Reflections from young refugee leaders: Key takeaways from our global discussion on refugee leadership
On November 17, WUSC co-hosted an exciting Roundtable Discussion: State of Play on Refugee Leadership: Young Refugee Leaders in Conversation with Allies. The global virtual event, organized with the Global Refugee Youth Network (GRYN), brought young refugee leaders from around the world, together with international practitioners, including representatives of governments, NGOs, multilateral organizations, academia, and the private sector. In total, more than 80 participants attended the event (over 50% of participants were young refugee leaders from Africa, South America, and the Middle East).
To start off the event, we began with reflections on the current state of refugee youth leadership around the world. Then, a panel discussion, made up of a diverse group of refugee leaders and allies, explored promising practices and challenges related to refugee youth leadership with a particular focus on shifting power dynamics to enhance collaboration amongst key actors working in this space. Finally, participants had the opportunity to connect in breakout rooms to discuss practical ways that allies and refugee leaders can effectively work together to advance refugee inclusion, leadership, and decision-making.
To make the roundtable more inclusive and diverse, we made it a priority to promote the participation and voices of refugee youth in the lead up to the event. For example, we offered accommodations such as data bundles, closed captioning, and interpretation in French, Spanish, and Arabic to make the event more accessible In addition, we shared a google form prior to the event to learn more about participants and collect various responses from refugee youth and allies in order to help us shape the panel discussion and breakout group discussions. We also asked refugee leaders and allies to share their perspectives on what meaningful refugee youth leadership means to them and shared key ways that allies can support refugee leaders now and in the future. You can read more about their thoughts on refugee youth leadership in our new report!
Another feature of the event was the graphic recording, completed by Lulu Kitololo to help us capture information and organize outcomes and takeaways from the event in a visual format. Here are some of the key takeaways from the roundtable on how allies can support refugee leadership!
Provide funding to refugee-led initiatives and programs.
Many refugee leaders lack access to funding to support refugee-led programs and services. This is partly due to the fact that many grassroots refugee-led organizations are not legal entities and face institutional barriers (e.g., citizenship requirements for registration). Simon Marot Toulong from GRYN shared how funding is crucial to help them grow and develop greater influence, and to be sustainable. According to our pre-event survey, while funding was deemed essential by almost all allies and refugee youth as a key mechanism to support refugee leadership, only one funding opportunity for refugee youth was shared. Funding for refugee-led programs should be made available at different levels (e.g., microgrants or scale-up funds) and have flexible criteria to evaluate capacity.
Support capacity-building and practical opportunities for refugee youth.
Refugee leaders and refugee-led organizations often lack access to the training and education that can support them as effective and influential leaders and advocates. Allies can support training and capacity-build programs that help young refugees develop labour-market relevant skills and leadership competencies (e.g., organizational leadership, research and writing). Pauline Vidal from the Refugee-Led Research Hub shared her reflections of being an ally and how she provides support to refugee and displaced researchers and trains them in her role as a Research Facilitator so that they can lead projects in their communities.
Support refugee networks and coordinate connections between them.
Networks can play an important role in influencing policies and the global refugee response. During the event, Ehab Badwin from the Tertiary Refugee Student Network highlighted how networks can help to build confidence, experience, and exposure for young refugees around the world. Allies can support refugee networks by fostering opportunities for refugee leaders to engage with one another, share experiences, and build partnerships.
Involve refugee leaders in program design and delivery.
When developing and implementing programs targeting refugees, it is important that allies work closely with refugees and find ways to engage young refugee leaders in the community. One of the speakers, Faridah Luanda, talked about how refugees have the knowledge and expertise to identify effective solutions to local issues and shared her own experience with assessing needs in her community related to sexual and reproductive health and child protection.
Focus on decision-making influence.
Refugees need to be at the center of discussions and decision-making about refugees. During the event, Barth Mwanza, Co-Chair of the Global Youth Advisory Council (GYAC), shared how refugee youth can be powerful policy advocates. Allies should involve refugee leaders and include them in decision-making spaces (e.g., support a young refugee leader to attend and speak at the next important global summit).
We would like to thank everyone who attended and contributed to our global virtual event on refugee youth leadership! We hope that these discussions will encourage you to think about how you can support refugee leadership through your work. To learn more about the other ways in which we are working to ensure the meaningful participation and engagement of refugees in our work, check out our blog post here.