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The Forum Spain with Refugees galvanizes civil society to promote the inclusion of refugees

  • At the event, co-organized by UNHCR and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, the commitments made by civil society actors to promote solidarity in areas such as economic inclusion, higher education, sports, hosting, community participation, and international cooperation were highlighted.
  • This gathering precedes the second edition of the Global Refugee Forum, which will take place in December in Geneva, one of the most relevant international meetings on the protection and inclusion of refugees.
  • In the year of the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso's death, the opening of the Forum featured the #GuernicaRefugiado action, where art served to highlight the parallels between the situation of over 110 million forcibly displaced people today and the victims of war depicted by Picasso in his iconic painting from 1937, Guernica.
  • Over a thousand people have followed the Forum, which has already registered more than 40 firm commitments from 32 entities.

Madrid, June 21, 2023. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain brought together at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid over a hundred representatives from civil society, private sector companies, and public institutions to celebrate the Forum Spain with Refugees. This event was held on World Refugee Day with the aim of highlighting the commitments made by these actors to promote the integration of refugees in Spain.

Throughout the day, panels took place highlighting the contributions made by these actors in the areas of economic inclusion, international cooperation, education, reception, sports, and community engagement. Members of UNHCR's Refugee Reference Group, from different nationalities and professional backgrounds, who have been working with UNHCR in Spain to guide and mobilize commitments for the Forum, actively participated in all of them.

More than 40 new actions in favor of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons have been registered to date. Economic inclusion through decent employment and vocational training, access to higher education, and the streamlining of bureaucratic procedures and validation of degrees for refugee students, as well as projects aimed at hosting refugee families and promoting access to housing for refugees and international protection applicants, were some of the aspects discussed during the six roundtable discussions, which involved representatives from private companies, educational institutions, and public entities.

The role of civil society in supporting forcibly displaced people was at the center of the event, highlighting the importance of volunteering and mentoring initiatives, the actions of refugee led associations, and initiatives to promote access to sports activities. As emphasized by various speakers, these community-based initiatives share the common goal of integrating refugees, strengthening their sense of belonging to the host society, and enhancing social cohesion within the communities themselves.

This event precedes the second edition of the Global Refugee Forum, which will take place in December in Geneva, a quadrennial meeting that commenced in 2019. Organized by UNHCR, this international gathering is one of the most significant on forced displacement and will involve the participation of governments, civil society, the academic sector, public and private donors, as well as various entities, all of whom can publicly make contributions aimed at improving the lives of refugees worldwide.

Following this event, UNHCR will continue to promote the signing of new commitments for this collective until December, when they will be presented as part of the solidarity and efforts of Spanish society towards refugee inclusion. Contributions can continue to be made online through the Forum's website and will be recorded in a global UNHCR database, in addition to the contributions made during the Global Refugee Forum.

During the Forum's inauguration, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of Pablo Picasso's death, an artistic activity titled #GuernicaRefugiado took place, drawing a parallel between the current reality of over 110 million forcibly displaced people worldwide and Guernica, one of the international artistic icons that best portrayed the tragedy of war. To achieve this, the Forum Spain's opening featured the participation of Spanish and refugee artists from various disciplines such as painting, performing arts, and poetry, establishing a dialogue between the past and present of forcibly displaced people and the renowned painting by the Malaga-born artist.

This first part of the Forum, hosted by actress Elena Anaya, a collaborator of UNHCR, and presenter Carlos del Amor, included speeches by Pilar Cancela, Secretary of State for International Cooperation, and Sophie Muller, UNHCR Representative in Spain.

Nicaraguan poet and writer Gioconda Belli inaugurated the space for thematic roundtable discussions, engaging in a dialogue with Syrian journalist Basma Dali, a member of the group of refugees advising UNHCR in the Forum, who moderated each of the sessions.

The closing of the event was led by Cecilia Robles, Director General of the United Nations, International Organizations, and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, who emphasized the recently announced Humanitarian Diplomacy Strategy of the Government in response to crises and the importance of working together from both institutions and civil society to promote the integration and autonomy of refugees.

Sophie Muller concluded the Forum by highlighting that in the face of overwhelming numbers of forced displacement, collaboration between the public and private sectors, local and central authorities, is more important than ever. She expressed gratitude to the participants and attendees for their contributions in protecting and providing solutions for refugees.