National High School Essay Contest Topic

The 2017 Contest Has Begun!

According to the United Nations, 65 million people worldwide have left their homes to seek safety elsewhere due to violence, conflict, persecution, or human rights violations. The majority of these people are refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Imagine you are a member of the U.S. Foreign Service —– a diplomat working to promote peace, support prosperity, and protect American citizens while advancing the interests of the U.S. abroad —– and are now assigned to a post in one of these four countries.

  • Turkey
  • Kenya
  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq

Your task is to provide recommendations to address the refugee/IDP crisis, which you see facing the country in which you are now posted. Using the resources available to you as a member of the Foreign Service, write a memo to the Ambassador outlining how the United States might help address the current unprecedented levels of displacement. You may choose to address issues related to the causes of internally displaced persons or refugees, or to focus on the humanitarian crisis in host countries.

A qualifying memo will be 1,000-1,250 words and will answer the following questions:

  1. How does the crisis challenge U.S. interests in the country you are posted and more broadly?
  2. Specifically outline the steps you propose the U.S. should take to tackle the roots or the consequences of the crisis, and explain how it would help solve the issue or issues you are examining. How will your efforts help build peace or enhance stability?
  3. How do you propose to foster U.S. interagency cooperation and cooperation with the host-country government to address these issues? Consider in your memo, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Foreign Commercial Service, and the U.S. Institute of Peace, as well as the selected country’s government.

Memo Template:


TO: Ambassador ______________________

FROM: Only use your first name here


RE: Include name of Country here


Here you want to lay out the problem, define criteria by which you will be deciding the best steps the U.S. could take, and include a short sentence or two on your final recommendation. Embassy leadership is very busy and reads many memos a day —– they should be able to get the general ““gist”” of your ideas by reading this section.


This section should provide any background information about the crisis or conflict relevant to your proposed policy. Here, you should mention why the issue is important to U.S. interests, especially peace and security

Proposed Steps:

This is where you outline your proposed policy. Be specific in describing how the U.S. might address this issue and how these steps can contribute to peace and security. Include which organizations you propose partnering with and why.


This is where you write your final recommendations for embassy leadership. Think of this as a closing paragraph.