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Published April 25, 2022 | Version v1
Working paper Open

Do Policy Actors Influence Political Communication on Refugee Protection in Social Media? A Comparison of the UNHCR and the EU on Twitter

  • 1. University Stuttgart
  • 2. Department of Comparative Politics, University of Bergen


Since 2016, the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, the European Commission, the African Union, and many states endeavoring to follow suit, have been introducing new policies to bolster international collaboration on refugee protection. These new policy initiatives have, however, created controversy within the international society. A public site where this is the most visible is social media. 

In this paper, we study the impact of the UN, the EU, national states, political parties, and NGOs in public communication on Twitter during key international protection policy events. We study the periods around the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (19 September 2016), the UN General Assembly’s affirmation of the Global Migration Compact and the Global Refugee Compact (19 December 2018), and the First Global Refugee Forum (17-18 December 2019), and the European Commission’s announcement the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (23 September 2020). By using the tools of social network analysis (Wasserman & Faust, 1994), we compare the (i) activity, (ii) popularity, (iii) bridging (control of communication flow), and (iv) constraint (filling structural communication gaps) of institutions from the UN, the EU, selected national governments, and NGOs on Twitter in connection with these important policymaking events.  

By using the above-mentioned indicators, this paper identifies the public communication challenges encountered by global and transnational actors like the UNHCR and the European Commission. Which structural communication gaps are there in the global and European networks around the UN and EU institutions in social media? How can they be closed to reach and influence a broader spectrum of policy actors?  


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