By Viviana Garcia-Blanco, Dominican Volunteer
As of 2017, there are 65.6 million forcibly displaced people, 22.5 million refugees and 10 million stateless people roaming the face of the earth. (1) Most refugees seek asylum in their immediate regions, which as it happens, tend to be low-or middle-income countries. The countries currently hosting the most refugees are: Turkey, Lebanon, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Ethiopia. (2) The UN Refugee Agency faces a number of barriers in their efforts to both meet the needs of the individuals caught up in this crisis, as well as the needs of the host countries. Civil society groups across the board have responded to the lack of humanitarian aid and support by addressing critical gaps in UN policies. For instance, the NGO Committee on Migration, of which the Dominican Leadership Conference (DLC) is a member, consulted the publication Ten Acts for the Global Compact, which serves as input towards the Secretary General’s Report come 2018. Ten Acts, which is described as “a civil society vision for a transformative agenda for human mobility, migration and development,” is a framework that highlights ten critical focal points that need urgent attention as shown on the following chart. Overall, Ten Acts for the Global Compact emphasizes the fact that all human beings should have the same universal human rights regardless of political, economic or social status.
In an interactive dialogue between Louise Arbour, UN Special Representative for International Migration and civil society held on November 14th, Arbour spoke about the structure of the upcoming Secretary General’s Report. The first part will deal with “imperatives” in terms of safe and orderly migration across all regions; the second part with utilizing UN agencies to better work together on refugee and migrant initiatives; and the third part with recommendations from UN Member States in order to make way for other opportunities. Ms. Arbour spoke about the importance of placing people at the center of the humanitarian process, which Ten Acts alludes to. One of the biggest takeaways from this dialogue came down to what the role of civil society is before, during, and after the resettlement process. Essentially, it came down to the importance of good advocacy. Ms. Arbour mentioned the need to mobilize civil society around community-based initiatives that deal with issues like the unfair treatment of unaccompanied children at detention centers. Her words regarding community organizing and mobilization really solidified my beliefs about the important work the Dominican Family is doing on the ground all across the world. Our work needs to focus on the implementation of policies that have not been explored. We cannot reiterate what has already been said before; rather, we need to work towards unpacking the complexities of issues plaguing migration.
The topic of refugees and migration has become highly politicized over the last several years. When an issue becomes hotly debated among news commentators or political parties, we can easily lose a sense of the very real and horrifying realities that are at stake. Civil society groups at the UN, especially religious organizations, have not forgotten or overlooked this reality but in fact have advocated towards more inclusive, people-centered policymaking. The Dominican Family needs to continue to speak out on issues affecting people at both the domestic and international level. We have the power to encourage others to assume their rightful role as members of civil society, because the international community thrives when individual communities thrive.