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Posted On: 21 April 2020 02:35 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 02:06 pm

Qommunity Voices: Neeshad Shafi and AYCMQ - leading the fight against climate change in Qatar

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After moving to Qatar in 2015, he has been leading the fight against climate change in the country, working on mainstreaming climate change issues across different sectors and at multiple scales from regional to local in Qatar and the Middle East. Neeshad Shafi's passion for youth advocacy and grassroots work led to visible impact when he founded the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCMQ)- a first, registered, independent, youth-led grassroots non-profit association in the State of Qatar.

Holding a master's degree in Energy and Environmental Engineering, the Doha-based environmentalist, speaker, and social change advocate is currently the Executive Director of Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar aside from being its founder.

He is a regional expert in analyzing global environmental politics and climate policies with a special focus on the Middle East while also an active member of several global environmental youth groups and have contributed actively represented Qatar in international summits notably United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations at Conferences of Parties COP21, COP22, COP24, COP25, World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos 2019, World Economic Forum Middle East 2019, Global Landscapes Forum Bonn 2019 and UN Youth Climate Summit in 2019 in New York.

With Earth Day celebrated on April 22, it's time that we get to know about one of the movers and shakers in climate change. ILQ was able to reach out to Neeshad Shafi and get insights on how he started their journey and what he and AYCM are doing for Qatar's community. Here is what we learned:

ILQ: How long have you been in Qatar and how has your journey been so far?

Neeshad: I have been in Qatar for the past 4+ years and my journey has been an incredible one. Ever since I moved here I started working on climate change issue and became, arguably the first global climate activist from Qatar back in 2015 when issues of climate change and youth participation was not an interest of most youth in Qatar.

Ever since, I moved ahead with support from various individuals, Qatari community, public and private intuitions in my climate advocacy and awareness and policy work, which did leave a mark, from been distinguished as world’s 100 most influential person on Climate Policy by Apolitical and to Qatar’s 10 most influential who represented Qatar globally in QLife Magazine by Government Commination Office. Exciting isn’t it? And of course, meeting H.H. the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, at the sidelines of United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York in September 2019.

ILQ: What is the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar (AYCMQ) all about? What is its mission?

Neeshad: Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar LLC (G) is a first and only registered, independent, nonprofit, youth-led, grassroots organization in the State of Qatar. We are focused on raising environmental awareness at a grassroots level targeting youth and adult groups. We seek to become an informed voice on climate and ecological crisis and help co-create cost-effective solutions that are relevant to the local environment and culture. AYCM Qatar strives to develop scientific and policy-relevant knowledge.

“The mission of the AYCM is to build a movement that fosters an understanding of our natural ecosystems, empowers and inspires the community to take effective action in resolving the current ecological crisis, and advocates for evidence-based policies to adapt, mitigate, conserve and protect our ecosystem.”

ILQ: Tell us about your journey with AYCMQ? Was it easy to set-up? What is the biggest difficulty you faced?

Neeshad: Over the last 4 years, the Arab Youth Climate Movement has seen its share of both huge ups and bitter downs. Thankfully, the former have far outnumbered the latter. But regardless of whether we have achieved or not, we have always done our best to aim at something high. The chance to do that—and succeed—is what has drawn countless people in Qatar to give their time and passion to this organization and its mission.

It was not an easy task to register an Independent non-profit association for Environment and climate education and awareness in Qatar, a first of its kind. It comes with its own challenge and advantage. We are glad we had great support from the Qatari community and various governments and institutions who helped timely towards our aspiration to be an environmental institution that has the potential to be a think-to-do-tank that can be an independent and informative voice in the Qatari community run by dedicated and passionate young people.

Our five-year strategic goals are intended to strengthen our environmental programs in Qatar and to work toward building an independent Environmental Institution with support from various public and private sector and other foundations in Qatar that reflects the true diversity of Qatar. Only by doing so can we engage and empower a movement of the size and power required to bring about the changes the planet needs.

ILQ: How did you get into these initiatives/advocacies? How did you start?

Neeshad: There was a global rallying call to address the fundamental assumptions the way economy and society is currently governed back in 2015 when I attended my first United Nation Climate Change summit in Paris called COP25 by the invitation from the civil society groups in the MENA.

After the summit, I realized there is a global consensus that the window of opportunity of addressing this issue is narrowing. Society-at-large in Qatar and across the world is not asking bigger questions such as the way we perceive the natural environment and our role in it. This led me to champion Environment and climate change in Qatar and was nominated to various Environmental and climate change advocacy and policy organizations in the Arab world making me one of the few youths to represent civil society groups from Qatar.

ILQ: When did you know you wanted to take up this kind of responsibility?

Neeshad: Well, personally I believe firmly in lifelong learning and offering an opportunity for youth and adults to get a holistic environmental education through creative programs here in Qatar. So, back in the days, I wanted to give people an opportunity to learn something new and to enhance capacity and connect our work with youth activities globally, since there was a huge disconnect between Global south countries and the rest of the world.

So I started to build a bridge in bringing these organizations to Qatar and at the same time, to showcase the tremendous potential our Qatari youth communities have to develop creative ideas to the environmental crisis we face today. So I took up the challenge to represent various NGOs to the region and many times, I was given the honor to represent the organization due to my extensive work, experience, and network in the Qatar and MENA region.

ILQ: What most often inspires your journey as the founder of AYCMQ? Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Neeshad: Inspiration, I draw from H.H. Sheikha Moza bint Nasser in Qatar, who led the world in supporting and campaigning for education from a small country like Qatar. She focused on raising awareness of the dire state of Education and how education can transform the world. I drew inspiration and believed, the same for Environment and use creative ways at the grassroots level to engage and involve people, encouraging them to imagine the future they want to inhabit and create a learning environment where we can not only learn and reflect but also challenge on everyday assumptions, habits of behaviours, structures of feeling and expectation. This learning is not only limited in schools, colleges, and universities but also takes place in the home, workplace and day to day life.

ILQ: Why do you love what you do?

Neeshad: I love to always keep innovating and developing an effective communication strategy for public engagement. In this age of information overload; framing, messaging and delivering the right information to the public is crucial. Identifying what is important to them, the values we share with them, the barriers to getting them to act, and any opportunities to persuade them, that’s what I do and our goal as well.

ILQ: How does it feel to be one of the world's most influential people in climate policy?

Neeshad: Well, whether being the world 100 most influential people in Climate policy or the most influential who represented Qatar globally, firstly, I’m proud to represent the State of Qatar globally and the Arab world in general, where we lack youth leader standing for climate and environmental issues. Also, I hope the Arab youth drew inspiration from my work and our initiative in Qatar in our joint efforts for taking effective steps to limit the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction in the Arab world.

ILQ: What is your biggest achievement so far in terms of your initiatives?

Neeshad: I’m very proud of my tireless team who worked hard to implement innovative pedagogical tools and approaches in promoting environmental education and awareness in the Qatari community. Our strategic initiatives like Earth Talks, Measure Your Carbon Footprint, Zero Waste Qatar, Environmental Leaders of Qatar initiative seeks to provide a holistic view of the ecosystem and engage the public, civil society, the business community, and other partners. Further leading in diversifying the environmental movement to reflect the demographics of Qatari society.

ILQ: What's next for you and AYCMQ?

Neeshad: I’m planning to work to strengthen and broaden the scope of environmental education by sharpening the skills of youth and help them become advocates for the environment. This involves organizing regular workshops on various themes, opportunities for young people to spend time at NGOs/civil society organizations in developing countries.

With AYCM Qatar we will have a few great news of working with UN Agencies on various climate education projects to be announced soon. We have entered into partnerships with Sustainable Ocean Alliance and Earth Day 2020 on various programmes throughout the year. A very exciting project to work with schools, universities, etc.

ILQ: Do you have any message for the people of Qatar?

Neeshad: Well, shifting attitudes and changing policies or practices do not happen overnight. It’s not like going to beach cleanup and joining hands. Fostering action and change in the community requires a lot of persistence, commitment, and work at the grassroots and at the policy level at the same time.

So, join and support grassroots associations like AYCM Qatar!


For #EarthDay2020, the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar in partnership with The Story of Stuff Project is inviting you to join the public premiere screening of "THE STORY OF PLASTIC" and conversation Q&A with Sayeed Mohammed, Director of Research and Policy Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar, on 22nd April, 4:00 PM Qatar Time.

The Story of Plastic​ takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it.

If you would like to get in touch with the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar, check out the following channels:


Facebook: @AYCMQA

Instagram: @aycmqa

Twitter: @AYCMQA

Email: [email protected]

Did you enjoy this edition of Qommunity Voices? Have you seen the Arab Youth Climate Movement Qatar in action? Do let us know your thoughts. Like and share the article - it keeps us going!

Photos courtesy of Neeshad Shafi