Melissa Fleming is head of Communications and chief spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), working to draw attention, drive empathy and generate support for the world’s 65 million refugees and displaced people. She uses strategic communications to reach target audiences that include media, public, governments and refugees themselves. She leads global media outreach and campaigns, and operates a multi-media news and feature service. From October, 2016 to April 2017, she served as Senior Advisor to UN Secretary General António Guterres on his Transition Team.
A leader in social media engagement, she encourages front-line staff to bear witness through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To garner support for a humanitarian cause, she believes communications must not only inform but also generate empathy and stir action.
She believes in the power of public speaking to move audiences. Her TED talk, Let’s help refugees thrive, not just survive, has been viewed over one million times around the world and has been subtitled in 28 languages. Over 1.5 million people watched her second TED talk about an extraordinary young Syrian woman who, with the baby she saved, was one of the only survivors of a boat wreck that killed 500 refugees, including her fiancé. She has since written a book on the story, A Hope More Powerful than the Sea, that was published in the US and UK in January, 2017 and later in several other countries.
Prior to the UNHCR she served eight years as Spokesperson and Head of Press & Public Information at the International Atomic Energy Agency during the period the organization made headlines for its inspection work in Iraq, Iran and North Korea and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Prior to IAEA, she headed the Press & Information team at the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe.
She is also organizer of TEDxKakumaCamp (website coming) and TEDxPlaceDesNations.
She holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University and a B.A. from Oberlin College. Melissa Fleming began her career as a journalist, then worked as a public affairs specialist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.