Over the past five years, UNHCR has been invited to different thematic committees (Arab Childhood Committee, Arab Women Committee, Arab Youth Committee, among others) and Specialized Ministerial Councils, and seized every opportunity to raise awareness about its mandate and scope of work. UNHCR has been strongly advocating with member states to address the growing protection challenges in the Arab region.
UNHCR is continuously advocating to ensure that the principle of “non-refoulement” is respected, ensuring that Refugee protection and State’s security remain complementary. Additionally, advocating for legal alternatives to detention, and ensuring services are provided to detected cases of victims/survivors of smuggling and trafficking, as well as to survivors of torture, respecting international standards in this regard. As a way to address these aggregate challenges, UNHCR is advocating with the Member States to accede to the 1951 convention, its protocol of 1967, as well as advocating for the conclusion of an Arab convention that governs the refugee status in the region in accordance with international standards of international law of asylum, and international humanitarian law.
While challenges to enter any host country compose a large part of UNHCR’s advocacy, challenges to stay and provision of durable solutions remain a priority area of advocacy for UNHCR. Multiple challenges lay under the larger umbrellas of resorting to transversal negative coping mechanisms by the most vulnerable groups, such as women resorting to early and forced marriage, paid sex…etc.; children being recruited into armed or terrorist groups and/or falling victims to trafficking or dropping out of school and resorting to irregular working conditions to access livelihoods due to lack of access to education, lack of access to adequate legal and physical protection and absence of legal regularization through work permits for the adult breadwinner of the family; as well as resorting to uncertified and unqualified community healers due to the lack of access to Health and WASH services. UNHCR therefore continues to share its expertise with Member States in relevant regional committees, and provide positive alternatives to these coping mechanisms, while advocating for access to quality, non-discriminatory services at equal footing with citizens.
Statelessness is another crucial challenge exacerbated by the lack of access to birth registration for newly-born asylum seekers/refugees, lack of access to documentation for undocumented individuals, and legislations that limit the rights of parents to confer their nationality to their new-born children. UNHCR continues its strong and frequent advocacy for the prevention and reduction of Statelessness across the different LAS fora, with the Member States.
With a staggering number of Internally Displaced Persons in the region, UNHCR couples its humanitarian assistance through the cluster approach, with a strong advocacy plan for a regional legal framework to govern the matter and extend assistance at both the regional and national levels.
Finally, LAS and UNHCR have undertaken various joint initiatives to remove protection barriers for refugees and other persons of concern to UNHCR, including in the mid of Covid-19 context, e.g. UNHCR in cooperation with LAS and other international organizations launched an initiative for children to share their successful experiences in overcoming the negative effect of the pandemic entitled #Tell your story with COVID-19#, focusing on the situation of children in the Arab region, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. A similar initiative entitled #Ehki_Kessetek# that focused on women aimed at strengthening and documenting the voice of Arab women in decision-making when preparing and responding to the consequences of the influences of the emerging corona virus, while shedding the light on the role that women and girls play and how their lives are transformed in the face of this global pandemic.