New UN initiative presents an important opportunity to safeguard and empower a future generation
London, UK – The global organisation Mercy Corps urges the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to consider the needs of young refugees as it develops its Global Compact on Refugees. Expected in 2018, the compact seeks to improve the international community’s response to large movements of refugees and to protracted refugee situations around the world.
“An estimated seven million refugees – about one-third of the global refugee population – are between 10 and 24 years old, but this demographic is often overlooked in humanitarian and development responses,” says Matt Streng, Director of Youth, Gender and Girls at Mercy Corps. “At a critical time in their lives, these young refugees are experiencing the stress of displacement, which impacts their future development and success.”
Since 2010, Mercy Corps has worked with more than 3.5 million young people in crisis across 33 countries. Drawing on this extensive experience, Mercy Corps is recommending key practices to safeguard young refugees and empower them to make positive changes in their lives. These include:
- Promoting the well-being and resilience of young refugees: Deprivation and prolonged stress take a toll on young refugees. For example, 41 percent of young Syrians in Lebanon report having suicidal urges. Without a foundation of well-being, including access to safe spaces and mentoring programmes, their future prospects will be limited.
- Addressing disruptions to education: Approximately 50 percent of all primary-aged and 75 percent of secondary-aged refugees are out of school. As well as formal education, we must invest in flexible, tailored learning opportunities.
- Giving young people a voice in decision making: Mercy Corps’ experience shows that when young refugees are given the chance to participate in local governance, they gain confidence and improve ties with host communities.
- Linking young refugees to jobs: Donors, regional governments and NGOs should conduct value-chain and market analyses to assess potential areas for business growth and develop matched workforce programmes. Young refugees should then be linked to these job opportunities.
“The Global Compact is our opportunity to do better and strengthen our response for young refugees. As we invest in them, we also invest in the future peace and development of crisis-affected regions,” says Streng.NR UN Refugee Compact Must Address Youth.15Nov17.FINAL_.pdf