THEME: HOPE AWAY FROM HOME – “A World Where Refugees are always Included”
Every year, on June 20, the world comes together to commemorate World Refugee Day. A day designated by the United Nations to remember and honor refugees around the world. As we mark this important occasion, Refugee Law Project stands in solidarity with the millions of displaced individuals and families, particularly those who have sought refuge in Uganda from the Great Lakes region, including from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia and a few from beyond.
Refugees are forced to leave their homes due to armed conflicts, persecution, or other circumstances that place their lives at risk, making them in need of international protection. Uganda, as a signatory to the 1969 OAU Convention on Refugees, the 1951 Convention on Refugees, and the Optional Protocol of 1967, has an international mandate to provide assistance to refugees within its borders. Furthermore, Uganda has signed the Global Compact on Refugees and will co-convene the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023.
This year's theme for World Refugee Day, "Hope Away from Home: A World Where Refugees are Always Included," highlights the importance of ensuring that refugees find hope and inclusivity in their new surroundings. Refugee Law Project, with its 13 offices across Uganda, is committed to upholding this vision by providing vital services such as legal aid, medical assistance, counseling, capacity building, English classes, and advocacy for the rights of refugees. Notably, 30% of our staff members are refugees themselves, bringing their invaluable firsthand experiences, skills and expertise, and perspectives to our work.
Meaningful refugee participation is essential in providing effective humanitarian support and international protection. It is crucial that refugees have a seat at the table where decisions about their welfare and project interventions are made, and that they are empowered to create spaces of their own. Refugee Law Project actively collaborates with refugee community leaders, establishing support groups to address refugee issues. Additionally, refugees serve as paralegals, acting as first responders to legal challenges within their communities. Moreover, 70% of our English for Adult class facilitators are refugees. Through basic video advocacy training, refugees have been equipped to amplify the issues faced by their communities. Indeed, it is imperative to further support refugees-led initiatives. The resounding message for refugee participation is "Nothing about us without us and do not leave us behind"
To ensure the successful implementation of projects and decisions regarding refugee welfare, it is crucial to increase the representation and visibility of refugees in these processes. By actively involving refugees, we can influence policies and programs that better suit and address their needs. Currently, projects are often developed without proper and meaningful consultation with refugees, disregarding their diverse cultures, languages and aspirations. The Global Refugee Forum offers a unique opportunity for refugees to set agenda and engage in dialogues about their rights and needs. Historically, the exclusion of refugees from agenda setting and discussions on migration and policies that impact their lives and futures has resulted in the failure of many projects. As Refugee Law Project, we call upon the UNHCR, the Government of Uganda, and civil society organizations to commit to a minimum of 30% meaningful refugee participation in decision-making and project design and implementation to lift up their voices at the relevant fora
On this World Refugee Day, let us reaffirm our collective commitment to creating a world where refugees are not merely recipients of aid but active contributors who shape their own destinies. It is only through inclusive and empowering practices that we can build a brighter inclusive future for all, where hope thrives, even away from home.