I was happy to represent the Refugee Advisory Network of Canada (RAN Canada) as the Refugee Advisor to the Canadian delegation to the GRF 2023. The selection process of the advisors by RAN Canada follows a tradition of selection based on expertise, experience, and rotation of participation. Proposing my name to the IRCC and GAC and confirming acceptance was a standard procedure, and I had no access issues. Meaningful participation of refugees was observed at various stages at the plenary, side events, and networking groups in its length.

As a Tibetan stateless refugee with lived experience in advocacy, activism, and defending Tibetan women’s rights, I often participated in the UN Human Rights Council and its mechanisms. Due to our status, the Tibetan Women’s Association did not have any ECOSOC status, and we had to look for access to make statements on behalf of ally organizations. However, my experience as a Tibetan Canadian making a statement as part of the Canadian delegation and the RAN Canada was very different, meaningful, and empowering.

  • I couldn’t help but reflect on my situation and participation as a refugee expert leader to the GRF 2023 as a Canadian citizen. I could not have done it if I was without any status. This stood out for me in meaningful participation in the UNHCR system. I was a member of the refugee expert group, which facilitated the co-creation of the global pledge and the development of country-level commitments by UN Country Teams (UNCTs). I could contribute and peer review country team pledges and commitments, provide feedback, and have discussions leading to meaningful engagement.
  • The afternoon after we made our statement at the plenary, I was with Minister Miller, Ambassador Newton, Minister Counsellor Munroe, Mellisa Tam, Jen Castello, and the team and shared my above emotions. It was a team hug; everyone appreciated my sentiments and statement and recognized my contribution to advocating refugee protection.
  • The outcome of the collaborative spirit and effort among the UNHCR and its entities, member states, the private sector, World Bank, refugee-led organizations, faith groups, refugees, and civil society members was amazing, which resulted in over 1600 pledges, including $2.2 billion financial multistakeholder pledges. Such partnership could work wonders for global conflict resolution if there were political will to resolve the root causes at their core. The financial resources could be spent on capacity building and strengthening refugee advancement and its potential for economic development of the host countries.
  • Refugee participation was reported as more than 300, a tenfold increase from the 2019 GRF, and it was inspiring to see the young Rohingya women who spoke about their stateless and displaced situation at the Rohingya High-level event. Resettlement, girls and women’s education, LGBTQ issues, employment, and mobility pathways were highlighted by the Canadian delegation. It was a joy to see advisor Maysoun Darweesh announce the resettlement pledge on behalf of Canada’s resettlement program. RAN Canada’s growth from its establishment in 2020 to the GRF 2023 is promising and reflective of its potential finding advocate for global refugee advancement and find durable solutions.

The GRF certainly was a platform to make connections, advocate, continue to make changes to the future developments of refugee protection and uphold the accountability of all the pledges and promises made at the GRF 2023. All stakeholders must follow up, seek accountability from our member states, and exchange information.

Read Canada’s multistakeholder pledges here:

Canada’s multistakeholder pledges

Observing how refugee advisors were tokenized at the GRF was challenging. While Canada, the United States, Australia, Brazil, and New Zealand stood up for providing meaningful representation and the opportunity to make national statements at the GRF, refugee advisors in a number of other delegations struggled to influence their delegations and were not able to play as prominent a role in the actions of their delegations during the GRF. I also felt that making a statement alone does not indicate meaningful participation, and one must feel engaged in all areas of multilateral stakeholder negotiations.

I was able to connect with our refugee advisors from the expert group network and allies working on the Stateless and forced displacement groups. Many had a good impression of Canada’s progressive approach to refugee participation at international meetings.

Written by: Tsering Norzom Thonsur, Refugee Advisor, RAN Canada

January 11, 2023