, cooperated and collaborated with Qatari ministries and Qatar-based organizations to organize a multitude of initiatives and activities leaving a strong legacy of how governmental, nongovernmental and international, local, public and other categories of actors can cooperate and produce impact-driven youth empowerment.
When we look back, Qatar’s motto, "Youth is the power of the nation," has been accomplished, and a year full of youth dynamism now ignites many new youth-driven initiatives. Moreover, the capital of Islamic youth came at the right time as a year of systematic work coincided with Qatar’s historical commitment to empowering youth.
Doha’s role as the capital of Islamic youth encouraged individuals from different Islamic countries throughout the year to participate in forums and other activities, including Doha Islamic Youth Forum, Doha Oasis for Innovation, Doha Youth Camp for Voluntary and Humanitarian Work.
A recent milestone was the creation of the Advisory Youth Committee for the minister of culture and sport. In February 2020, Qatari youth elected youth representatives to deliver their thoughts and challenges to the minister. Khadeja Abuhaliqa, the vice president of the Youth Council for the Ministry of Culture and Sport, believes that history is made gradually. Starting from 2014, she and her team dreamed of a youth council that would contribute to making history for Qatar. They believe that youth plays a crucial role in creating opportunities that will add value to Qatar’s national and international efforts. However, they aim to take it to the next level and offer a space in the form of the youth council, where youth can share their voices and provide consultations to the minister on issues related to youth. Abuhaliqa states: “Trust is a key to all success, and what we get from our country is trust in us to lead in achieving our first youth elected council by youth from youth in 2020.”
Other youth advocates like Shaikha Al-Marri who is a member of the Youth Advisory Committee for the Ministry of Culture and Sports indicated that Qatar is “one of its kind in the Middle East” because it sees youth as the future leaders, which is why youth empowerment has been one of the main areas of interest for investment in Qatar. The Youth Advisory Committee empowers youth by providing them with opportunities to practice democracy and strategic planning as a group to serve their community’s needs and future. According to Al-Marri, it is well known that Qatar invested greatly in education to achieve its vision of raising their youth and citizens to become “true ambassadors for Islam that aims to achieve global peace through dialogue and accepting the differences in the world’s various cultures and beliefs.”
Moreover, in the sports field, Qatar has initiated the International School Sport Federation (ISF), which organizes sports competitions between schools in 113 different countries around the globe to encourage education through sports. The first-ever ISF took place in December 2016, and in two years' time, it has evolved into the Athlete and Youth Committee to which Rashed al-Mansoori was appointed to be the vice-chairman. Al-Mansoori highlights that the goal of the committee is to transform the free time at ISF events into quality, value-added time by raising awareness about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among ISF athletes, referees, reporters, ambassadors and coaches. One example of how they do this is by hosting events with Fun&Skills zones, where different activities related to three or four SDGs selected as themes for each event, are carried out. The ISF events are aimed at introducing the benefits of ethical and fair sports culture in cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Code (WADA) and providing a space for social inclusion and intercultural exchange.
From the environmental perspective, youth in Qatar have many reasons to get involved and participate in maintaining and enhancing the eco-lifestyle in Qatar, as environmental awareness and development are one of the pillars of the Qatar National Vision 2030. One initiative that encourages and promotes youth participation in this area is Greener Future, which raises awareness about the environment through art, agriculture and conferences. Aisha AlMaadeed, the founder of Greener Future, suggests that “social investment has played a major role in identifying youth activities that sustain Qatar’s cultural legacy.”
Although Doha is no longer OIC’s Youth Capital of the Islamic World, this does not mean that the youth initiatives and activities will end. Due to Doha’s role in promoting and encouraging youth to get active, many more initiatives will continue to take place or be founded. One of the new youth events that will carry on from last year’s initiatives is the Maker Majlis held at the College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University. The Maker Majlis 2019 was an innovative space that was a fusion of the SDGs, otherwise known as Global Goals, Qatar National Vision 2030 and Islam and faith. It was about localizing the global goals and making them relevant to the Muslim world in general and Qatar in particular.
This year, for Maker Majlis 2020, the theme will be Youth. In collaboration with SOGLAB, a social innovation laboratory based in Turkey, the College of Islamic Studies will be delivering a three-day training program based on human-centered design thinking in March 2020 and participating in Education Development Institute’s ISTEMED 2020 conference. Maker Majlis Youth Edition will allow youth in Qatar to get together and learn new methods of problem solving. SOGLAB facilitators will deliver design learning experiences and learning environments that can achieve Global Goals and train future sustainability leaders. Maker Majlis 2020 will continue supporting the ICYF through youth advocacy for national capacity and global impact.
*Associate professor, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
**Research fellow, Hamad Bin Khalifa University
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