Advancing meaningful refugee participation

This project provides an in-depth analysis of the legal and policy framework governing the participation of refugees in decision-making processes.

Delegates to the 2022 UNHCR Global Consultations with NGOs in Geneva take part in a panel discussion on “Engaging with Displaced Women-Led Organizations”. The discussion was moderated by Apojok Biar (speaking), who chairs the Women, Gender and Diversity Working Group of the civil society network Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. ; The 2022 UNHCR Global Consultations with NGOs took place in Geneva and online in hybrid format on 7-10 June with the twin themes “Climate Action” and “Localization”. The annual talks provide an important forum for debate on global and regional themes and an opportunity to explore fresh collaboration on advocacy and operational issues. More than 500 representatives from around the world took part in the meeting, co-organized by UNHCR and the International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

The challenge

It is an unfortunate reality that many refugees today are not consulted or included in key decision-making processes that affect them. Whether it is in relation to the development of laws and policies, the transfer of refugees from one jurisdiction to another, or the implementation of programs and services, refugees are often excluded from decisions that materially impact their human rights. 

This exclusion has real-world consequences. It undermines refugees’ agency and dignity and compromises democratic notions of good governance. It also can result in inefficient and inappropriate protection responses.

Working collaboratively with refugee leaders and other stakeholders, this project aims to build a much-needed evidence base to inform the design and development of effective law and policy mechanisms for meaningful refugee participation in decision-making processes – both in Australia and internationally. 

We are grateful to the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and Act for Peace for their support for this project. 

Project highlights

We are currently working in partnership with key stakeholders to help recentre refugees in law and policy discussions and advance meaningful refugee participation both domestically and abroad. 

In 2023, we co-led the development of new multi-stakeholder Guidelines on Co-produced Research with Refugees and Other People with Lived Experience of Displacement. These Guidelines build on extensive consultation and are a key resource for anyone with an interest in co-produced research, such as universities, governments, donors, ethics review committees, NGOs, intergovernmental organisations and community groups that may be involved in or impacted by the research. These guidelines are also available in Arabic, French and Spanish

We have also launched a first-of-its-kind Displaced Scholars Mentoring Program to support early-career scholars who have experienced displacement and are researching in the field of refugee and forced migration studies to pursue their academic and professional goals. Forty-five scholars from around the world received mentoring as part of this program in 2023.  

Our work  

Our work seeks to inform and impact the design and development of law and policy mechanisms for meaningful refugee participation in decision-making processes. In particular, we are researching:

  • the scope of current legal duties on states and international organisations to consult with or include refugees in decisions that directly affect them

  • how and to what extent refugees have been able to participate in different decision-making areas in practice to date, and

  • potential reform options that could improve the legal and policy framework relating to refugee participation in both the short and long term. 

Featured work

When people with lived experience of displacement are involved in co-producing research – not merely as participants, but as partners – the benefits can be significant, and shared. Co-produced research can make a valuable contribution to our understanding of forced migration and help to drive real-world change. Yet practical challenges often arise when undertaking this kind of work, and for many, it can be difficult to know where to begin and how to best proceed. 

Our Guidelines for Co-produced Research with Refugees and Other People with Lived Experience of Displacement can assist anyone interested in undertaking, supporting or learning more about inclusive, co-produced research. These Guidelines have been developed through an extensive collaborative process involving refugee leaders, academics, practitioners and policymakers from around the world.

This first-of-its-kind study seeks to better understand the ways in which refugee-led initiatives contribute to refugee protection and solutions in the Asia Pacific region. The research aims to answer four central questions:

  • How do refugee-led initiatives support their communities and others?

  • How to refugee-led initiatives engage with and represent constituents/members?

  • How do refugee-led initiatives engage with other stakeholders?

  • What barriers do refugee-led initiatives face when undertaking this work?

 

This project is being led by Tristan Harley, Senior Research Associate at the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee law and Najeeba Wazefadost, the founding Director of the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees. The findings of this research project will be published in mid-2023.

This research project seeks to inform the design and development of effective international law and policy mechanisms for ensuring meaningful refugee participation in decision-making processes. The project examines the scope of current legal duties on states and international organisations to consult with or include refugees in decisions that directly affect them, and explores various reform options, developed in consultation with refugees and other stakeholders.

People

Senior Research Associate Tristan Harley
Senior Research Associate
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