Visit to a Different World

Date: 24 January 2012

From 9 th to 13 th December 2011, I was allowed to fly to Doha in Qatar for the 4 th UN Alliance of Civilisations Forum. This was not only a totally new experience in terms of the country and the Arabic culture but also in terms of the character of the Forum. I have not been to such a big political meeting before but I was excited about the “new world” that I was allowed to explore.

About 2.000 delegates from all over the world – from governments, youth organisations, political parties, companies etc. – were present in the Doha Convention Centre, the biggest conference centre I have ever soon so far. A youth delegate Forum was set before the UN Forum to inform the youth about the Alliance of Civilisations, its work and the priorities of this conference.

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, took some time to join the youth forum and to answer some questions that participants had prepared before. During the youth forum, we worked on issues such as interfaith dialogue, intercultural tolerance and understanding and global issues for youth (unemployment, environment,…).

During the UN Forum itself, several working groups were offered to the participants. I joined the following: ‘The Role of Education in Sustainable Development’; ‘Youth for Development: Partners and Agents of Change’; Educating youth for dialogue, reconciliation and peace; ‘Conflict transformation: dealing with the past to build a better future – the role of teaching history’; ‘Young professional exchanges: the need to scale up Effort and to Mainstream Technology to increase impact and reach’; and ‘Towards a Good Governance of International Migration’.

The workshops/working groups gave a good impression on the existing structures within the UN as well as certain examples of countries (e.g. delegates of governments leading the workshop discussions). In addition, some discussion platforms on which government delegates as well as youth organisations, journalists and UN delegates shared their opinions on some of the mentioned issues.

In my opinion, it is important for the YMCA to stay informed on the issues related to youth that the UN Alliance of Civilisations is working on. However, forums such as the one in Qatar are more a time of sharing and making contacts than concrete work on specific themes. It is possible to join certain working groups/departments that exist within the UN Alliance of Civilisations if the YMCA is interested to influence the work that is done on specific issues. However, the forums are not the platform to do so. It is more a political event than an actual meeting of progress and opportunity of engagement.

By Sarah Simmank (Germany)
YMCA Global Youth Empowerment Task Force Member