On this World Humanitarian Day when record numbers of people have been forced to flee for their lives and humanitarian workers are also under siege, it is hard to find reason for hope. But we don't have to look far.
I think in particular of the hundreds of exceptional young women and men who participated in the first-ever Global Refugee Youth Consultations held over the past year in multiple countries across the globe. The Consultations were co-chaired by the Women’s Refugee Commission and UNHCR with support from national and international organizations working with young people.
Refugee youth face any number of formidable obstacles. They have limited or no opportunities for education or safe employment. They are often marginalized, isolated and vulnerable to all forms of violence. They are seldom consulted about their needs and rarely invited to participate in decision making. The unacceptable result is that their tremendous talents, capacities and energy remain untapped. That is such a terrible loss for them and for their families and communities.
The goal of the Refugee Youth Consultations was to begin to turn this around, to unleash the potential of refugee youth by directly consulting with them on how best to address their needs and how to work with them as true partners.
The young refugees who participated in the Refugee Youth Consultations brought their intelligence, their humanity and their determination to the process. In their presentations, they described in often painful terms the difficulties young refugees face in every aspect of their lives. But they also identified concrete actions to address the problems, including actions they themselves are taking or could take to be part of the solution. Refugee youth are like young people anywhere—eager to live a life without restraint or fear; full of dreams for their future and hope that these dreams will be realized one day.
A young woman presenting at the Global Refugee Youth Consultation in Jordan
The recommendations from the Global Refugee Youth Consultations will be widely shared next month and will make an important contribution to the call at the World Humanitarian Summit to “transform humanitarian action with and for young people.”
It is my privilege on World Humanitarian Day 2016 to pay special tribute to the young refugee women and men who are doing everything they can to make a difference in their communities and have the capacity to do so much more with additional support from the rest of us.
I hope you will take a moment to learn more about the contributions of talented young refugees who participated in the Global Refugee Youth Consultations. Read more here.