(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Doha has been selected by the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation (OIC) as the OIC Youth Capital in 2019. First hosted by Istanbul (Turkey) in 2015, the OIC Youth Capital has become a collective voice for global Muslim youth, and has since been held in Fez (Morocco), Putrajaya (Malaysia), Shiraz (Iran), and Al-Quds Al-Sharif (Palestine).
The OIC was created in 1969 with the aim of being the most collective co-operative organisation in the Muslim world. Now comprising 57 member-states across four continents, the aims in the original 1972 OIC Charter are to inspire solidarity among members and an explicit focus on intra-Islamic economic co-operation and trade. The Charter also refers to participation in global decision-making processes, as well as to the achievement of sustainable human development and economic transformation in Muslim countries.
The OIC is an organisation that serves as a catalyst for solidarity in the Muslim world. The organisation's commitment to youth empowerment is fostered through its strategic partnership with the Secretariat of the Islamic Co-operation Youth Forum (ICYF). It was during the Second General Assembly of the ICYF held in October 2014 that the OIC Youth Capital was launched.
First hosted by Istanbul in 2015, the OIC Youth Capital has since been a collective voice of global Muslim youth, carried forward to host the cities Fez, Putrajaya, Shiraz, and Al-Quds Al-Sharif in subsequent years. In 2019, Doha was declared the OIC Youth Capital.
Historically, the OIC and its entities have been instrumental in building a strong humanitarian action framework and capacity amongst its member states. Qatar has shown that the nation has a unique role in terms of its commitment to fostering sustainable and inclusive development in the Muslim world, reaffirmed in the Qatar National Vision 2030 for contributing 'towards international peace and security through political initiatives and developmental and humanitarian assistance.
Qatar places youth empowerment at the top of its humanitarian and development strategy. In 2018, the value of development projects funded by the Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) was $378mn, of which 34.3% was invested in the education sector and $2mn was directed towards economic development. Conferring on Doha the role of Youth Capital of OIC for 2019 thereby reveals key characteristics of OIC and Qatar's global influence as a leader in humanitarian actions, youth empowerment, and mobilising collective efforts to tackle global challenges.
Today, we are celebrating the arrival of the OIC Youth Capital to Doha, Qatar. However, it is important to understand the wider mission espoused by past hosts of the OIC Youth Capital, and in turn, what Doha will stand for in this year's edition.
Previous Youth Capitals
The OIC Youth Capital initiative serves youth development, empowerment, and capacity building. Doha 2019 specifically endorses the 'Youth is the Power of the Ummah slogan for the youth, with the youth, and by the youth. Doha has been steadily building a legacy, which has become evident through the Qatar National Vision 2030, its national development strategies, and Qatar Foundation's versatile educational and research initiatives including Qatar's homegrown research university, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) and its College of Islamic Studies (CIS). This legacy provides ample assurances regarding Qatar's upcoming contributions to global youth. Innovation-driven institutions such as HBKU are leading in education and research dedicated to solving critical challenges facing Qatar and the world.
Past events in youth capitals have ranged from workshops, lectures, and panel discussions to activities, contests, camps, and festivals across many different fields. For example, within the art arena, a traditional fashion festival was organised in Turkey for young designers of the OIC Youth Capital; several photo contests in Palestine, with varying themes such as 'Human Faces of Al-Quds; and other events including calligraphy workshops, an Islamic music concert, and a street art festival. In the education field, related activities included a top 10 universities fair; sessions on intersectional and inter-civilisational dialogue, countering radicalism, and fighting against Islamophobia and racism; and a cultural tour on Ottoman heritage. The OIC organised events centred around sports, such as international sports tournaments, as well as higher-level conferences with sports and youth ministers. Faith-based initiatives were also arranged, such as multiple Qur'an recitation contests and halal festivals, in order to provide additional platforms for youth engagement.
Wide spectrum of opportunities
When considering the previous editions of the OIC Youth Capital, one cannot help but be dazzled by the many rich opportunities that Doha can offer during its hosting of the capital in 2019.
In order to fulfil the central purpose of the OIC to 'Turn up the Voice of Youth, Qatar can glean the benefits of past editions held in other countries, but will no doubt contribute significantly with its own characteristic flair and proven creativity. Qatar's citizens and residents alike have, in the past, participated in impressionable but scattered events across multiple categories, including entrepreneurship, humanitarian action, music, fashion, and sports, appealing to youth with varying interests in the country. As the host of the OIC Youth Capital, Qatar can offer various new spaces for engagement under a singular mission-driven aegis to promote opportunities in the areas of humanitarian action, global media, sports, innovation, and building a knowledge-based economy; and successfully opening doors for young Muslims to be stronger leaders in the future.
Presently, numerous opportunities already await the global Muslim youth in Doha to be immersed in the history, religion, art, and culture of Qatar, the wider region, and beyond. These opportunities materialise through established national institutions such as the Doha International Film Festival (DIFF), Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), and Qatar National Library (QNL). Other events such as the annual Reach Out to Asia's (Rota) Empower Conference; Qatar Science and Technology Park's (QSTP) Arab Innovation Academy; Silatech's commitment to young entrepreneurs; Education Above All's (EAA) pledge to global education; the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and numerous other platforms prove Qatar's soft power and potential to facilitate engagement of the youth with the wider contemporary world.
Qatar's Education Ecosystem
At the forefront of Qatar's efforts to nurture an inclusive environment for capacity building and self-development for its youth are institutions such as HBKU, an innovation-centric university that is actively leveraging synergies with renowned local and international partners to facilitate expertise and build capacity in Qatar and the region.
The College of Islamic Studies (CIS) at HBKU is giving students a solid academic Islamic grounding. Learning is shaped through pioneering tools such as the Makerspace, Innovation Labs, other inventive teaching platforms; and external institutional collaborations. CIS' research clusters promote intradisciplinary and interdisciplinary research agendas and inject fresh contributions to global Islamic scholarship.
Through its inclusive, high-quality research and education ecosystem, HBKU inspires a mindset of continuous growth and participation in an environment of lifelong self-development. Youth in Qatar and the region have never been so prepared to lead intellectual debates on Islam in a global context.
Prospects for a Better Tomorrow
Doha, as the current host of the OIC Youth Capital in 2019, can showcase Qatar's steadfast commitment to fairness, inclusivity, peace, and stability. This honour is an ideal opportunity to bring together diverse actors and institutions in the country that are committed to empowering youth in their respective missions, and engaging youth interest and action at a time when dedicated action has never been more critical. As an advocate for innovation in Qatar and beyond, HBKU's efforts are already underway to build bridges between everyone, which is vital for this goal.
As His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2018 in New York, indicated: 'The State of Qatar believes that educating youth and their comprehensive participation represents the first line of defence for the collective security system and an important factor in fighting terrorism and building peace and stability.
Doha's hosting of the OIC Youth Capital in 2019 therefore presents a crucial milestone in the collective action underlined by the country's leadership. Now, it is time for the country to come forward as a united front and for youth to seize these opportunities.
* Dr M Evren Tok, associate professor and associate dean of innovation and community engagement at CIS.
* Bayan Khaled, research fellow at CIS.
* Aisha al-Kuwari, student at CIS.
* Noora al-Zeyara, student at CIS.
HBKU: Innovating Today, Shaping Tomorrow
Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF), was founded in 2010 as a research-intensive university that acts as a catalyst for transformative change in Qatar and the region while having global impact. Located in Education City, HBKU is committed to building and cultivating human capacity through an enriching academic experience, innovative ecosystem, and unique partnerships. HBKU delivers multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate programmes through its colleges, and provides opportunities for research and scholarship through its institutes and centres. For more information about HBKU, visit www.hbku.edu.qa