Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 05/10/2009

refugee simulations

(UPDATED to include discussion of the Reach Out training modules)

We’ve posted a few items on PaxSims before on refugee simulations, such as the training used by UNHCR for its own staff, refugee simulations that form part of courses at universities such as Harvard and Tufts (here and here), as well as the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) use of simulation methods to explore issues that would arise in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on the refugee issue.

For readers who might be interested in trying something like this (whether in the classroom or the field), I’ve posted a few additional links below. Most of these fall into the category of educational or advocacy simulations, rather than those designed to train substantial skills or knowledge related to professional work in this field. Nonetheless, those that involve a roleplaying component might include elements that could be adapted to such purposes.

  • Against All Odds. A web-based game developed by UNHCR in 2005, and aimed at youth. You’ll find a background report on its development here.
  • Refugee Game for Change. A web or mobile phone-based game on the situation of refugees, aimed at teens. Featured on Oxfam Australia’s Refugee Realities website, which also contains a variety of other educational and advocacy resources on refugee issues.
  • Darfur is Dying. A web-based game, in which players struggle to survive in a Darfuri refugee camp. The game was developed as part of the Darfur Digital Activist contest,organized by mtvU in cooperation with the Reebok Human Rights Foundation and the International Crisis Group. A screen shot from the game is featured below.


  • In Exile For a While (organizer’s kit). A roleplaying simulation developed by the Canadian Red Cross, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and Canadian Lutheran World Relief “to provide young people with a life-changing experience that will transform their thinking and inspire action.” The simulation takes between one and 24 hours (depending on the scenarios used), and is suitable for teens and adults.
  • Sumitra’s Story. A role-playing simulation of the flight of Ugandan Asians from the regime of Idi Amin, designed for students. Another version can be found here, rewritten to address the situation of Cuban refugees fleeing to the US.

For those looking for professional training materials on refugees, you may find the Reach Out Refugee Protection Training Project useful. This collection of materials and lesson plans was developed NGOs and the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement in collaboration with UNHCR in order to train humanitarian staff in the basics of refugee protection, and addresses such issues as the basics of refugee protection, the dynamics of forced displacement, actors and roles, programming, individual and mass arrival, vulnerable groups, durable solutions, IDPs, and sexual and gender-based violence. Two of the modules also include role-play exercises based on the hypothetical case of Boringia:

There has been an escalation of the armed conflict in Chakamaka, and many thousands of Chakamakans are attempting to flee into neighbouring Boringia.

However, the Boringian government recently closed all border crossings and stationed several battalions of combat troops alongside the frontier. Increasing international pressure has since led the Boringian authorities to reopen the border for a few hours every other day.

BoringiaAccording to the Boringian Ministry of the Interior, some 37,144 people have arrived in Boringia over the last two weeks. In addition, almost 240,000 people are said to have been forced to leave their homes as a result of ongoing fighting and are scattered throughout the eastern provinces of Chakamaka. According to reports, most of these uprooted populations are trying by whatever means possible to head towards the border.

In Chakamaka, rebel troops have almost total control over the eastern provinces, and state troops defending the remaining government-held areas are losing ground daily.

The government has declared a state of emergency and has suspended the parliament, the judiciary, and national legislature. Males from the age of 15 and up are being conscripted into the armed forces. Draft evasion and desertion are subject to severe penalties, including life imprisonment.

International media continue to provide dramatic pictures of desperate people stranded at the Chakamakan side of the border.

At the same time, there are unconfirmed reports of armed rebel groups that have infiltrated Boringia. It appears that cross-border raids by Chakamakan rebels have been launched from makeshift military bases in Boringia near the Chakamaka/Boringia border.

In the exercise, participants play the roles of the host government, UNHCR, the local Red Cross, and other NGOs.

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