"I wanted to influence change, but at events I was consistently expected to share “my personal experiences”. I was viewed by organisers as a representation of statelessness, with the other elements of my humanity and life disregarded - no matter how much more of a person I am, no matter how many panic attacks, how many angry outbursts and how many traumas I’ve absorbed. I was there to represent statelessness, not my whole experience as a person affected by statelessness."
The project in brief
The project is implemented by European Network on Statelessness (ENS). We began work on the Community Speaker Policy in March 2022 and it was published in November 2022, but it is a living document open to adaptation as it and related work evolve to support good practice in engaging with stateless communities.
This policy was co-developed in 2022 with stateless communities working with ENS. It can be used by event organisers and NGOs to make speaking engagements a more supportive and empowering experience for people with lived experience of statelessness, and ensure that people are respected, supported and able to give their best. There is a parallel ‘Individual Community Speaker Policy’ for use by community speakers when invited to speak at events, to ensure they are able to assert their own needs.
This policy seeks to ensure that opportunities for people with lived experience to speak publicly and participate in advocacy events are made more supportive, effective and empowering.
Main activities of the Good Practice
This ENS Community Speaker Policy is intended to set basic standards and expectations for external organisations working with ENS who request recommendations for speakers with experience of statelessness or representing communities affected by statelessness. These standards and expectations have been co-designed with stateless community representatives, based on their recommendations and outlined needs.
When approached by external contacts with requests to be put in touch with community speakers, prior to sending the speaker’s details to an external contact, ENS will check that the contact commits to ensuring the Community Speaker Policy is requested, including the 6 main expectations on event organisers:
- Speakers are treated as experts on the issues they are affected by
- Speakers are given detailed information about their expected audience
- Speakers are able to choose their own by-line / introductory bio
- No one is expected to share personal information or experience
- Speakers are remunerated for their preparation and delivery time
- Approach multiple possible speakers, to ensure that the most relevant person is found and someone is not “shoe-horned” in
If the event organiser agrees to the above, ENS put them in touch with a community speaker and ensure adequate support and mentoring to the individual throughout the process.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice include:
- The policy was developed through design sessions with members of the stateless community group facilitated by ENS, and based on their own experiences in participating in advocacy/speaking events on statelessness.
- The implementation of the policy has been facilitated via the ENS Secretariat, with different members using the policy when planning or participating in advocacy events either within the network or externally. For this, ENS has made use of its strong relationship with different regional and national institutions, civil society organisations and other advocacy spaces that it can ensure stateless people are included in.
“Policies are traditionally clever forms of bureaucracy that organisations use as ways to push for new practice. In this meeting, we remembered that individuals can utilise this language too. Rather than lengthy, carefully worded email exchanges that require us to manage logistics for event organisers in addition to the emotional labour of negotiating our boundaries, we can attach a PDF that pushes for improved practice in our chosen words.”
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Addressing some of the barriers that prevent the equal inclusion of stateless people in advocacy spaces requires time and self-reflection both by organisations seeking to apply the policy as well as to support its take-up by other organisations hosting meetings or events. Sometimes institutional processes and protocols are too rigid to facilitate this.
How they were overcome
We have sought to improve our own practice while also recognising that there are improvements that we still need to make ourselves.
We have built strong relationships with institutional and civil society stakeholders working on statelessness and have consistently advocated for them to ensure that stateless individuals are included at advocacy tables or in events discussing the issue, in order to ensure that stateless people contribute as equals to advocacy and awareness-raising work.
Results of the Good Practice
- More voices of representatives of stateless communities are present in advocacy spaces and spaces of influence.
- Community speakers at public events feel safe, empowered, confident and articulate in what they wish to communicate.
- Community speakers at ENS events or referred by the ENS Secretariat to speak at third party events don’t feel pressured to share their ‘lived-experiences’ when agreeing on speaking engagements unless they choose to do so.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
This good practice helps to achieve the second objective of the GCR to increase refugee self-reliance (or that of stateless people). It does this by increasing the confidence of and opportunities of stateless communities to participate in equal-footed advocacy opportunities and directly raise awareness of the issues affecting them.
We will continue to use the Community Speaker Policy into the future, and to ensure that in consultation with our Community Group it is updated and developed where necessary so that it remains relevant and useful both to community members and to external stakeholders.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
We would like for the Community Speaker Policy to be applied and ‘endorsed’ by external stakeholders who agree to embed it within their own work and event organisation. For the Policy to be fully implemented in ENS and different organisations, sufficient resourcing is required to ensure that community speakers can be remunerated for their preparation and delivery time, and that organisational staff have the time to commit to dedicated support and preparation with community speakers.