My last (pre-COVID) intern has been a Ugandan woman, Mary Akugizibwe. Not only did she bring with her solid international experience, including with the Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the United Nations; she also contributed unique views on humanitarian aid and development as the founder of a local Ugandan organisation, Global Refugee Initiatives. It has been an honour working with Mary. Here are some of her reflections on local and international cooperation.
20 June is World Refugee Day. This year, humanitarian and refugee agencies will mark it very differently due to the coronavirus pandemic, but for millions of refugees and other forcibly displaced people, little will change. For many of them, putting food on the table remains a bigger challenge than avoiding getting infected. I talk about these competing priorities and possible solutions with Reshad Jalali, Policy Officer at the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).
This year marks the first review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Global Goals, the seventeen objectives universally agreed to advance human progress by 2030. I discuss this progress, particularly in the fight against climate change, with Maria Theresa (Tetet) Nera Lauron. Tetet is an Advisor at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation office in Manila, Philippines. Prior to this role, she closely followed the climate change negotiations leading to the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015.
The recent influx of refugees and migrants to Europe has brought to light the complexity of migration and how it is often linked to the development of the countries these people are escaping from. I discuss these issues with a former colleague of mine, Anas El Hasnaoui, who represents the Arab NGO Network for Development. Anas talks about the linkages between migration and development, particularly in his region, North Africa.
For my second interview with refugees advocating on behalf of other refugees I have reached out to Shaza Nabeel Al-Rihawi, a Syrian woman who now lives in Germany, where she works for the research institute LifBi. Shaza is also a member of the European Migrant Advisory Board and the co-founder of the Network for Refugee Voices. As World Refugee Day fast approaches, Shaza recalls the many challenges she has had to face to reunite with her family, rebuild her life from scratch and strive to improve refugees’ participation in the decisions that directly affect them.
With this post I have decided to focus almost exclusively on interviewing Southern policy-makers, practitioners and citizens, at least for the next few months. There really isn’t any need to filter what they think of humanitarian aid, development or climate change. The people I meet through my work often only need to have their voices amplified – and that’s what this blog is all about.In the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20 June, it seems fitting to inaugurate a series of interviews I like to call “Refugees for Refugees”.
Ever since I started working in development I have been struck by how little we talk about its linkages with migration. Most NGOs specialise in either/or. Very few of them have the courage or the capacity to address migration and development together despite the fact that these issues are often two sides of the same coin.
If anything, the growing influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has forced us to start making that link in earnest. Never before have so many people been forced to flee their homes, nearly sixty million worldwide – the equivalent size of Italy’s population.