Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table
The project in brief
R-SEAT (Refugees Seeking Equal Access at the Table)
Canada, The United States, Germany, Malaysia, Kenya, Colombia, New Zealand
April, 2021 - Ongoing
R-SEAT works to enhance the effectiveness of the global refugee response system by co-designing mechanisms to amplify refugee leadership ecosystems and increase the participation of refugees at state levels in a way that is meaningful, sustainable and transformative. We partner with government officials, international policy makers, civil society actors, academics, refugee-led organizations and refugee leaders with the intention of including a refugee perspective and experience in decision and policy making spaces, from idea to implementation.
As long as the engagement is without the meaningful participation of marginalized groups in decision making such approaches directly affect our lives in negative ways. As long as you only hear single narratives in the room, many will remain silenced.
- Renee Dixson, Co-founder, Acting Chair of the Forcibly Displaced People Network.
R-SEAT is focused on providing solutions to governments and policy makers to make refugee programming and policy more legitimate and representative. We seek to secure commitments from governments to formalize refugee participation in their respective national delegations to meetings of the international refugee regime.
R-SEAT began because of the successes achieved in Canada in institutionalizing refugee participation. The Government of Canada has confirmed that every delegation that leaves Canada to a meeting of the international refugee regime will have a refugee member on the delegation that will advise the other members as to a refugee perspective. Our successes in Canada serve as a model for other countries.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The main work of R-SEAT is to bring together stakeholders that collaborate in bringing this concept to national governments. These actors include bureaucrats, civil society actors, academics, politicians, and of course refugees and refugee-led organizations. R-SEAT connects and facilitates these conversations, and shares in our successes in Canada, offering guidance as to how the process worked here and how it can be edited to work in other contexts. All of our work is based on central, extensive research on the state of refugee relations for a number of countries. We look to contextualize this work with localized knowledge, especially from refugees who know the system internally. These voices shape our approach for each country. R-SEAT also works to amplify the work of our refugee partners and help them build relationships with other connections we have a relationship with. This includes publishing relevant articles on our website, amplifying funding opportunities, and facilitating introductions to grow our Open Ecosystem. We hope to use our connections to benefit others rather than keep them hidden.
- LERRN (Local Engagement Refugee Research Network)
- Open Society Foundation
- Bosch Foundation
- IRCC Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada
- Jumpstart Refugee Talent
Challenges and how they were overcome
R-SEAT does not operate as a traditional NGO, and this in itself took time to prove to other stakeholders. The original hurdle of proving this concept was the largest challenge faced by R-SEAT. It was difficult to transition the thinking of other stakeholders from the “if” to the “how”. We needed to re-work collective thinking from discussion to action and explain that our work is not focused on advocacy, but the creation of a tangible mechanism that then would work and remain in place after R-SEAT had helped it take shape.
How they were overcome
By proving this concept in Canada, we were able to turn to other countries and offer this success as a model on which to base their own mechanisms. Support and collaboration from our partners led to the creation of RAN (the Refugee Advisory Network), which also operates as a proof of concept. By using RAN as an example, new partners from other countries were able to see that our process is based on creating solutions directly.
We must listen to the voices of refugees, and their victim hood and lack of agency must come to end. That is the key to the path forward, and it must fuel both national and international policies.
- Ambassador Bob Rae, Canada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.
Results of the Good Practice
- By including refugee voices is planning and design, programming and policies become more effective and legitimate as they are representative of the needs of recipient groups.
- RAN in Canada has led to the creation of the “Together for Learning” campaign.
- Colombia has received the most funding in the region due to their willingness to include refugee voices.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
Creates a connection with donor countries that work together on a shared initiative. This is in line with Paragraph 34 of the Global Compact on Refugees, specifically taking on a partnered approach.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Enhanced programming leads to increased self-reliance. R-SEAT works to indirectly create better programming by including refugee perspectives in decision making spaces.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
Refugees work directly with states, leading to more effective advocacy and better resettlement solutions. Better dialogue between global North and South countries.
The project will continue. Our foundational research highlighted 20 countries that would be a good fit for this type of mechanism, and we are currently working in 6. Once we work with all 20 of these countries, the project may be continued if the conditions are right.
Further support required for the project to continue or scale up
Something that differentiates us is the development of our Open Ecosystem, which we can only grow and develop with the support of more partners who are willing to be part of our mission. We also look for multilateral advisory support within every country we work in, as contextualizing our research and model is crucial for its success. Finally, funding to continue our work as we expand to more countries and for the costs of establishing these mechanisms in each new country we enter. We think of our partnerships as true partners that are constantly helping us define the scope of our work.
Kuuku Quagraine, Communications and Operations Lead, R-SEAT