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2021 Regional NGO Consultations in the Americas

2021 Regional NGO Consultations in the Americas

With the global COVID-19 pandemic in its second year, organizations working with refugees and migrants in the Americas are facing unprecedented challenges. The outflow from Venezuela, the mixed flows in Central America and Mexico, the situation in Nicaragua and the rise in internal displacement inside Colombia all contribute to an increasingly complex humanitarian context. The socio-economic impact of the pandemic will add to the difficulties for those forced to flee, while climate change adds further uncertainty to the humanitarian response.

In this context, UNHCR has joined forces with ICVA to organize the 2021 Regional NGO Consultations to explore the challenges and opportunities facing humanitarian NGOs in the region. In particular, the consultations created a space for dialogue on two key issues:

  1. Localization or supporting the delivery of humanitarian assistance by local actors, with a focus on protection and integration; and
  2. Climate Action and how to work together to meet the challenges that climate change present for those forcibly displaced.

UNHCR is committed to building strong partnerships across civil society for an efficient humanitarian response for refugees and migrants s and the communities in which they live.

Summary of the Regional NGO Consultations – September 2021

Day 1: Localization – Integration

How refugee integration can be strengthened by an informed and proactive localization agenda.

This session was introduced by Galo Quizanga Zambrano, from HIAS, and by Lina Gomez, from ICVA.

Three breakout rooms were organized to discuss different aspects of the chapter:

Group 1: Administrative and operational barriers that limit effective localization in integration programs. This sub-session invited Zobeida Moya Lacayo, Directora Ejecutiva de Fundación Mujer (Costa Rica), and was moderated by Fabio Siani (UNHCR).

Group 2: Network building between local organizations and other stakeholders to promote integration programs considering localization. This breakout room was led by Ignasi Caolba, Regional Deputy Director LATAM at HIAS, who invited Alexandra Maldonado, Founder of Las Reinas Pepiadas (Ecuador) in the dialogue.

Group 3: How to best support local and community-based organizations in their institutional development/capacity building? This third sub-session was moderated by Brad Henderson (UNHCR), who invited Galo Quizanga Zambrano, Global Director of Economic Inclusion, at HIAS to share his ideas.

Participants discussed and conclusions and recommendations were subsequently shared in plenary.

Day 1: Localization – Protection

An exploration of how to promote the effective and meaningful participation of national and local actors in the strategic and operational planning mechanisms of humanitarian response at all levels.

The session was moderated by Raúl Hernández, Director at Opción Legal (Colombia). Please find here the Concept Note of this session.

During this session, 5 roundtables were organized around 2 thematic areas in particular:

  • Strengthening the capacities of local organizations, and
  • The complementarity between national and international actors.

The moderators in these roundtables were: Ana Isabel Valarino, Coordinator at Integración UV; Billy Navarrete, Director at Comité de Derechos Humanos (Ecuador), who invited Sebastián Portilla, Local Bogotá Coordinator for Programa de Asistencia Legal (Colombia); Gabriela Liguori & Lucía Galoppo, Comisión Argentina para Refugiados y Migrantes (Argentina); Marta Ferrara, Executive Director, and María José Duran, Legal Advisor, at Semillas para la Democracia (Paraguay); Lina Gomez from ICVA with Genaro Maggiani from FM4 Paso Libre (México).

Day 2: Climate Action

The focus of this session, co-led by the IFRC, was to explore climate change in the context of displacement and protection considering the needs, challenges, and opportunities.

Moderated by Roger Alonso (IFRC) and Jeff Wilkinson (UNHCR), a set of specific experts and invitees from various organizations active in the field of Climate action addressed the different topics of the session’s agenda:

Setting the stage:

  • Global perspectives – by Ricardo Fal-Dutra Santos, Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
  • Regional perspectives – by Juan Carlos Méndez, Platform on Disaster Displacement (LAC Regional Advisor)
  • Protection – by Kayly Ober, Refugees International
  • UNHCR’s Strategic Framework for Climate Action – by Jeff Wilkinson, UNHCR

Impacts and experiences from the region

  • Honduras: Hurricanes / tropical storms – by Jorge Galeano, Word Vision International Honduras
  • Urban-related issues (and Urban Toolkit) – by Juan Bazo, IFRC Climate Center
  • Droughts and cold waves in South America – by Richard Haep, HELVETAS Bolivia
  • Rising sea levels in Caribbean (slow onset) – by Erica Bower, Stanford University

Existing efforts:

  • Overview/mapping of existing/relevant frameworks, initiatives and/or forums – by José Riera, Latin American Observatory on Human Mobility, Climate Change and Disasters
  • The role of community-based/grassroots actors in policy development and/or implementation – by Elaine Angeles, IFRC

Taking action:

  • Community engagement and Disaster Risk Reduction/ Green response – by Diana Medina and Nadia Ortega, IFRC, and Volker Sitta, UNHCR
  • Closing reflections f Felipe Vargas, JRS (Mexico) and Mario Rivera, VM (Guatemala).

View recording of day 2 sessions in: English, Portuguese, Spanish

Day 3: UNHCR’s management arrangements for partnerships

The detailed overview of UNHCR’s management arrangements for funded partnerships for current and potential partners was presented by Jorge Holly and Maria-Eliana Barona from the UNHCR Regional office for the Americas, and by Katharina Thote and Armando Castro, from UNHCR in Geneva.

Recording of day 3 sessions in: English, Portuguese, Spanish

General Conclusions

Localization: UNHCR and other large international organizations have overlooked local NGOs’ contextual specific capacities and experiences and opted for implementation partners that have a geographical reach and that comply with compliance requirements. As a result, they have not been able to make use of the comparative advantages that local NGOs bring to the humanitarian response in order to act swiftly and to involve local communities and key community leaders.

To reverse these trends, development and humanitarian actors as well as local governments should support the institutional capacity of local and national organizations which includes support to meet compliance requirements, manage risks and improve organizational and leadership capacity.

UNHCR and other international actors should also play a more productive role in facilitating spaces for dialogue between organizations and support the exchange of knowledge and experiences among local organizations in the region, connecting them to other networks and alliances locally and globally.

Climate Action: The risks faced by the region and disproportionately much higher risks that climate changes place on the vulnerable populations demands action both in the context of sudden- and slow-onset climate disasters.

In terms of UNHCR experience, climate action is a new area of growing importance. The session was the starting point for a deeper conversation between UNHCR and the NGO community supporting refugees and migrants to inform of the most pressing issues and understand the needs of the populations of concern. UNHCR will be developing a regional framework in the future and further consultation is needed to shape an appropriate response.

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