Today marks the start of the first-ever Global Refugee Forum (GRF), hosted by the UNHCR. The Forum takes place at a crucial time, when the refugee population is higher than it has ever been, at over 25 million worldwide. In the last decade, the global population of forcibly displaced people has grown from 43.3 million in 2009, to 70.8 million in 2018 — also a record high. The GRF builds upon the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and is an opportunity to demonstrate international responsibility-sharing, one of the key principles contained in the Compact. At this historic event, various international actors will make pledges on the global stage, (re)affirming their commitment to improving new and existing refugee situations.
WUSC has been working to enhance the lives of refugees through its Student Refugee Program (SRP) — the only one of its kind to combine refugee resettlement and higher education — for over 40 years. At over 95 postsecondary campuses across Canada, WUSC Local Committees comprised of students, faculty and staff, are key in the SRP’s success and sustainability. With over 50% of the world’s refugee population being under 18 years old, we remain strongly committed to improving the lives of young refugees, in collaboration with Canadian youth and our university, college, and CEGEP partners.
With our partners and network, we will be making the following three pledges at the Global Refugee Forum:
Pledge 1: Expanding Education Pathways and Developing Welcoming Communities in Canada
WUSC and WUSC Local Committees at 70 Canadian postsecondary institutions pledge to expand education pathways and access to higher education, and to create welcoming communities for refugees in the following ways:
- Increase the number of additional refugee students that WUSC Local Committees sponsor annually, through the Student Refugee Program (SRP) by 2023: 28 Local Committees, 51 additional sponsorships;
- Ensure the sustainability of the SRP on our campus by securing long-term funding commitments, establishing a strong Local Committee structure, and building partnerships with services on campus and in our community: 64 Local Committees;
- Engage other postsecondary institutions to implement the Student Refugee Program on their campuses: 32 Local Committees;
- Raise awareness with admissions offices about the role they can play in helping diverse refugee populations overcome educational barriers: 43 Local Committees;
- Build welcoming communities for newcomers by organizing anti-racist and anti-xenophobia public engagement events on campus and in our community: 51 Local Committees.
WUSC pledges to support the Local Committee network to achieve these commitments to grow the Student Refugee Program, and to ensure the program is inclusive, gender-responsive, and integrates refugee voices. WUSC will continue to accept pledges from all its Local Committees in support of this four-year commitment.
Pledge 2: Championing Education Pathways and Improving Global Practices: Solutions-focused Technical Expertise and Capacity Building
WUSC will offer demand-driven, technical and capacity-building support to states, higher education networks and institutions, and other public/private sector actors to establish and sustain appropriate education pathways in their countries, leveraging WUSC’s engaged Canadian network and its technical expertise in the areas of:
- Mobilizing, building capacity, and sustaining non-traditional networks and actors (including youth) to take local action on advancing the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees;
- Identifying, preparing, and matching refugee students with education opportunities and pathways;
- Creating innovative funding models that allow for sustainable, predictable commitments;
- Accelerating the integration of refugees through the creation of welcoming communities and peer-to-peer support models;
- Influencing policies and best practices within given operating contexts.
Specifically, WUSC pledges to provide this support to at least four states/sets of stakeholders prior to the next GRF. It will do so by convening or co-convening meetings of education pathway stakeholders, providing tailored technical support and advisory services, developing and disseminating policy briefs and learning materials, and — when possible — supporting study visits and exchanges to WUSC’s Canadian postsecondary institutional partners and/or participation in WUSC’s training programs.
Pledge 3: Including refugee voices
WUSC pledges to ensure that those with lived refugee experience play a key role in informing the design and implementation of all our work with and for refugee youth. We will promote refugee participation and amplify refugee voices in WUSC’s programming, public engagement, communications, research, and policy dialogue activities related to refugee and forced migration issues. We will do so by strengthening and leveraging the WUSC Student Refugee Program alumni network at the organizational level and at the individual campus level at postsecondary institutions across Canada.
WUSC’s Executive Director, Chris Eaton; Senior Manager for Durable Solutions, Michelle Manks; and former SRP student, Wenasa Alaraba, will present WUSC’s pledges at the GRF. We look forward to sharing our best practices, learning from other actors and joining relevant actors in making solid commitments to improve the lives of refugees everywhere.