The youth populations currently make up 1.1 billion of the global population according to advocates for youth. Violence and armed conflict affects 408 million youth (aged 15-29 years old). Working effectively with young refugees and internally displaced youth is essential in shaping lasting peace and prosperity. It also plays a big role in ensuring economic growth, social cohesion and peace-building.

Due to conflict and politics, many young people have been uprooted from their homes. They now become rooted within the new communities their families fled to; for safety.

My journey:

On the 27th of May 2015, a new journey started for me, after more than 5 years of being a refugee in Malaysia and going through lots of hardships and struggles with my family, we were resettled to Sydney, Australia.

I had so many plans, dreams and goals. When we touched down, someone picked us up from the airport. They accompanied us to our temporary accommodation which would be our home for the next few months.

As we made our way to our accommodation, I remember how excited my mom and my brother were. I was quiet, looking through the window thinking about all those years in Malaysia where I had waited for this precise moment; the moment I would be free, feel safe and have the rights to study and to work. 

As I was settling in, my goals and plans didn’t change. This was an opportunity to explore what I can do to help my fellow refugees and reach out to those that are still in Malaysia. To be able to do this I would have to volunteer. I got connected with two organisations that were working with young people and were planning for a Youth Summit. I turned my excitement into action and joined them in the planning and later became the Master of Ceremonies.

Later I was selected to represent the voices of young people at the Global Refugee Youth consultation in UNHCR HQ Geneva. Here I met many young refugees from different parts of the world. We worked on recommendations and solutions for this problem and came up with the 7 core actions for refugees, a framework that advises the UNHCR and its partners on how to work with and for youth. 

After three years of consulting and engaging with other young refugees, the High Commissioner for refugees formed the Global Youth Advisory Council (GYAC) in December 2017. A diverse group of young refugees and a consultant group composed the GYAC. The issues surrounding the protection and development of young people, including those who are refugees, internally displaced and stateless. was focused on.

I met this incredible young advocate named Foni.

She is a refugee from South Sudan and has lots of passion and inspiration. We were both part of the consultation and became founding members of the global youth advisory council. Then we were selected to Co-Chair the council. We got to drive our passion with other youth members. As Co-chairmen of the GYAC Foni and I worked alongside an incredible team to set up structures and continue with the work we were required to undertake. 

In 2018, we started our work around the Global Compact for Refugees(GCR) by providing our inputs from our community during the drafting process. By conducting community consultation and providing the feedback to bridge the gap between the local and international level. In the final draft of the GCR, there were 17 specific mentions of youth.

The Global Youth Advisory Council

A mechanism of engagement of young refugees. Over the past few years, the numbers of refugees at the global level engagement has increased. Networks such as Global Refugee Led Network (GRN), Tertiary Refugee Student Network(TRSN) and others are all advocating for the meaningful engagement of refugees. Yet to be achieved is meaningful participation, despite progress in refugee engagement, Refugee lack participation around the development and decisions where strategies and policies are made.

Refugee leaders and refugee-led organizations understand the needs of their community. Since the leaders themselves are experiencing similar challenges, in different parts of the world. They have all become flexible and quick to divert the efforts to the ongoing challenges the world is facing due to COVID-19. 


It’s important to support the activities refugees are undertaking

In response to COVID-19 and the other challenges, many refugees undertake activities in their community. Firstly, building programmes to support youth groups organizational capacity and their initiatives to become actors in community-based projects. Secondly, incorporating support to youth initiatives that facilitate cross-cultural understanding and respect amongst refugees, internally displaced people and the host community. Thirdly, accelerate funding to ensure refugee-led organizations will have funding without all the bureaucracy. Needed is the principle of partnership promotion. We are not only beneficiaries, but also contributors. Many forcibly displaced young people are ready and willing to contribute to leading solutions, or coming up with solutions. Not recognizing their skills, expertise and experience is the issue. 


It should not take a crisis or pandemic to realize and appreciate the skills and capacities forcibly displaced people bring to a community. Most of them are at the front lines working for the community they live in. How will you work with us?


Did you enjoy this post? Then you might enjoy the post on "Building a truly integrated society" or "How a refugee is helping change his new community in Italy".


Author 1: Arash Bordbar

Arash is originally from Shiraz, Iran. He is the Co-chair of the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council. He is also currently working with the CMRC as a Youth Employment and Enterprise Worker. Arash is also the Chair of Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN). Awarded to him in 2016 was The Young People’s Human Rights Medal.


Author 2: Foni Joyce Vuni

Foni fled from South Sudan with her parents to Kenya. She advocates for forcibly displaced women and youth. She is the Co-chair to the UNHCR Global Youth Advisory Council. Her dream is to improve the identity, image and reputation of refugees, IDPs, stateless and other persons of concerns in the community.

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