The global refugee response space has been talking about the importance of including refugees1 in responding to refugee situations for more than a decade. Most recently, both the 2016 New York Declaration and the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) have called for meaningful participation of refugees in refugee response. Specifically, the GCR says, “states and relevant stakeholders will facilitate meaningful participation of refugees, including women, persons with disabilities and youth, in Global Refugee Forums, ensuring the inclusion of their perspectives on progress.” Other international policies go even further, such as the UNHCR Policy on Age, Gender and Diversity, which calls for the participation of specific refugee groups such as women, youth and LGBTIQ+ persons.
This conversation has instigated some progress. More than ever, we have seen refugees participating on panels, invited to fora and voicing their interests. And importantly, there is a growing appreciation for the fact that including refugees in substantive ways is not only the right thing to do, but that it results in policies and programs that are more effective and legitimate.
Despite this progress, the refugee response sector is struggling to enable meaningful participation. Refugee-led initiatives globally are therefore calling for an urgent focus on moving from rhetoric to reality. Among them, we, the Global Refugee-led Network, a global network of refugee-led initiatives, have loudly and repeatedly called for the systemic transformation of global refugee response to act on the opinions, perspectives and guidance of refugees, regardless of their legal status, travel capabilities or gender. Like many of our fellow refugee-led initiatives and allies, we believe the refugee response sector at large needs to listen, reflect, and ultimately change, so that refugees like ourselves can meaningfully participate in strategizing, funding and implementing programs, policies and other responses that influence our lives.
In an effort to move these limited examples to sector-wide practice, the Global Refugee-led Network and some key ally organizations have constructed the following document, which contains a definition of ‘meaningful participation,’ and constructing Guidelines that would enable it specifically within the refugee response sector. This document is the first step of a broader GRN process to construct and share Guidelines for enabling meaningful participation within society at large.
This document was authored by the Global Refugee-led Network in collaboration with Asylum Access,
Advised by experts during the writing process from:
Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR)
Forced Migration Research Network (University of New South Wales)
International Detention Coalition
Local Engagement Refugee Research Network (LERRN)
Saint Andrew's Refugee Services (StARS)
Settlement Services International