#StandUp4Migrants: Changing the narrative on migration

Visual created for the interactive online toolbox developed by UN Human Rights and partners. © OHCHR

How we perceive and speak about migrants and migration – the narrative – plays a fundamental role in guaranteeing equality and the human rights of migrants. In 2020, UN Human Rights launched a campaign with a toolbox, urgently calling for the transformation of stories of hate and division into stories of hope and inclusion. 

UN Human Rights has taken steps to understand the impacts of harmful narratives and find available solutions by working with a broad range of partners, including migrants and migrant rights defenders as well as representatives from the media, creative arts, business, advertising, academia, civil society, international organizations and Member States. In addition, the Office convened expert meetings, facilitated the exchange of experiences and raised public awareness through animated video stories.

Throughout this process, partners called for UN Human Rights to provide tools and inspiring examples that could benefit others. Building on the publication Seven Key Elements on Building Human Rights-Based Narratives on Migrants and Migration, UN Human Rights and its global partners developed an interactive online toolbox that provides ideas, downloadable activities and inspiration for shifting narratives on migration. 

“We need stories that show that the values we hold in common are stronger than what divides us,” said the High Commissioner during the launch of the toolbox, on the occasion of International Migrants Day. “Stories that inspire and connect us, rather than tear us further apart; stories that paint a hopeful picture of the future we share; and stories told by migrants themselves.” 

The toolbox is a seven-step guide to rethink and change the stories being told about migration. It helps to: 1) define a positive and hope-based vision; 2) identify shared values to engage target audiences; 3) use the power of storytelling to humanize migrants; 4) bring the stories and vision to life in the local context; 5) find common ground to move forward on intractable issues; 6) find new allies; and 7) uphold the “Do No Harm” principle. 

In December, UN Human Rights launched the #StandUp4Migrants campaign to illustrate the toolbox in action. The campaign emphasizes what we have in common as human beings, one story at a time. Leo Johnson, for example, fled war at the age of 15 and arrived in Canada after spending eight years in refugee camps. “I just didn’t think I could fit within that society, because people assumed that I was a certain way. Over time, I told myself that I had two options. I could either choose to be a victim of my circumstances or I could choose to be a champion of possibilities.” He decided to call both Canada and Liberia home. Leo participated in the UN Human Rights Fellowship for People of African Descent and now leads an organization which helps refugees, migrants and marginalized people in Canada and in Liberia.

In 2021, UN Human Rights will work with local partners to further implement the toolbox and contextualize the campaign.

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