Beyond Storytelling: Refugee Participation in Decision-Making Processes

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Copyright: Harley, Tristan
One of the most significant issues to emerge in international refugee law and policy in recent years has been the push to enhance the meaningful participation of refugees in decision-making processes. Around the world, refugee-led networks and organisations have advocated for refugees to be able to engage directly with states, international organisations and other stakeholders in decisions that affect them. Further, states have recognised the value of meaningful participation and have made commitments through new international instruments, particularly the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, towards enabling the participation of refugees in designated responses to refugees and displacement. These developments represent a significant shift in thinking. However, for these developments to be implemented effectively, greater clarity is needed as to what meaningful refugee participation looks like and how the international law and policy framework governing participation can be best designed. This thesis provides a detailed socio-legal analysis of these issues. The thesis asks: what does participation in decision-making refer to in the context of the international refugee regime; in what ways and to what extent have refugees been included in different decision-making areas in practice; and how could the legal and policy framework be improved to enhance meaningful refugee participation. This thesis argues that despite recent commitments towards advancing the participation of refugees in decision-making processes, the international legal and policy framework governing refugee participation has insufficiently provided for this to occur. The thesis demonstrates how refugees have been restricted from fully participating in a variety of decision-making areas. These areas include law and policy reform; the implementation of durable solutions and other relocation decisions; and the delivery of programmes and services for refugees. Additionally, the thesis highlights the current limitations of international refugee and human rights law for ensuring meaningful refugee participation. To address these issues, the thesis proposes novel reforms to improve the international legal and policy framework. Central among these reform options is the proposal for a new international law instrument that more clearly commits states and others to ensuring that refugees are heard.
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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