Increasing the Ambition of the Refugee Participation Pledge
Asia Pacific Network of Refugees
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“We know that when refugees are involved in decision making then we end up with better policy”, says Najeeba Wazefadost, Co-Founder of GRN and its local chapter, Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR).
“Too often refugees are asked to tell their personal stories but not asked to share their significant expertise.”
Najeeba came to Australia from Afghanistan by boat when she was ten, an experience which helped shape her identity as a global advocate for refugee leadership.
The Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) Impact Fund community recently supported the GRN Retreat held in Sydney in August 2022. The goal was to increase the meaningful participation of refugees in our region.
“This was the first time we met face to face since the pandemic, and it would not have happened without the quick and flexible support of ACF Impact Funders”, says Najeeba.
“As you can imagine, bringing together refugee leaders from all six regions of the world involved a lot of waiting for visa approvals. But it was very heartening for the leaders to know that Australians were willing to step up and pay for their travel to get here.
We know that when refugees are involved in decision making then we end up with better policy
“Many of the GRN arrived in Australia on the Saturday morning of the first day of the Retreat and got straight to work. We ran a highly productive week during which we set our strategy for the next three years, and engaged with key Government departments and civil society groups to advance refugee leadership in the Asia Pacific.”
Najeeba co-founded GRN and APNOR in 2018, and in that time, she has seen some significant shifts.
“We started GRN at a lunchtime side event at a UN conference in Geneva because we were tired of telling our stories but being locked out of the rooms where the real decisions are made.”
Fast forward to December 2021 and Najeeba was on stage as a keynote speaker at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees with the Commissioner Filippo Grandi. The Commissioner committed at that conference to change language which reduces refugees to their situation, as ‘people of concern’ and denies their agency.
No movement will be successful without the genuine support of allies
In June this year, the annual meeting of those governments focused on resettlement had an explicit focus on formally embedding refugee expertise into the process.
But although doors are opening, there is much to do.
“No movement will be successful without the genuine support of allies,” says Najeeba. “To advance the goals of refugee participation in decisions that affect us, we need to deeply engage with the wider community.”
To that end, Najeeba and her colleagues developed the UN-endorsed Refugee Leadership Pledge. In the Asia Pacific region, the next step is to engage with signatories to the Pledge, to help them realise their commitment to refugee leadership in their work, and to increase the overall number of signatories while building ambition around what refugee leadership means in this region.
Many of the current signatories do not have an explicit refugee focus, but when offered the opportunity to support refugee leadership, do so with professionalism and genuine allyship. One of the newest signatories and fellow Impact Fund Partner, the Centre for Policy Development (CPD), provided facilitation support at the GRN Retreat.
A concurrent goal of the work will be to encourage Australia to hold true to its signatory status and encourage New Zealand and other countries in the region to sign the pledge as well.
The Asia Pacific Network of Refugees is currently raising funds for a part-time staff member to support those who have pledged their support to refugee leadership.