The Refugee Advisory Network of Canada (RAN Canada) organized its inaugural webinar titled “Meaningful Refugee Participation: Taking Stock and Charting the Way Forward” in celebration of World Refugee Day on June 20, 2023. With 53 participants from 10 different countries, the webinar explored the concept of meaningful refugee participation and discuss its significance in improving the lives of refugees. The panel featured representatives from four refugee-led organizations (RLOs), including Dr. Hourie Tafech from United States Refugee Advisory Board (USRAB), Rabia Talal Almbaid from New Zealand Refugee Advisory Panel (NZRAP), Mustafa Alio from Refugees Seeking Equal Access to Table (R-SEAT), and Tsering Norzom Thonsur from Refugee Advisory Network of Canada (RAN Canada). The panel discussion was moderated by Dawit Demoz from RAN Canada.
During the panel discussion, the participants briefly shared their perspectives on what meaningful refugee participation meant to them. Dr. Tafech stated that meaningful refugee participation should aim for normalization, where refugees do not have to advocate for their place at decision-making tables. Rabia emphasized the importance of ensuring that all refugees’ voices, including those who consider themselves former refugees, are heard and valued. Tsering expressed her encouragement from this year’s World Refugee Day, where the hope carried by refugees should be matched by non-refugees. Mustafa highlighted that meaningful refugee participation is a learning curve and a means to achieve better outcomes, calling for patience and mutual efforts between refugee advisors and governments.
The webinar provided valuable insights into the concept of meaningful refugee participation and the challenges and opportunities associated with it. The panelists emphasized the need for sustained collaboration, genuine intention from governments, and equitable representation to advance meaningful refugee participation. The discussion highlighted the role of CSOs, evidence-based research, and refugee voices in shaping policies and improving the lives of refugees. The panelists emphasized that meaningful refugee participation is a continuous learning process and called for ongoing efforts to ensure better outcomes for all refugees.