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Refugee advocacy in Turkey: From local to global

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A new report jointly produced by the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the Refugee Council of Turkey was published today, exploring the interaction between local, national, and international actors in advocating for the rights of refugees and host communities. The paper explores the different roles of local, national, and international actors in Turkey, which hosts more refugees than any other country in the world, including 3.6 million Syrians and more than 370,000 other refugees.

While there is a growing body of research on the state of localization of aid across the humanitarian system in conflict settings, there has been little research into the roles of local and national actors in advocacy around the rights of refugees and host communities in displacement contexts such as Turkey. In exploring the interface between the localization of aid agenda and protection advocacy, this report makes an important contribution to advancing the debate on localization and what is needed to truly realize the ambition of transforming the humanitarian system.

Key findings:

  • Local, national, and international actors lack a common vision, agenda, and coordination action on protection advocacy;
  • Existing advocacy partnerships are often tokenistic or extractive of local and national actors;
  • The international sector owns the language of 'protection' and 'protection advocacy' -- and this is sometimes deemed to be exclusionary;
  • There is a common interest in influencing government actors at various levels, but the diversity of all actors is not sufficiently leveraged.

Key conclusions

  • Advocacy on the rights of refugees and/or protection advocacy needs a unified strategy in order to be effective, consistent, and mutually reinforcing.
  • Priority needs to be given to investing in meaningful and equal advocacy partnerships between international and national and local actors, including refugee-led organizations, based on reciprocity, mutual accountability, trust, and respect. Such partnerships must also acknowledge high levels of capacity at the local level in Turkey and elsewhere;
  • How advocacy around the rights of refugees and host communities will be implemented in a given displacement environment should be defined not just through local discussions with a large and diverse stakeholder group, but through purposeful investment in advocacy partnerships that are locally led and driven, and build on the priorities and needs of refugees and host communities;
  • International actors need to better recognize and constructively tackle the visible and invisible power dynamics in the humanitarian system, including at the level of partnership;
  • Advocacy around the rights of refugees and host communities must be centered around long-term and inclusive approaches, moving away from the short-termism of traditional humanitarian response towards long-term investment in building sustainable relationships.

You can download the full report in English here.