The International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) organized a three-day workshop in Bangkok on 22-24 September 2015, which brought together various international and national NGOs with UNHCR, IFRC and IOM. During the first day participants reviewed the quality of partnership between UNHCR, NGOs and IFRC in the framework of the Structured Dialogue Initiative. The aim of the Dialogue on Protection at Sea and Statelessness in Asia held on the second day was threefold: i) to improve understanding about NGO coordination on Protection at Sea and Statelessness in Asia, ii) discuss the associated challenges and best practices and iii) contribute to the development of an informal NGO thematic network on Statelessness to work with UNHCR regional and country offices in Asia. The debate stimulated a lot of discussion and offered a great opportunity for participants to share ideas, experiences, and challenges but also try to identify possible concrete solutions to advance action in the two areas of work. Key action points to improve collaboration on Protection at Sea and Statelessness have been put forward at the end of the meeting for follow up. The ICVA Asia Hub together with UNHCR and ICVA members will monitor their implementation.
Following brief welcoming remarks from the UNHCR Regional Assistant Representative for Protection, Alistair Boulton, the workshop started with two plenary sessions to set the scene on both protection themes. Participants were then divided into 2 working groups to identify what works well, what needs strengthening and possibly suggest recommendations for way forward. The groups were co-facilitated by UNHCR and APRRN (Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network). All 43 participants had the opportunity to debate around both themes and report back in plenary the outcomes of their discussion. Building on suggested recommendations in his closing remarks, Mr. Boulton, highlighted UNHCR Regional Office commitments in advancing Protection at Sea and Statelessness in Asia in the near future.
At the end of the workshop UNHCR and NGOs agreed to commit to the following key action points to be followed up in the next 12 months:
· Information sharing – Together ICVA and APRRN will ensure an appropriate mailing list of partners is created to share UNHCR sit-reps in order to disseminate information more efficiently with regards in particular to Protection at Sea, taking advantage of existing networks for information sharing.
· Joint-advocacy - Reinforce advocacy messages on Search and Rescue, Access, and Disembarkation. UNHCR will share with NGOs for inputs into the “white paper” currently being drafted, which builds on the outcomes of the Special Meeting on irregular migration held on 29 May 2015. The white paper, to be further shared with governments, will include a status update on all recommendations, a related action plan and will offer a great opportunity to follow up on a joint advocacy initiative and serve to increase stakeholder buy-in. ICVA and APRRN will facilitate NGOs contribution to the white paper.
· Capacity Building - UNHCR will endeavor to support the organic efforts of NGOs to train first responders, engaging more with local communities and CBOs.
· Root Causes – NGOs need to further engage in collective efforts to address root causes, identifying concrete measures of collective advocacy and anchoring them to regional mechanisms. Where possible, CVA to assist and facilitate NGOs participation to HC’s Dialogue on Root causes in Geneva later this year (December 2015).
· #iBelong campaign - it’s important that this campaign is understandable in the local context. UNHCR and NGOs have to work jointly with local country offices and local government authorities. Ideally, allow for consultations within the next few months. The promotion of the campaign should be part of multi-year strategies, reflected in country operation plans and be made more understandable in the local context, allowing everyone to target advocacy better at the local levels; NGOs should advocate for including the campaign and awareness raising initiatives in UNHCR Country Operations Plan.