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Canadian University Dubai partners with Harvard Model Congress Middle East to empower future leaders

by Belinda Breeze

200 students convene on campus for regional model congress

The Canadian University Dubai (CUD) Department of Communication and Media has partnered with Harvard Model Congress Middle East (HMCME) to host a regional youth conference aimed at empowering the leaders of tomorrow. The gathering was convened at CUD for a second time, assembling over 200 high school students to debate and develop practical solutions to some of the biggest current global challenges.

Across the three-day event, delegates from 23 schools representing 10 countries took on the roles of US Representatives, US Senators, and UN delegates to negotiate complex worldwide issues such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, sustainable food systems, global energy policy, and the international migration crisis. Working in collaboration with Harvard students, the high school pupils debated, negotiated and developed policy, to pass a range of resolutions around issues including the regulation of agriculture, the privacy of data, peaceful humanitarian aid, and the prioritisation of gender equality in education. This year, Speakfluence were the winners of best small delegation, while Yongsan International School won best large delegation.

Talking about the goals of the HMCME and the student experience, Director of Programs and Harvard student, Heather Park, said, “The mission of the Harvard Model Congress is to teach and inspire the leaders of tomorrow in a safe and welcoming atmosphere. At this year’s conference we have witnessed immense personal growth, as every student has emerged more confident and with a greater understanding and appreciation of contemporary world issues. I hope this marks the beginning of the participants’ long and fulfilling journey as global thinkers and speakers.”

Alongside the schedule of committee debates and international summits, participants had the opportunity to take part in a delegate speech competition. Among the winning speakers was Mahra Mohammed AlShamsi from Ras Al Khaimah American Academy, who delivered an emotional account of her own transformational journey through the HMCME. Mahra explained, “I first took part in the HMCME in 2023 at a time when my self-confidence was very low following the isolation of the pandemic and a difficult period when I was transitioning between schools. The conference was a life-changing experience as it played a crucial role in improving my confidence and led me to explore new opportunities and to try different things, which I could never have imagined before that turning point.”

This year marked the 11th session of the HMCME, which was established in 2012 to provide a forum for young people to engage in meaningful debate, learn from current university students, and interact professionally and socially. The congress has become renowned as the premier international relations simulation for high school students in the Middle East, helping to advance participants’ leadership and public speaking skills, build their understanding of intergovernmental bodies, and develop their ability to negotiate impactful solutions across ideological divides. Meredith Zielonka President of HMCME 2024 said, “Harvard Model Congress Middle East is continually grateful to the Canadian University Dubai for facilitating the education of hundreds of high schoolers around the Middle East in forms of government and debate.”

Leading the event on behalf of CUD’s Department of Communication and Media, Associate Professor, Dr. Ghada Abaido, concluded, “We are delighted to partner with Harvard University to stage this flagship congress at Canadian University Dubai for the second year in a row. This event aligns with our goals to promote youth leadership and active citizenship and offers an excellent platform for high school students to develop critical 21st century skills. With this year’s delegates travelling from across the GCC and as far afield as South Korea, it also provided the opportunity for students to get first-hand experience of the educational and cultural landscape of Dubai as they prepare to explore the next stage of their academic journey.”

For more information, visit The Canadian University.