Amplifying Refugee Voices

ID facilitates refugee participation in refugee policy decisions because successful solutions start with them.


In 2016, the number of refugees worldwide reached a historic high of over 21 million people, half of whom are children. As they try to make their way to safety, refugees, who are victims of war and persecution, increasingly face xenophobia. Some transit and host countries are illegally detaining them, even the children. These countries are effectively criminalizing their attempts to escape violence, in breach of their moral and legal obligations under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention.

While refugee populations are known to boost the economies of their host countries, officials seldom engage with them to understand their needs. Likewise, international policy-makers rarely solicit input from refugees as they negotiate agreements that determine refugees’ futures.

Refugees themselves must be involved in shaping the policies that affect their lives if there is to be a sustainable solution to the refugee crisis.

World leaders finally recognized this when they convened in 2016 to address the large movements of refugees and migrants and agreed, at least on paper, to protect their human rights. The outcome document adopted by the UN General Assembly declares that any successful refugee policy must contain direct refugee input. It also urges greater dialogue with victimized immigrant populations to help combat xenophobia.


In 2016, ID began advising several refugee activists and groups advocating for refugee representatives to have meaningful participation in relevant policy discussions. We support their efforts to identify and organize around shared concerns, develop clear policy goals to address those concerns, and engage policymakers at the highest diplomatic levels in hopes of improving policies.

ID’s first initiative was to facilitate a Syrian refugee delegation’s participation in the 2016 UN Summit on Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. The delegation addressed the Secretary-General and the summit leaders in a conversation that was televised to the General Assembly, held bilateral meetings with several key Member States, and participated in side events including public panel discussions to build support for their goals.


Following the summit, the delegation developed a set of tangible goals. Now, they are considering forming a representative refugee coalition committed to ensuring that international refugee policy, including the 2018 Global Compacts on Refugees and Migrants, reflects refugees’ needs.

ID continues to support their development of ambitious policy goals and diplomatic engagement.