In this last blog of an incredible experience at MSRI, I look at one of the sub-population of MSRI beneficiaries – Unaccompanied and separated children (UASC). I discuss some of the challenges these children face and I look at the UNHCR guidelines for determining the best interest of the child.
For my last blog post, I want to talk about one of my favourite experiences I had while in Dhaka.
Quite a way back now, in July, we were lucky enough to meet Anas, a young man who had previously worked with RMMRU, but who was pursuing his Master’s degree in Germany. Anas had come back to Bangladesh to visit family and during his visit, he also did a bit of work for RMMRU. It was at this time that we met Anas. We quickly formed a bond and were eager to spend more time together and learn about his life. Unfortunately, Anas had to return back to Germany to continue with his studies. However, the discussions we had in Dhaka lead us to stay in touch.
Through Anas, we learned about an opportunity to attend and participate in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (the GFMD). We had heard all about this conference through CAPI and RMMRU, but hadn’t been provided with any concrete information on how to get involved and registered. Luckily for us, Anas provided that much-needed connection.
The GFMD is a conference which had been held annually since 2007. The forum aims to explore the interconnections that relate to migration and development. The 2009 Forum in Dhaka feature two civil society days, two days government days and one day in the middle as a cross-over.
And so for the last five months, Anas, myself and a number of others have been involved in creating a “youth group” for the GFMD. Back in Europe, Anas had begun working for an organization called Terre des Hommes (TDH) which is also involved in a number of projects. One of them, called “Destination Unknown,” seeks to promote the rights of migrants who are on the move with a special emphasis on children and youths. So through Anas and TDH, we began compiling a bit of a team.
The goal was two-fold: to highlight the presence of youth in migration processes and secondly, to highlight the lack of youth in forums which deal with youth and migration. We prepared a number of materials in preparation to the GFMD: brochures, op-eds and a number of other branded items. All these things were done before the GFMD and all of the communication were done online.
It is sometimes difficult to decipher people through online interactions alone. We often praise the modern-internet day, but nothing beats face-to-face communication. However, I soon learned that behind each email address was a wonderful, inspired and dynamic individual.
My experience with the GFMD was awesome for a number of reasons. First, I had such a pleasure working with the “youth team” that we created. Sometimes in life, we loose faith in humanity and the goodness of humans and so it always a pleasant surprise to meet kind, energetic and thoughtful individuals. The human experience really is defined by the relationships we are able to form.
Secondly, I found the whole conference experience really interesting and enlightening. In my first two years at UVic, I participated in the Model United Nations (MUN) club and I was actually a little bit shocked at how similar MUN and the GFMD were! Ihope that I have the chance to participate in a conference like this again in the future. The first time round, I always feel too shy, and uninformed to jump in and give my two-cents. It is hard to get over the stage fright, but I’ve learnt that often times, people in the room only seem to know what they are talking about. People love to use lingo and technical terms to (perhaps unintentionally) dissuade discussion or participation; I guess people like to sound smart. It’s funny that this was both what I learnt at the conference and also what our youth group was all about – including the voices of youth!
Lastly, the conference was truly international with representation from all over the world. There were people from Togo, Congo, Cameroon, Chile, India, Morocco and many, many more. In many cases, it was the first time I’d met someone from this or that country. We attended different sessions and took turns working at our youth table. Our table attracted a lot of attention and we were able to fully exhaust the stock of everything we brought. During the conference, we took short interviews with representatives from different civil society organizations (CSOs). Each of them shared a little bit about the work their organization is involved in and also explaining why the thought youth were an important group.
It was also a great chance to practice my French and Spanish. There were many participants from francophone West Africa and many from Latin AM.
I feel super lucky to have been able to participate and I hope that other CAPI interns are as lucky as I to participate in something interesting. There are many criticisms one could level at the GFMD: it is not productive, it is not inclusive etc. Many of these are valid and I wish I had another blog to address some of its problems, but for me in my life right now, it sure was a cool way to spend a few days – one might say great, fun and magical days!
PS once I find the link for the youth video I’ll post it here