UN Agency Learns from Simulation at Exeter

It is March 2014, Syria has imploded, refugees are massing at the borders, the Palestinian Authority is bankrupt and its security services have been unpaid for 3 months.  How should the UN agency responsible for 5 million Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) react when it itself is adjusting to US Congress-inspired funding cuts of 20%? 

This scenario was played out in a simulation organised by the Department of Politics, with senior management of UNRWA, including its Commissioner-General and Director of External Relations, leading academics in the field, some donor representatives and diplomats.

The exercise involved three “Policy Teams” (one of which comprised of three College PhD students) who were set the task of coming up with clear recommendations for UNRWA by interviewing a number of stakeholders representing the EU, US, Jordan, Lebanon, HAMAS, the PA and the refugees.  Should it increase its advocacy work at the risk of alienating its main donors?  Should it cut services and where? What would the impact of that be on the host countries? 

“The fact that the scenario was uncomfortably close to reality gave real impetus to the task and also weight behind the recommendations that were finally presented” commented Professor Mick Dumper from the Department of Politics who convened the simulation with Professor Rex Brynen  from McGill University.


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