Model UN Refugee Challenge Background Guide: Countering Toxic Narratives about Refugees and Migrants

This guide, developed for Model UN students, could be used to better understand how to support refugees and migrants who participate in adult basic education programs.

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, launched the MUN Refugee Challenge to encourage students worldwide to shape solutions for people forced to flee their homes. This guide was drafted to help students prepare for their debates.

Benefits and Uses

The guide draws on data amassed by the UNHCR from academia, as well as surveys conducted in various countries gauging ways in which (popular) public opinion, social media, and politicians shape policy, cultural assumptions, and attitudes towards refugees and immigrants.

It’s written clearly, presenting data to substantiate its assertions and suggesting approaches to countering anti-immigrant and refugee sentiment. It concludes with discussion questions of potential use for adult learners, practitioners, and community members around the world dealing with and wanting to address issues of xenophobia.

The guide content can be useful to all adult education programs, especially those serving refugees and migrants. Educators could assign further research for learners to look into their communities and additional resources (such as Immigrants List, UNCHR data, and others). They could also invite community members to join in ongoing conversations addressing these issues locally. Students could share their own immigration stories (if that’s of interest to them). Explorations of US history and its population of immigrants could also be of interest. More advanced speakers of English/ABE classes could also work on developing five paragraph essays or other means of presenting arguments and counterarguments as part of a larger project raising awareness of refugee and immigrant realities.

What the experts say

This guide can be a useful tool to help programs understand the very timely and critical issues relating to the treatment of refugees and migrants in the world. It provides a review of the “field,” which is supported by internationally conducted studies related to the treatment of refugees and migrants. The guide offers a variety of well-supported suggestions on how citizens playing different societal and government roles can contribute toward relieving the stress imposed by the increasing numbers of refugees and migrants seeking protection and support in their changing lives.

Adult education practitioners and learners can benefit from the clear assertions presented in this guide. Xenophobia is insidious and clearly stated counterarguments, backed up with data and personal narratives, can serve to work against anti-immigrant actions and potentially educate those in communities lacking knowledge and/or understanding of the complex and rich lives that immigrants and refugees bring to their host countries/communities.

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