Brick by brick: Students’ policy ideas to help refugees make their way to the real UN

At first, it looked like a room full of diplomats. Hundreds of smartly dressed people raising placards with country names. Small groups holding peace talks in the corner. Notes passed quietly from one person to the next. But actually it was a room full of secondary school students. Welcome to Model UN.

Model United Nations (MUN) encompasses a global set of conferences where students step into the shoes of diplomats and draft resolutions to solve global issues. In 2020, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, introduced the Model UN (MUN) Refugee Challenge. Since then, more than 40,000 students in 70 countries have researched, debated and developed ideas to help refugees. Ideas from years past have been presented at the High Commissioner’s Dialogue, a forum bringing together global decision-makers to discuss refugee protection.

“Students come up with surprisingly good and innovative solutions during their MUNs,” said Pauline Eluère, who leads on youth engagement at UNHCR.

”We wanted to build support for refugees and show students that not only do their ideas matter to the real UN, but that they have the potential to be implemented.”

In 2021, UNHCR challenged students to address the impact of COVID-19 on refugees, refugee women’s rights, refugees’ social inclusion and the use of technology to empower refugees. Students proposed moving walkways that generate electricity, policies that guarantee equal pay for refugee workers, ideas to improve maternal health and more.

A committee of refugees and UNHCR staff judged the entries. On Friday, 1 April, UNHCR gave eight awards and eight special mentions for the best resolutions, as well as several awards for communications and social impact. The full list of winners can be found here.

“UNHCR should continue making youth part of the solution,” said Matias, a student from Colombia.

“We have fallen in love with debating, just like in the real UN, and once we know that we can lead bigger change, it motivates us to do more.”

The best ideas have been turned into LEGO scenes by an artist; a way to show we can all play a role in building a more welcoming world for refugees.

 To find out more on the winning ideas go to,