Children’s call for answers at the Global Refugee Forum 2023
New York, 19 December 2023 - Four voices have shed light on a reality too often rendered invisible. Sedra, Sofia, Naya and Maksim, four child refugees, raised their voices during the Child Rights High-Level parallel event “Pledging with and for children” organized by multiple partners1 on the margins of the 2nd Global Refugee Forum in Geneva. They shared their experiences, needs and hopes because, in their own words, “children are capable of telling stories that change lives”.
The UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence Against Children, Dr Najat Maalla M’jid, facilitated the participation of the four children and animated the discussion to which also participated representatives of Colombia, Greece, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, and Turkey. Through this event, children and partners launched “Our Call for Answers: the Children Manifesto to the GRF 2023”, which consolidates the voices of 434 children refugees2 from all regions of the world.
“As a 6-year-old, I prepared myself to be sent back to the war zone. I used to have nightmares and fear for my life. How could adults tell me that I don’t deserve safety when I had no choice but to leave? You all need to gain my trust again and the trust of all children by implementing the policies and not using them just for show”, Sedra, 15 years old, Syria.
The children from Syria and Ukraine shared their reality of forced displacement and the obstacles they face to access services in their respective host countries.
They pointed out their specific needs as forcibly displaced children. Sofia and Maksim explained that the needs of children are different from those of adults and stressed their need for safety, access to education and mental health support. “I want to go home! Like so many refugees, we were forced to leave. Welcome us into the country we must now call home. Help us learn the language, provide us with opportunities to go to school” Maksim, 16 years old, Ukraine.
Naya reminded the audience of the importance of involving children as part of the solution and of valuing the expertise they hold regarding their needs and the issues they face. “We children are often overlooked. Our contributions and views are not taken seriously. This event has shown the importance of child participation. We need to be included in decisions that affect our lives” Naya, 16 years old, Syria.
Following the powerful testimonies of the children, Mr. Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik, State Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, stressed that in view of the immense
challenges, States are not doing enough and must boost all efforts to do better and be accountable to children.
Dr Maalla M’jid welcomed the encouraging commitments taken by policymakers in ensuring that children’s rights prevail on the migratory status and stressed the importance of embedding children’s contributions in all GRF decisions and pledges: “The voices of children should not be parallel. The voices of child refugees should be the main event of the GRF because they are the most vulnerable and the most disproportionately affected”.
Download the Our Call for Answers: Children’s Manifesto to the Global Refugee Forum 20233
1. The Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts, the UNHCR, the OSRSG VAC, the Hellenic Republic Ministry of Migration and Asylum and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
2. In the weeks running up to the Global Refugee Forum (GRF), 434 refugee children from eleven countries across the world participated in a series of consultations organized by the Initiative for Children Rights in the Global Compacts.
3. The members of the Initiative for Child Rights in the Global Compacts are: Caritas Internationalis, Child Fund Alliance, Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Cross-Regional Center for Refugees and Migrants, Defence for Children International (DCI), Destination Unknown Campaign, Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), International Detention Coalition (IDC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Rescue Committee (IRC), International Social Service (ISS), Mercy Corps, The MHPSS Collaborative for Children and Families in Adversity, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Mixed Migration Platform (MMP), Lumos, NGO Committee on Migration, Norwegian Refugee Council, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Plan International, Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), Public Services International (PSI), Save the Children, SOS Children’s Villages, The Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children, Terre des Hommes, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Vision.