UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has announced today the winners of the first Model UN Refugee Challenge, which encouraged students worldwide to develop policies to help refugees during their Model UN (MUN).
In 2020 more than 20,000 students from 75 countries joined the MUN Refugee Challenge. They researched, debated and drafted “resolutions” tackling issues such as climate-induced displacement, toxic narratives about refugees, and the inclusion of refugees in economies and educational systems of host countries.
“I am grateful for the many outstanding ideas and proposals that have come from young people around the world. Their compassion, empathy, and determination to find practical solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and host countries is inspiring. Through this engagement, we are encouraging today’s youth to bring forth innovative and inclusive solutions to the plight of refugees,” said Filippo Grandi, UNHCR’s High Commissioner for Refugees.
The students’ best proposals were judged by a panel of UNHCR staff, young refugee scholars, and experts from other UN organizations, the World Bank and academia. The winning teams come from Nigeria, Costa Rica, India, Canada, Lebanon, Cyprus and the USA. A story about the winners and their proposals can be found here.
Proposals included reforming educational programs worldwide to include themes related to refugees’ rights, responding to protection needs of people fleeing climate-induced emergencies, and setting up an international database of job opportunities for refugees.
“That our words, our efforts, can actually reach our policymakers and maybe have an impact on the lives of refugees is just a powerful thing to know,” said My, 16, a Vietnamese student in California.
Seventy per cent of participating students said that they feel more empathetic towards refugees after joining the MUN Refugee Challenge.
Building on the success of this year’s experience, UNHCR has launched the 2021 MUN Refugee Challenge, encouraging students to debate topics such as the impact of COVID-19 on refugees, women’s rights, social inclusion and technology.
MUNs are simulations of the United Nations in which students, from middle-school to university, step into the shoes of diplomats to solve global issues.