Having a refugee experience is not something to be taken lightly. You leave your life, your loved ones, your familiar surroundings behind because of violence and have to make a new beginning. That requires a lot of commitment, resilience and ingenuity. In the first years after the flight, a lot of energy is released, but there are also many obstacles to make a successful start. Therefore, it is crucial that the societal structures surrounding refugees are inclusive enough to give them the right push in the right direction.
The experiences of previous generations of refugees are essential to make the policies of governments, organizations and social initiatives more inclusive. Structural linking of refugee perspectives at the policy level contributes to more representative and inclusive policies, because the views, experiences and expertise of people about whom these policies are made are taken into account. Recently, various initiatives have arisen in the Netherlands and Europe by and with refugees that emphasize the need for a more active and meaningful contribution of refugees in policy-making. This includes the call in the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) for the voice of refugees and refugee organizations worldwide to be heard in policy-making on issues that affect refugees. This call came about partly thanks to the advocacy of refugee organizations. It offers an excellent opportunity to give more space at a national level to the voice of 'lawyers' who themselves have a refugee background in policy and decision-making.
Current developments at an international level also open up scope in the Netherlands to take new steps towards the inclusion of refugees' own views on policy issues. That is why the Dutch Council for Refugees has asked the Refugee Academy to issue advice on how 'refugee-led advocacy' (refugee-led advocacy) can be given further substance and shape in the Netherlands. This advice concerns a vision of how refugee-led advocacy can be understood in the current policy context and what the challenges and opportunities are. The advice attempts to clarify the idea, the importance and the added value of refugee-led advocacy and to formulate conditions to give this form of advocacy a structural place in policy-making. In addition to this general advice, which serves as a basis for formulating actions at different levels and for different actors (national government, municipality, NGOs, organizations led by refugees), we are writing a specific advice to Vluchtelingenwerk.
For more information about the research project 'Refugee-lad advocacy', visit the website of the Refugee Academy: www.resilience-institute.nl/expertise-labs/refugee-academy/.