Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Daily Archives: 10/02/2010

“Passages” refugee simulation

In 1995, UNHCR published a booklet entitled Passages, which outlines a refugee simulation designed for educational use with youth in schools and other settings. It takes participants through ten modules over four hours or so, exploring situations and experiences of escape, separation, emergency supply, shelter, leaving the country, crossing borders, refugee camps, asylum application, local interactions, repatriation, and other issues.

Although intended for young people, there is certainly considerable scope to modify the roleplay for other settings—indeed, I suspect that the Davos refugee simulation (described in the blog post below) was one such modification.

The entire booklet can be found on the UNHCR website (in pdf format) here.

UNHCR does Davos (again)

For the second year in a row, UNHCR ran some of the world’s business and political elite through a simulation of the refugee experience at the 2010 Davos World Economic Forum:

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 29 (UNHCR) – In between the power talks, presentations and networking, some of the VIPs attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos this week have been experiencing a small taste of life as a refugee on the run.

And a whole raft of top social media executives have signed up to take part in the “Refugee Run” on Saturday, penultimate day of the gathering of makers and shakers in the corporate, political, communications and humanitarian aid worlds.

They include Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, International Committee of the Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger and Kumi Naidoo, international executive director of Greenpeace.

The Refugee Run provides a snapshot of the often terrifying ordeal suffered by people forced to flee their homes because of violence or persecution. In Davos, the unique simulation is being used to help some of the world’s most influential people understand the plight of refugees and internally displaced people, empathize with them and support the efforts of UNHCR to help them.

Participants face a range of scenarios, including fleeing a rebel attack, navigating a minefield, dealing with corrupt border guards, struggling with language, facing up to potential sex traffickers, surviving on the black market, learning a new language, and living in a refugee camp. And at the end they discuss what they have learned and how they can help.

Of course, it is questionable how much of a “real” refugee experience one can get just minutes away from luxurious hotels, ski slopes, and endless cocktail parties—unless, of course, one is playing the role of a diamond-smuggling warlord-on-the-run. However, as a consciousness-raising and advocacy exercise, it may well have been much more effective than glossy posters, pamphlets, and information books.

On last year’s Davos refugee simulation, you’ll find a participant report in the New York Times here, as well as a brief mention by Gary (and another article link) on Paxsims here. For a critique of the exercise (by well known aid critic William Easterly), check out his blog Aidwatch here.

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