“We have a legal and moral obligation to protect people fleeing bombs, bullets and tyrants, and throughout history those people have enriched our society.” —Juliet Stevenson
Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) is the only region-wide refugee-led network of refugee-led initiatives in the Asia Pacific region that is working with and for refugees. APNOR was established in 2018, on the recommendation of Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR), which brought together 104 representatives from refugee-led organizations in Asia to advocate for refugee agency & self-representation.
On 22 October 2018, the Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR) brought together 104 representatives from refugee-led organizations, networks and communities residing in 10 host countries in the Asia Pacific region to discuss and plan for greater refugee participation in policy- and decision-making. This was the first opportunity of its kind for refugee leaders in the Asia Pacific region to come together to share experiences, network and discuss how to strengthen refugee self-representation at all levels (locally, regionally, and internationally).
The Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees followed on from discussions that took place in Geneva in June 2018 at the inaugural Global Summit of Refugees (GSOR). One of the key recommendations coming out of this Global Summit was for an “inclusive international platform for refugee participation and self-representation” to be established, “made up of a representative network of refugee community organizations, initiatives and change-makers from around the world”. In working towards the establishment of a representative international refugee-led advocacy network, a proposal was developed to hold regional-level discussions. The Asia Pacific region, through APSOR, was the first of these regional-level discussions.
The Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees 2018 (APSOR) was the first-time refugee communities from across the region were able to directly connect with each other using online technologies, share their experiences, network, and discuss how to strengthen refugee self-representation at all levels (locally, nationally, regionally and globally). All participants from APSOR were interested in continuing regional link ups and discussions between refugee communities. This resulted in the formation of APNOR. The first official forum of the APNOR network is planned for 7 September 2019.
The number of people forcibly displaced worldwide continues to grow. At the end of 2019, the total population of concern (refugees, internally displaced, stateless and asylum seeking) in the Asia Pacific region stood at 9.5 million people. Responses and solutions to forced displacement remain grossly inadequate. Only 19 out of 52 states in the Asia Pacific region are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and/or 1967 Protocol. In 2019, a meagre 0.4% of refugees in the region attained a durable solution.1 The capacity of the humanitarian system is also severely constrained. In 2019, the UN Refugee Agency received only 50% of its budget requirements for its operations in the Asia Pacific region. The result is that most refugees2 in our region live in protracted displacement situations with few protections and little formal support.
Despite these challenges, refugees are not passive recipients of humanitarian assistance, but are willing and active agents of change. Wherever there are refugees, there are people within refugee communities with knowledge, motivation, and capacities to find solutions to the diverse challenges they face. In many countries in the Asia Pacific region, it is refugee-led initiatives that provide displaced communities with some access to education, health, legal and social support. At the same time, refugee-led initiatives are chronically under-resourced and receive little support or recognition from other stakeholders for this important work. Importantly, refugee representatives are often left out of decision-making processes and are given little space to voice and contribute to the identification, design, and implementation of solutions. This is despite the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees acknowledging that ‘responses are most effective when they actively and meaningfully engage those they are intended to protect and assist.’ Although there has been recognition of the need for refugee participation for some time, the movement to include refugees in decision-making processes or as providers of protection has only recently gained momentum, and there are still significant gaps between the rhetoric of refugee participation and practices at a local, national, and regional level. To improve responses to forced displacement, we need refugees at the table and empowered to act.
APNOR’s vision is for all forcibly displaced persons in the Asia Pacific region to be able to access their human rights and full potential, for diverse refugee communities to be empowered and supported to respond to their own challenges and needs, and for refugees to be systematically included and represented in decisions affecting their own lives. Our vision is to build a regional network of initiatives led by refugees to bolster their ability to make meaningful contributions to decision-making processes. APNOR aims at advocating refugee agency, strengthening the collaboration between initiatives and other stakeholders to guarantee positive changes in the humanitarian system and the refugee response at the local, national, regional, and international level.
110,361 refugees returned home and 7,651 departed through facilitated resettlement program (UNHCR Global Trends 2019, p.76; UNHCR Projected Global Resettlement Needs 2021, p.66) 2 When we refer in this document to ‘refugees’, we refer to all persons of concern to the international refugee regime – refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs and stateless persons.
Act as a sustainable and inclusive network for refugee -led organizations regionally and globally, creating regular and consistent space for dialogue between refugee-led organizations to support each other in capacity building and work together to reform refugee policies and programs.
Increase active and meaningful refugee participation in policy making process. Refugees have agency, therefore, APNOR work to ensure that they have an active, effective, and relevant role in the refugee response at the local, national, regional, international level.
To support the strengthening of national refugee -led entities and assist them to influence national policy reform and advance the rights of refugees and other people in need of protection in the Asia Pacific countries, through outreach and sharing of knowledge of resources, mutual capacity strengthening and joint advocacy, education and trainings.
Work towards influencing governments and other institutions to ensure refugee inclusion be made a central pillar within governance structures and operations
Advocacy for greater financial resources and funding as well as removal of structural, political and bureaucratic barriers to ensure refugees are effectively participating in the planning, design and implementation of programs.
Empower Refugees through education by giving refugees the knowledge and skills to live
Promote gender equity and equality through women empowerment.
APNOR’s Agenda for Change is being developed by steering committee made up of refugee leaders from across the region, and through a series of country consultations by and for refugees.
Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) is the only region-wide refugee-led network of refugee-led initiatives in the Asia Pacific region that is working with and for refugees. APNOR was established in 2018, on the recommendation of Asia Pacific Summit of Refugees (APSOR).