RISE (Refugees, survivors and ex-detainees) is the first refugee organisation in Australia and one of the few in the world that uses the model of self-empowerment for sustainable community development, where our organisation is not just run by members from the refugee community-it is GOVERNED by members of the refugee community and hence decisions are made by members from refugee background.

A recent online-article about diversity and inclusion on NGO boards by Fairouz El Tom (http://www.whydev.org/diversity-and-inclusion-on-ngo-boards-what-the-stats-say/#sthash.y7rnsCbd.dpuf) cites statistical data that unfortunately demonstrates that this model of self-empowerment is hardly supported and encouraged in the NGO sector with 66% of NGO governing boards composed of people of European ethnicity and 72% of NGOs headquartered in the western world while 79% of their activity takes place in the Majority World.

Peak refugee organisations such as UNHCR have never had a High commissioner from refugee background. Australia itself, despite being situated in the Asia-pacific region has all tiers of government as well as NGOs still maintaining the status-quo of being a colonial out-post in the so-called “Asian Century” with minimal or quite often no non-European representation on decision making boards in refugee organisations.

With the world refugee population originating mainly from non-industrialised countries and reaching the highest number this year since the last 20 years and industrialised countries tightening their humanitarian policies while at the same time contributing to the escalation of the world’s major conflicts, it is time to ask questions and hold decision makers and policy makers from these organisations accountable. Most importantly it is time to truthfully ask what part we ourselves play in perpetuating these deep-rooted racist and neo-colonial structures and take the necessary steps to strengthen communities through the model of self-empowerment rather than oppression.


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