UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Welcome to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees!
My name is Danu Mudannayake, and I am a junior at Harvard College, pursuing a joint concentration in Neurobiology and Visual and Environmental Studies and a language citation in Mandarin Chinese. I live and grew up in East London, arguably one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and it has definitely impacted my view of international relations and global issues. It was during high school in the United Kingdom where I first encountered Model UN. I served as the delegate for Iraq in the Commission on the Status of Women, where I heard of the plight of minorities in refugee situations. I ended up finding and chairing two MUN conferences at my high school, and have since worked as an Assistant Director at HNMUN 2017, and a Director at HNMUN 2018 and HMUN China 2018. Over the course of this summer, I will be travelling home to London to spend time with family and working on the World Youth Economic Forum in Shanghai, China. MUN has a special place in my heart given that it embodies the values of healthy debate and diplomacy, which I strongly believe are vital characteristics in today’s day and age.
Coming from one of the most diverse cities in the world, conversation revolving around the subject of refugees has been commonplace in my life, given the many talks that have occurred over the years addressing the question of how we should tackle refugees and refugee crises. I am ecstatic to be your Director for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees this year! We will be discussing the fundamentals of the topics and apply them to broader, more contemporary situations, ranging from what statelessness means and what it should dictate in international legislation, to how we can integrate refugees into host countries via reform and educational initiatives. I aim to draw connections upon larger topic areas, such as terrorism and poverty, and how these broader issues have direct implications on the lives of refugees. In this way, we can work together to draft solutions to real-world issues that hold much pertinence today.
Thus, my guide will direct you in two main spheres pertaining to the topic at hand and will comprehensively outline the historical context of the present-day situation, allowing you to also glean a sense of what has been tried in the past and what could work in the future. I hope you will thrive in making your own impact at committee, and bring a multitude of well-thought through ideas to the table regarding the issues I have outlined. I look forward to seeing you all at committee! Please reach out with any questions or concerns!
Director, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Harvard National Model United Nations 2019
Topic Area A: Education as a Tool for Refugees
According to Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, “refugees have skills, ideas, hopes and dreams … They are also tough, resilient and creative, with the energy and drive to shape their own destinies, given the chance”. Despite this, refugee children are “five times more likely to be out of school than their non-refugee peers”, according to USA for UNHCR. We will focus on education as a tool for refugees to unlock this potential, given that, in modern times, the scope of the worldwide refugee crisis means that traditional education is hard to come by, and new, innovative methods need to be brought to the table.
Therefore, we will aim to address how we can best support refugees, ranging from those living in refugee camps to those fleeing their home countries, to even those living in host countries, in accessing adequate education, and defining what adequate education means for the different types of people in these situations.
Topic Area B: Methods for Integrating Refugees into Host Countries
Statistics from USA for UNHCR show that 65.6 million people were displaced as a result of “persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations” by the end of 2016. This prompts us to wonder how this huge proportion of people fared in their integration into other countries, and whether they were able to lead adequate lives post-integration. The UNHCR has previously stated that integrating refugees into local communities within host countries can allow them a chance to “build a new life”, allowing them to prosper in the long term.
That being said, integration is an often sensitive issue to navigate given the, at times, hostile political climate towards refugees in some host countries, and given the lack of cultural awareness between both host and refugee populations. Employment, nationality, education, and much more are all affected by how well the integration process develops and so we will be extensively discussing ways in which we can improve the integration of refugees into host countries in order to collectively find a way to ensure refugees are given the chance they deserve at building themselves a new home.