Progress lies not in enhancing what is, but in advancing toward what will be.– Kahlil Gibran
I came into this masters to throw myself into the living landscape of human rights. To equip myself with experiences that would bring me skills that only come with immersion. The lectures brought clarity and accessible structure to this multidisciplinary subject. I worked with the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), a refugee advocacy mechanism covering this region of the world. My team had to write case studies on good practices of refugee leadership and participation within these different regions; our aim was to amplify the good practices happening in these projects. This would feed into the writing of the Global Compact on Refugees in 2018. We were also offered the chance to write a set of talking points for the 2017 December UNHCR dialogue.
During our two weeks of daily work, we conducted interviews with refugee coordinators and refugees from Indonesia, Malaysia and South India. My personal case study looked at the Hazara people. They were displaced from Afghanistan to Indonesia (where it is illegal for them to work or attend school) and the educational activity by an NGO allowing them to escape this limbo. We first researched legal, social and political backgrounds, which made interviewing participants an even more crucial and fascinating experience. Once we had all our interviews and research, the days of intense analysis began.
We found more than enough to write both our case studies for eventual contribution to the Global Compact and the imminent UNHCR deadline. Our team quickly found a rhythm, allowing us to fairly allocate and execute the necessary work. The placements’ work continues after the allotted period, so having this positive group dynamic was key to our success.
Real consequences for real people
The chance to get involved in an international organisation was one of the things that drew me to York. The department has fantastic staff who create placements that have real consequences for real people, as opposed to placements where the focus is the grade and not real-life application. The fact that our project gave us a means to amplify refugee voices increased our drive to work hard; we weren’t working just for our personal advancement, but to honour the people who had told us their stories and to collate those perspectives for amplification. When speaking with the other York groups they expressed similar feelings – of substantiality, of impact.
Throughout this process, we have been able to consult our project supervisor for highly useful advice. Our team came from many walks of life, but none of us had worked on a project exactly like this. I learned how UN Refugee Mechanisms, advocacy of CSOs, NGOs and refugee laws interact, alongside how to work in multiple time zones with real people, write policy-style documents and compile collaborative outputs without losing quality of work. I have no doubt this entire placement will be an invaluable asset to me when I begin my career.
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