Building Meaningful Refugee Participation into Protection Policymaking
Around the world, many refugees find themselves in situations of protracted displacement. As states and international actors search for more effective ways to address protection and displacement challenges, one promising—but often underutilized—approach is to meaningfully involve refugees in crafting and implementing policy responses.
Engaging affected communities in protection policymaking can take a variety of forms, including one-off consultations, individual refugee advisors or advisory boards, and refugees being appointed as senior leaders or hired as staff within organizations. Such approaches hold the potential to foster policies that better reflect the needs and priorities of refugee communities and, in doing so, improve protection outcomes. But care must be taken to go beyond tokenistic and inconsistent engagement, and more evidence is needed to understand which approaches are most impactful and under what circumstances.
This report—part of the Beyond Territorial Asylum: Making Protection Work in a Bordered World initiative led by MPI and the Robert Bosch Stiftung—explores what motivates states, international organizations, and other actors to implement refugee participation initiatives, what forms these initiatives take, and what their limitations are. The study also proposes a preliminary theory of change (how such activities are intended to achieve their goals), a set of indicators to measure the influence of refugee participation on policy effectiveness, and recommendations for how such tools can be leveraged to improve refugee engagement and protection policies.
2 Motivations for Meaningful Refugee Participation
3 Models of Participation
A. The Consultative Model
B. The Advisory Model
C. The Professional Model
4 Factors that Shape Refugees’ Ability to Influence Policy
A. Political Space for Participation
B. Selection of Participants
5 Evaluating Refugee Participation
6 Conclusion and Recommendations for Navigating Trade-Offs and Moving Beyond Participation