Leaders from HIAS' international programs participated in the UNHCR-NGO Global Annual Consultations on Sept. 29 and 30, explaining how HIAS has adapted to support refugees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year's forum, organized jointly with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies, focused on the topic of "Responding to Pandemics." Galo Quizanga, HIAS' global director of economic inclusion, joined a panel on Resilience and Inclusion, discussing the pandemic’s economic impact, particularly in Latin America, and sharing best practices for keeping refugees employed and able to cope with the economic difficulties COVID-19 has caused. He highlighted how UNHCR’s Poverty Alleviation Coalition and RSRI’s Self-Reliance Index can aid in economic recovery, and how UNHCR and NGOs can partner to help efficiently build capacities in host governments. These consultations are informing preparations for this year’s UNHCR dialogue on Protection Challenges in Pandemics.
“We always hear about some exciting examples of what refugees are capable of doing in order to be active members of the economy," Quizanga said. "UNHCR and NGOs need to be a bridge that allows them to accomplish their objectives and overcome the effects of COVID-19."
Rachel Levitan, HIAS' vice president of international programs, shared how HIAS Panama has used remote services and community workers to increase protection for women, girls, and LGBTQ populations during the pandemic.
Levitan called on donors and aid agencies to prioritize the perspectives of refugees through focused needs assessments, empower refugee community leaders, and continue investing in the technology that has helped HIAS and other organizations support refugees during COVID-related lockdowns.