Innovation Series - Protection in Protracted Refugee Crises: An Interview with Melissa Fleming

Release Date: 
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Melissa Fleming

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In this episode, ATHA's Anaïde Nahikian speaks with Melissa Fleming, Chief of Communications and Spokesperson for the High Commissioner, at UNHCR, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They discuss the priorities for UNHCR in addressing the key drivers of vulnerability for displaced populations, and the generational consequences of protracted refugee crises -- looking particularly at the conflict in Syria and the Mediterranean migration crisis. They also explore the relationship between media, public opinion, and humanitarian policy in this context and how humanitarian actors can enhance the quality of dialogue around this issue. Finally, Anaïde and Melissa discuss how the humanitarian system can be (re)imagined to adapt to evolving migration trends.

More about Melissa Fleming:

As Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melissa Fleming leads all communications efforts around the globe and serves as chief spokesperson. Operating in 120 countries, UNHCR provides shelter and help for over 30 million people who have fled wars and persecution.

In her role, Ms Fleming has introduced strategic communication planning designed to have impact on target audiences, which include media, donors, governments and refugees themselves. She leads global media outreach and campaigns. A leader in social media engagement, she encourages staff on the front lines to bear witness through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To garner support for a humanitarian cause, she believes communications must be designed to not only inform, but to generate empathy and giving.

She joined UNHCR from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where she served for eight years as Spokesperson and Head of Press and Public Information during the period the organisation made headlines for its inspection work in Iraq, Iran and North Korea and won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize. Prior to IAEA, she headed the Press and Information team at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

A graduate of Boston University (M.S. Journalism) and Oberlin College (B.A. German), Melissa Fleming began her career as a journalist, then worked as a public affairs specialist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.



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