GRF delegate Mr. Ziad Taha was born in Syria and fled from the war in 2015. He now resides in Mandal, southern Norway, and is actively involved in civil society organizations, such as Norwegian People's Aid, The Volunteer Center in Mandal, and the FLEXid Foundation. His engagement focuses on refugee issues, diversity, and inclusion. Mr. Taha has received several formal recognitions for his voluntary involvement and his contributions to the wider community. Norway was privileged to have him as part of the official GRF delegation.
At the Forum he participated in plenary session and various side events, including on “Ensuring Meaningful Refugee Participation at the Global Refugee Forum 2023 and Beyond”, “University Refugee Forum”, “Together Through the Journey: Refugees, Host Communities, and the Local Government Working Together in Refugee Response Planning, Coordination, and Implementation» and a thematic discussion on “From refugee inclusion to shifting power».
During his trip to Geneva to participate at the GRF, Mr. Taha took time to respond to a few questions about his participation in the Forum and his personal engagement and motivation:
- Why are you engaged in your local community?
«As a refugee, being part of the local community is really important. It helps me make friends, learn, and feel like I belong. Every time I talk to someone or join in, it makes my life and the community better. Here, I get stronger, help out, and find my spot.»
- What were your expectations of the Global Refugee Forum?
«At the Global Refugee Forum, my hope was to see real connections forming across borders, bringing together people who could make a difference in the lives of refugees. I looked forward to discussions that highlighted how investing in us – in our education, skills, and integration – benefits everyone. Most importantly, I hoped the forum would give us, the refugees, a chance to be heard, to share our stories and insights, and to be a part of the decisions that shape our future. This was more than a meeting; it was where our voices could find power and our struggles could find understanding and support.»
- What have you been involved in at the Forum so far?
«At the Forum, I've participated in the plenary session and several key side events. These include discussions on meaningful refugee participation, the role of universities in refugee support, the Nansen Refugee Award Ceremony, and sessions focusing on collaboration in refugee response and empowering refugees. These events have been crucial in highlighting the importance of refugee involvement in global discussions.»
- What has made the most impact?
«The 'University Refugee Forum' truly resonated with me. Being a student at the University of Agder in Teacher Training for Bilingual Teachers, this event highlighted the importance of education for refugees, echoing my own experiences and aspirations. It was a powerful reminder of how education can be a beacon of hope and a tool for change for someone like me, pursuing a new life and career.»
- What outcomes of the GRF are you hoping for?
«I hope the Global Refugee Forum leads to concrete changes. As a student, I'm particularly keen on seeing increased educational support for refugees, ensuring more of us can pursue our dreams. I also wish for our greater involvement in decision-making processes, building stronger support networks, and raising global awareness about refugee issues. Most importantly, I hope for practical strategies that facilitate our integration into education and the workforce, creating a future where we can thrive and contribute effectively.»
- What did you think of the Nansen Award?
«The Nansen Refugee Award ceremony was a truly inspiring experience for me, especially as someone from Norway, considering Norway's role in this prestigious award. It was incredibly motivating to see individuals and groups recognized for their humanitarian work with refugees. Their dedication and impact remind us all of the difference we can make. »
- Do you have a message for the Forum? And/or for Norway?
«To the Global Refugee Forum:
I advocate for a change in how we view refugees: not merely as recipients of aid but as essential members of the community. By integrating us into decision-making processes, we ensure that the solutions developed truly address our needs, paving the way for successful integration and independence. Let’s collaboratively bring this inclusive vision to life.
More than ever, 110 million refugees and displaced people need help, but Europe is closing its borders. UNHCR pleads for us to welcome 5,000, but Norway will only accept 1,000 in 2024. This decision leaves many in camps with little hope, forcing them to seek safety on risky paths. The voluntary sector also needs to be strengthened. When there are large arrivals, there is a need to invest in the voluntary sector that can find innovative solutions to create more inclusive societies.»
The Mission would like to thank Mr. Taha for his participation and for sharing his much-valued insights.
To read more about Norway’s participation at the Global Refugee Forum, please see our X account for coverage of topics, pledges and priorities. For more about the GRF itself, please visit UNHCR’s dedicated webpage: Global Refugee Forum 2023 | UNHCR