NRV's Iyad Kallas speaking at The UNHCR High Commissioner’s Dialogue
Thank you for giving me the chance to speak on behalf of the Network for Refugee Voices.
My six year old daughter was swallowed by the war. My house was burnt down to the ground. I lost my left leg and with it the ability to provide for my family. I feel stuck with nowhere to go, but if I could I would depart someplace where I could go back to being a hairdresser and tell stories about life and hope.
This is not my personal story. This was one of many stories that were whispered in my ears while I was wandering around refugee camps in many countries. Albeit agonizing, these stories inspire hope and best practices when they speak of success and they draw attention to red flags when they speak about failure.
These stories motivated me along with some of my refugee colleagues to create Souriali, a refugee led media platform to share information about our lives’ experiences, about us as humans, who seek refuge and dignity. Humans who were given a chance or had to fight for one to succeed, or were cornered by despair and dark even radical thoughts, but most importantly of the humans who out of necessity learned first hand about self reliance and burden sharing. Even before the international community decided to label our lives as the century’s crisis.
As a Syrian I see these stories as living examples of how we, as refugees, are capable resourceful and self-sufficient when informed, empowered and given agency.
We have demonstrated tangible ways to strategize and implement efficient, comprehensive and relevant solutions for our daily challenges. We learnt that self reliance starts organically with us before anyone else, and we learnt that a ‘whole of society approach’ would not be ‘whole’ without our participation in designing, implementing and informing decision makers about a better comprehensive refugee response.
We’ve learnt that our stories hold valuable information in them, and that we are not only victims of the crisis, but also a vital part of the solution, and should be at the center of policy making.
That is the reason why some of us came together last March to form the Network for Refugee Voices, with the aim to bridge the gap between ‘you’ and ‘us’, and to inform this process with lessons and practices that we and our close ones had first hand experience with.
Encouraged by this motive, we have circulated recently some of these lessons and recommendations in the form of a green paper. As we highlighted in our non paper and as stressed by Mr. High Commissioner, and many voices from today’s sessions, we are calling on you to ensure that refugees have a seat at the tables next year during the conversations to draft the Global Compact on Refugees and its programme of action.
This participation should be genuine, meaningful and effective and beyond formalities, as it is a key element to sustainable and successful outcomes for all stakeholders, including ‘you’ and ‘us’.
We have a lot to offer, and in our minds that question is not what you can do for us, but it is what can we do together.
Thank you so much.