Program areas at RI
Advocacy:in order to maintain its independence, ri does not accept funding from any government or from the united nations. This allows us to advocate for those displaced by conflict and natural disasters without concern of repercussions. As the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes surpasses the highest levels ever recorded, borders are closing, political rhetoric demonizes and rejects the displaced, and humanitarian crises are chronically underfunded. For these very reasons, Refugees International has doubled down on our mission to advocate for the well-being of displaced communities. Over the last year, our teams increased the pace of our activities, conducting 27 field-based fact-finding missions to expose atrocities, raise the alarm on underreported crises, confront climate displacement, oppose the worldwide assault on refugee protection and asylum, champion the rights of displaced women and girls, and promote sustainable solutions. From greece and turkey to south sudan and beyond, our advocates have heard the stories of the displaced and have carried their voices to the halls of political power to advocate on their behalf.we are facing unprecedented challenges, but ri has seen firsthand through our work that progress is possible. We have seen rohingya civil society leaders advocate for their communities in bangladesh, the transformative power of livelihood programming in jordan, and measured steps towards peace in south sudan. Ri identified the gaps in assistance for people who were forced to flee their homes, and then advocated with powerful institutions-including the u.s. government, the u.s. congress, and the united nations-to ensure that they fulfill their responsibility to act on behalf of the most vulnerable and neglected people across the globe. We made targeted, actionable recommendations to those policy makers with the power to make a difference. Main outcomesover the past year, Refugees International achieved the following as a result of our missions around the world: impact raising the alarm on underreported crisescentral african republic (car):ri produced a report on the central african republic (car), which assessed the work being done by humanitarian workers and un peacekeepers to provide for and protect the country's vulnerable citizens. While conducting field research in bangui, paoua, and bangassou, ri witnessed the many challenges faced by un agencies, ngos and the peacekeeping mission. Ri's report, op-ed in the fair observer, and memo to the head of the un peacekeeping mission provided a roadmap for addressing both humanitarian and political challenges. They recommended significant changes to the way the un is doing its work-including much stronger efforts to prevent premature returns of internally displaced persons. Humanitarian actors have already implemented some of the recommendations on premature returns. Diplomats have used the report to engage with senior government officials in car. Cameroon:ri traveled to cameroon to look at the ongoing crisis in the country's anglophone regions. Since then, there has regrettably been little to no increased International engagement--whether it be political or humanitarian--to help resolve the crisis. With government forces incorrectly assuming most civilians support the anglophone separatist groups, and these very groups attacking people who have not joined the fight, civilians are trapped and face arbitrary detention, torture, and the destruction of their homes. As a result, thousands of cameroonians have since fled to ecuador and made their way to the southern border of the united states. In july 2019, ri traveled to tijuana to meet some of the cameroonians waiting to cross into the united states. Ri's op-ed in the hill newspaper highlighted the trump administration's appallingly contradictory approach to the crisis. While the united states has acknowledged human rights violations in cameroon--having cut ties with cameroonian forces earlier this year, and passed resolution 358 in the house of representatives--there has been no significant increase of humanitarian assistance. Moreover, asylum-seekers wait in mexico for three to six months before they are called to the border for their "credible fear" interviews and many have already been deported back to cameroon. Ri is working with other humanitarian organizations to coordinate advocacy efforts for a more cohesive and effective u.s. Response to the worsening crisis. Unprecedented cyclones in mozambique and zimbabwe:in may and june 2019, ri traveled to mozambique and zimbabwe to assess the ongoing relief, recovery, and disaster-preparedness efforts in the wake of back-to-back cyclones in southern africa. The two storms destroyed over 2 million acres of crops, primarily across much of central mozambique, just as the main harvest season was beginning. Much of the destroyed farmland was covered in mud and sand, making it difficult to prepare for the next main planting season, which usually begins in november. In zimbabwe, though cyclone idai affected a smaller area, the damage exacerbated an ongoing, countrywide food security crisis. Ri advocated for resources to prevent a longer-term food crisis, as well as for the implementation of more robust disaster risk reduction measures. Advocating for the displaced in armed conflict: armed conflict is one of the most significant and deadly drivers of global displacement. In 2019, Refugees International deployed teams to areas ravaged by armed conflict--from south sudan to syria--to advocate for those who have been displaced by the horrors of war and insurgency. Mali: in september 2019, ri traveled to mali and burkina faso to look at the humanitarian needs and displacement resulting from the spillover of armed groups and intercommunal violence from mali into burkina faso. Conflict and displacement have mired mali since early 2012, when armed groups in the marginalized northern regions took over swaths of land. Then, citing the government's failure to effectively squash the rebellion, frustrated soldiers overthrew the president. Security interventions have since restored some peace and government control, but the country's northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence. As insurgent violence in the north wages on, groups have spread into central mali and northeastern burkina faso over the last two years. There, they have exacerbated inter-communal tensions and dissatisfaction with the government to divide communities and breed violence. These events have led to massive displacement. The resulting ri reports recommended ways to improve the effectiveness of aid delivery that overcomes the dwindling International interest on the mali crisis and the obstacles of launching a new International humanitarian response as burkina faso comes to terms with the onset of its first crisis of this magnitude.south sudan:as one-third of the pre-war population of south sudan remains forcibly displaced, Refugees International worked to draw attention to the fragility of the current peace agreement and the ongoing humanitarian crisis. A key recommendation from ri's report was to prevent premature returns of south sudanese, particularly from the un-run protection of civilian (poc) sites. Ri advocacy, including direct engagement with the un special representative to the secretary general for south sudan, helped to slow plans to shut down the pocs and ensure a more cautious approach in consultation with humanitarian organizations. This was reflected in the language of a report by the un secretary general on the future of the pocs released in september 2019. Ri also contributed language to a u.s. senate resolution on south sudan reflecting many of ri's recommendations, which was introduced in october 2019. Ri met with key senate offices and is pursuing an email and social media campaign in support of the resolution. Meanwhile, ri welcomed a un security council visit to south sudan at the end of 2019 led by the new u.s. Ambassador to the un kelly craft, though warned about the need for sustained engagement. This was done through an op-ed in un dispatch and in a meeting with the u.s. assistant secretary of state for african affairs. These efforts have been bolstered by ri's most recent south sudan mission and reports. In july and august 2019, ri visited juba and malakal in south sudan and produced two reports, one highlighting the lack of implementation of key parts of the south sudan peace agreement and how it affects displaced south sudanese who still feel unsafe to return and the other focused on women and girls.
Strategic outreach:while the majority of americans believe that their country should be a place of refuge, government policies toward Refugees and asylum seekers have deteriorated in recent years. To help respond to these trends, ri joined a coalition of partners in developing an initiative to grow the grassroots and grasstops constituency for refugee protection and support in america.ri brought vice president of strategic outreach, cindy huang, on board in 2019 to lead this initiative, called the refugee advocacy lab. It seeks to create public goods for the refugee advocacy community through three main activities: strategic communications research, increasing state capacity to achieve local objectives, and investing in new grassroots and grasstops partnerships. In 2019, the refugee advocacy lab worked with a strategic communications firm to conduct a media audit and online focus group to understand current attitudes and perceptions of Refugees and refugee policy. Working with partners, the lab supported advocacy to encourage states and localities to provide consent for continued refugee resettlement, and also began to explore ways to support pro-refugee policies in 5 pilot states.in 2019, the campaign began in five pilot states: Virginia, Georgia, Utah, Michigan and Colorado. Each state was chosen based on several factors, including the potential to advance positive policies with a modest investment. While the team began working with advocates on the ground in each of the states toward the end of 2019, they were simultaneously engaged in the beginning of a long-term strategic communications research project with goodwin simon strategic research. By the end of 2019, gssr conducted a media audit in six states (co, ga, id, ia, mi, tx) and an online focus group in ten states (co, ga, ia, id, mi, nc, oh, tx, va, and wi) to establish a baseline understanding of how people perceive Refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants and begin to delve into what shapes their mindset. This work will be ongoing in 2020 and 2021.in order to work in closer collaboration with other u.s. Refugee advocacy organizations, ri joined refugee council usa. Upon joining, the strategic outreach team met with over 40 individual members of rcusa member organizations to get input on how to best structure the campaign so it can add value and build upon existing advocacy efforts. Since joining, the s.o. Team and other ri staffers have actively participated in rcusa meetings and activities; cindy huang was also tapped to co-lead the rcusa communications working group for the 2020 term.in terms of advocacy, last september, the trump administration issued an executive order that required states and localities to provide written, public consent to continue resettling Refugees in their jurisdictions. As a result of heroic advocacy by the refugee advocacy community, 42 governors (including 19 republicans) and over 100 local officials provided consent. Refugees International and the refugee advocacy lab amplified the coalition's messages, supported calls to action, and helped support targeted advocacy in tough states.
Public education:refugees International engaged in a wide range of public education activities and initiatives throughout 2019. The organization issued 28 major research reports based on fact-finding missions to turkey, colombia, trinidad and tobago, the central african republic, syria, curacao, bangladesh, myanmar, cameroon, ecuador, mozambique and zimbabwe, ethiopia, south sudan, mali, mexico, and the u.s. southern border, to name a few. In addition, Refugees International's experts authored 43 public statements, 68 blog posts, and 22 op-eds on issues concerning Refugees and displaced people globally.in addition, Refugees International also earned considerable media coverage in 2019, garnering several hundred media citations and interviews across the year. Refugees International appeared in news stories carried by the new york times, Washington post, wall street journal, financial times, guardian, usa today, time, newsweek, u.s. news & world report, national interest, un dispatch, npr, reuters, the associated press, bloomberg, bbc, cnn, msnbc, nbc, pbs newshour, and numerous other print, online, and broadcast news outlets. Wire service news stories that included comments by Refugees International staff provided even greater reach, since other news outlets picked up and further disseminated those stories to even wider audiences. In 2019, Refugees International also achieved considerably greater reach on social media platforms such as twitter, facebook, and instagram. The organization's twitter has more than 291,000 followers, and its facebook and instagram audiences have grown to more than 23,500 and 1,500 followers respectively. Many of the organization's twitter followers have sizable audiences of their own - some with more than a million followers - further amplifying Refugees International's messaging through retweeting of our content. Refugees International's experts also engaged in public education through speaking engagements and public events, including testifying at congressional hearings. In october 2019, Refugees International president eric schwartz testified before the helsinki commission on how the united states should respond to turkey's human rights abuses toward syrian Refugees. Also in october, senior advocate for human rights daniel p. sullivan briefed the tom lantos human rights commission on the ongoing peace process in south sudan. In july, Refugees International's vice president for strategic outreach cindy huang testified before the u.s. congress house foreign affairs' asia subcommittee on the situation of the rohingya people, a long persecuted muslim minority in myanmar. In april, Refugees International senior u.s. Domestic advocate yael schacher testified before the united states commission on civil rights for a hearing on immigration detention centers & treatment of immigrants in detention. And in february, Refugees International president eric schwartz testified before the u.s. house of representatives committee on foreign affairs subcommittee for africa, global health, global human rights and International organizations in a hearing on "a global crisis: Refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers." In 2019, Refugees International also launched a public education event series entitled "voices from the border," designed to humanize, inform, and deepen policy discussions relating to migration and protection along the u.s. southern border, and featuring individuals who have been directly affected by u.s. border and asylum policies.these events afford the organization with opportunities to further educate the public and policymakers alike.