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Youth Summit Session Three

Panel shot of speakers at UN MUN Youth Summit Session 3

Session Three: “Planning for Impact with the SDGs, Spreading the Word”  

[Presentations by students]

"Sustaining the Development Goals through MUN Conferences" (SDG 4)

At the Youth Summit, Don Sandev Ferdinando, Lina Maragha and Ahmed Al Hajari presented their project: “Sustaining the Development Goals through MUN Conferences”.

They discussed how to utilize Model UN as a mechanism for change. “The discussion on change will be completely focused on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals within our Model UN conferences,” Maragha said.

By incorporating the SDGs into MUN conferences, students are able to see the issues relevant to conversations being held in the UN, and they can acknowledge the importance of the debates at hand.

Ferdinando added, “By integrating the Sustainable Development Goals into MUN conferences, we mobilize young people today, rather than hoping that their time in MUN results in something impactful in the future.”

The presenters then discussed how to actually incorporate the SDGs into MUN conferences. They suggest embedding one of the SDGs as a theme and to select one that is simple and inclusive. Having an SDG as a theme can provide a conference with meaning and structure.

Hajari advised conferences to have advertising press teams that will promote the message through websites, brochures, and flyers.

Having keynote speakers to highlight the chosen SDG is also an excellent way to incorporate the SDG into the conference. These speakers can be local activists and influencers, diplomats, alumni, professors, or anyone who is well educated on the topic.

Maragha concluded their presentation, stating, “The Sustainable Development Goals are extremely important, as they serve as a diving board for all of us to leap off of. We can commit the lessons we learn from conferences such as these to heart and continue to cement this platform for advocacy… Let these experiences empower you to make a real difference.”

"The HELA Story" (SDG 4)

Rahmatullah Hamdard and Sanskriti Tandon joined the conference representing Hope for Education and Leadership in Afghanistan (HELA), a grassroots organization in Afghanistan that has helped spread MUN throughout the country. Backboned by The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Qatar, HELA has not only taught students new skills in international politics; it has also enacted social change.

The group has seen great successes recently but had humble beginnings. “It was not easy [in the beginning]... There were challenges in bridging the gap.” said Hamdard.

For example, in its first stages, public speaking and language learning classes were online. Hamdard described how the students had to cram around a single computer, making one-on-one learning extremely difficult.

But voices such as Hamdard continued to ask, “How can we deliver this opportunity to more people?” And as interest in Afghanistan grew, HELA’s support worldwide grew. Word reached the international community and support from many international schools and conferences grew.

According to Tandon, “The impact HELA has had has been monumental. It has provided a source of education for people who would not have had the opportunity to learn about international relations... In the last two years, we have organized ten conferences.”

HELA is powerful because of a quality Tandon calls “self-sustainability.” The organization creates well informed students and moves these people to spread their ideas and make positive change for generations.

This is especially true with the role of women in a patriarchal society like Afghanistan where women are not involved in decision making. “When women are given a start, it will bring monumental change to the country as a whole,” said Tandon.

Tandon’s words could not speak more truth. Recently, HELA organized the largest MUN conference in Afghanistan’s history. Over half of the students were female. Even more astounding, the first women’s soccer team in Afghanistan was created, all as a result of HELA’s influence.

"Sustainable Development Goals Project" (SDGs 1,2)

High schoolers Marta Olaizola Anzola, Maria Pardo Solano, and Gabriela Ybarra Romero are the founders of Spain’s first MUN Impact Partner Club. From their home base at Colegio Ayalde, the leaders have spearheaded a variety of initiatives organized around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN.

Anzola described the early stages of the students’ project, which began with a single month in 2018. Fittingly, their first initiative addressed SDG 1: No Poverty. They coordinated the collection of books, clothes, toys, and school materials, and then donated all of the items to Caritas Internationalis, an organization dedicated to ending poverty. Additionally, the students delivered presentations to educate nearby schools about sustainability. After a series of smaller initiatives, the students expanded their project with a year-long, ongoing initiative related to SDG 2: Zero Hunger.

The Colegio Ayalde MUN Impact Partner Club is especially active on social media. For example, at MUN Bilbao 2018, they created the “SDG challenge,” encouraging students to post photos from the conference to promote awareness about the SDGs. Follow their story at @munbilbao!