05.07.2019 - UNESCO Office in New Delhi

Observing World Refugee Day 2019

On 21 June, UNESCO New Delhi partnered with UNHCR to observe World Refugee Day 2019. Led by UNHCR and hosted by UNESCO, the event consisted of a panel discussion and a stakeholder consultation on the theme ‘Displaced Communities: Building Dialogue through Communication’.

Speaking at the event’s inaugural session, Mr Eric Falt, Director, UNESCO New Delhi noted that ‘UNESCO focuses chiefly on the human face of migration, and seeks to address the implications of the movement of people for education, the sciences, culture and communication’. Mr Falt pointed out that the media have a critical role to play in promoting social inclusion. As he commented, ‘The media must build a well-informed public understanding about displaced communities; act as a platform for dialogue that accommodates multiple voices and viewpoints; combat misinformation and negativity about internal migrants; and develop a fact-based counter-narrative that highlights the benefits internal migrants bring to local economies.’

The panel discussion on the occasion was moderated by Ms Maya Mirchandani, a Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation. The panel included representatives from refugee and migrant communities, and representatives from the mainstream and community media.

Mr Nezamuddin, a Rohingya refugee from Myanmar, and Ms Parniyan, an Afghan refugee, both of whom work closely with UNHCR in New Delhi, expressed concern over the typically hostile reception of refugees. They emphasized that they are simply a group of voiceless people who want to be heard, and called for sensitive and ethical reporting in order to build awareness about refugee issues. Mr Sahil Khan, a migrant working at the brick kilns of Mewat drew attention to the needs and hardships of economic migrants, while Ms Sharmila Sharma, Station Manager of the community radio Gurgaon ki Awaaz, discussed how her station has developed a highly successful series of radio programmes targeting various migrant communities in Gurgaon.

The perspectives of the media practitioners on the panel was critical for understanding the role of the media in building a dialogue with displaced communities. Ms Archana Kapoor, Founder of SMART and Station Director of Radio Mewat, spoke of the challenges and rewards of broadcasting content to grassroots communities that include refugees and migrants, with a specific view to encouraging the acceptance of migrants. Mr N Ramakrishnan, Executive Director of Ideosync Media Combine, drew attention to the media’s limited understanding of key concepts and terminology that constituted the discourse on migration, and argued that it is crucial for sustained efforts to be made to sensitize the media. He pointed out that tools like the UNESCO-commissioned publication Internal Migration: A Toolkit for Community Radio Stations have proven to be very useful when educating the community media about how to develop migrant-sensitive programmes. Finally, Mr Phiroze Vincent, a Special Correspondent with The Telegraph observed that journalists in the mainstream media are often unaware of many of the key issues around displacement and migration, and hence do not regard them as being newsworthy subjects. He felt that journalists need systematic sensitization and capacity development, and organizing periodic forums for dialogue and advocacy – like the World Refugee Day event – would be very useful.

The event concluded with a brief overview of certain ongoing UNHCR campaigns in support of refugees, and a vote of thanks by Mr Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda, the Programme Specialist for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO New Delhi.

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