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Geneva Advocacy – June 2018

In June 2018 SCoA Chairperson Dewani Bakkum and CEO Nick Tebbey travelled to Geneva for a number of important global meetings focusing on the international response to the growing refugee crisis. Anchored by two important events hosted by the UNHCR, the Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement and the NGO Consultations, this busy period in Geneva spanned over two weeks, and saw a range of important other events and side meetings complement the broader UNHCR dialogues.

Below, we will share a snapshot of the key outcomes from the variety of meetings attended, as well as some additional resources for those who are interested.

Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement

As one of four delegates representing Australian NGOs, Dewani took responsibility for representing our members at this signature annual event, hosted over three days from 25 to 27 June.

You can read Dewani’s full report here: ATCR 2018 report

A focus of the ATCR is the update on Global Resettlement Needs as presented annually by UNHCR. You can read the 2019 Projection of Global Resettlement Needs here.

SCoA was pleased to have the opportunity to showcase the National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards as part of a poster presentation at the Consultations and was delighted by the level of interest shown by other resettlement countries. The NSSOS provided a good source of inspiration for discussions about how best to effectively and efficiently deliver settlement services, and SCoA has held ongoing discussions with various delegates about the Standards and how they have been implemented since our return to Australia.

Dewani Bakkum and Nick Tebbey sharing the NSSOS in Geneva

Global Summit of Refugees

Thanks to years of advocacy by Refugee Council of Australia and others, this year saw the first ever Global Summit of Refugees, which took place simultaneously with the ATCR. Over 70 refugee delegates from 27 counties attended the Summit to discuss refugee-led advocacy across five important themes including participation and agency, integration and inclusion and durable solutions.

SCoA was fortunate to be invited to a workshop at the conclusion of the Summit where representatives of NGOs were included in discussions about developing tangible action out of the Summit’s discussions.

What quickly became apparent was that the often-repeated motto: “Nothing About Us, Without Us” has never been more crucial. SCoA recognises the need for greater involvement of refugees in decision making as well as program delivery and believes the following action items provide a good checklist for achieving unprecedented levels of participation:

  • Support existing models that promote refugee inclusion
  • Advocate and create opportunities for more refugee representation at conferences, workshops, etc.
  • Consult regularly on policy and program delivery with effected communities;
  • Improve cultural awareness among civil society and the broader business community; and
  • Support structures for refugee-led organisations including through governance, auspicing, etc.

We congratulate RCOA and their international colleagues for bringing this event to fruition and thank those delegates who took the opportunity to share with us, and the many other NGOs present, the real, tangible opportunities to achieve greater inclusion.

UNHCR NGO Consultations

Annually, the UNHCR gathers NGO representatives from across the world for NGO Consultations. This year’s event ran from 27-29 June with over 600 delegates from 97 countries, exploring the theme of “Putting people first.”

In addition to being a useful opportunity to hear from UNHCR representatives (including The High Commissioner, Deputy High Commissioner, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection and Assistant High Commissioner for Operations), the event facilitates brilliant networking and information sharing across the three days.

SCoA found some of the thematic sessions particularly useful for this purpose, including opportunities to discuss, and hear more about the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and updates from UNHCR’s regional bureaux. For more information on MENA, Asia, Africa regions and UNHCR operations, reports are available from the UNHCR NGO Consultations website.

Importantly, the consultations featured a range of thematic sessions on topics including statelessness; working with and for local and refugee leadership; ensuring responses are inclusive of age, gender and diversity; national systems strengthening, and; self-reliance and economic inclusion.

At the self-reliance and economic inclusion session, SCoA shared the work of Australia’s settlement sector on fostering economic engagement and learned from representatives of the UK, Germany, Kenya and many others about how best self-reliance can be supported. Some of the key issues discussed here included:

  • How to ensure foundational settlement concepts such as housing and access to transport don’t impede economic opportunities;
  • How to promote greater involvement of the business community in economic initiatives; and
  • The importance of empowering refugees and refugee-led organisations to play a pivotal and lead role in developing opportunities.

Another important development at the NGO Consultations was the launch of the inaugural Innovation Award, which will highlight NGO efforts and achievements that support service delivery. Read more about the Award here – and consider nominating!

SCoA welcomes the recently released Report of the Annual Consultations which has been prepared by Special Rapporteur Yamamah Agha of Settlement Services International. The Report provides a comprehensive review of the Consultations and highlights many key recommendations that flow from them. As Yamamah stated in her closing address, never has it been more important to strengthen national systems and build capacity for refugees in ways that give effect to the conference theme: Putting People First. SCoA congratulates Yamamah and the team at SSI for their influential role.

Meeting with the International Organisation for Migration (the UN Migration Agency)

Prior to traveling to Geneva, SCoA and the Refugee Council of Australia, requested a high-level meeting with the IOM to discuss the organisation’s new role as a member of the United Nations, and to focus on opportunities for advocacy and collaboration that could assist migrants and refugees in their resettlement journeys.

The meeting took place on Friday 22 June and was attended by IOM officials, SCoA, RCOA, Settlement Services International, MYAN and the Assyrian Australian Association.

The IOM provided some useful insights into their new mandate, following their entry into the UN in 2016 as a “related organisation”. Interestingly, they shared news of a new UN Network on Migration that will be launched later this year and will see the IOM lead a group of over 20 UN organisations that will work collaboratively on the topics of migration, labour mobility and refugees. It is hoped that this new Network will, in conjunction with the Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, lead to a new, strong leadership by the UN on this important global issue.

Much of the discussion concerned practical elements of the IOM’s operations in the Asia-Pacific region, including updates on their work in Indonesia and Malaysia.

SCoA took the opportunity to raise with IOM the successes (or otherwise) of their delivery of the Australian Cultural Orientation program (AUSCO) and shared feedback that we had collected from our members about potential issues in the delivery and content of AUSCO.

IOM expressed a strong desire to work in closer collaboration with the sector on this issue and to explore opportunities to enhance the delivery of AUSCO, acknowledging that the content is set by the Australian government.

Since returning to Canberra, we have commenced discussions with IOM locally and in the region to see how best we can represent the experiences of our members and the many new Australians who participate in AUSCO prior to arrival.

We will keep members updated on this and ensure ample opportunity to contribute where possible.

Meeting with UNHCR Europe and Middle East North Africa (MENA) Bureaux

SCoA joined with RCOA, SSI, and the Assyrian Australian Association later on Friday 22 June for a meeting with various UNHCR representatives responsible for the Europe and MENA operations.

Discussions focused on the current situation in places such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and this high-level dialogue gave attendees the opportunity to provide specific feedback and ask questions of the UNHCR.

It is easy to see the scale and urgency of issues impacting these regions and the effect this is having on UNHCR operations. However, it was refreshing to participate in an honest and open dialogue and to see the UNHCR’s responsiveness to some of the suggestions and issues put forward.

SCoA left the meeting with a greater appreciation of the operational aspects of the UNHCR’s role in these regions and is pleased to note the willingness of the delegates in attendance to receive ongoing feedback and questions about issues of relevance. We encourage any members who have relevant concerns to contact our CEO to discuss how they can be relayed to the appropriate representatives within UNHCR.

Conclusion

The annual meetings and events in Geneva are a busy and at times overwhelming display of the commitment and passion of the NGOs supporting refugees around the world. They provide a great opportunity to provide crucial feedback and advocacy to UNHCR and, perhaps most importantly, to network. SCoA takes seriously its role as a representative of the sector at this important event and was pleased to foster many new and ongoing relationships with delegates that facilitate the sharing of ideas and information.

The emergence of troubling global trends impacting refugees reinforces the need for a well-connected and dedicated team of NGOs, and SCoA is proud of its small but important role in the bigger global picture. We will continue to share with the international community the successes of settlement in Australia and the work that can be done to improve the outcomes for the world’s most vulnerable, and to use what we have learned in Geneva to advocate for better outcomes here in Australia.

SCoA Deputy Chair, Melissa Monteiro with CEO Nick Tebbey at the UNCHR NGO Consultations