Questionable Call: Davos Refugee ‘Simulation’ Is Not The Real Thing…

29 Jan

Surprising, to say the least, to read that World Economic Forum attendees are participating in a “simulation of what it is like live in a refugee camp facing rebel attack” according to Andrew Ross Sorkin in the New York Times.

I’ve attended Davos in past years, and reported from refugee camps too (on the West Bank, and in Africa).

There is not much in common.

Of course, it is easy to criticize from a distance, and not being there personally may cloud my impressions. Perhaps the effort to sensitize the Davos attendees is laudable.

But with the resources available to the Davos glitterati, actual humanitarian visits to genuine refugee camps would be more authentic, and certainly from a public relations point of view would reflect less of Davos’s ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ reputation (deserved or not). Since the most precious resource to many of these attendees is time, this ‘role-play exercise’ simply leads to the obvious conclusion that it is more ‘time-effective’ to simulate this experience in the Swiss Alps than to make it a real priority.

An easily avoided PR black eye…..

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2 Responses to “Questionable Call: Davos Refugee ‘Simulation’ Is Not The Real Thing…”

  1. LuAnne April 15, 2009 at 6:09 pm #

    Craig, you should read about some of the responses from people who actually did the “Refugee Run” before you criticize it. (Read this, for one, but there are many out there: http://philanthropy.com/giveandtake/article/888) I know the Begbies who run Crossroads and set up the refugee run. Met them for dinner 2 nights ago in Portland and heard their stories (stories I haven’t seen in such detail in the news) of the response they get from participants in the simulation. Apparently it’s very powerful. I commented that I didn’t think it would be for me if I knew it was just role playing, but they said that for most people it has an impact. Sure, it would be better to go visit a camp, but truthfully, no one would visit the non-UNHCR, make-shift, highly dangerous camps that this is simulating where soldiers run the show, bribe, rape, etc. Yes, they would see poverty and pain, but never experience even a hint of the fear and danger. It’s far better than nothing.

  2. craigforman April 15, 2009 at 6:39 pm #

    Thanks for writing, and no question these simulations have some value, and as I said the Davos platform is a high-visibility place to do it.

    My point is more obvious the ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ implication of running a simulation, only to let the issue then subsequently fade with little or no follow up.

    And many of the attendees have the resources (and some of them DO use those resources, but not by any means all of them) to influence positively the actual places whose conditions they were simulating for a few hours in the alpine beauty of Switzerland.

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