With 21 participants from 16 European countries, the latest edition of the JRS Europe Advocacy Taskforce – the first in person since September 2019 – was the most numerous since its establishment in 2018. Taking place in Brussels between November 30th and December 1st, the meeting allowed the advocacy experts of each country to discuss ways to improve ongoing collaborations, as well as find new avenues to explore in terms of future work.
Emphasizing the importance of the in-person meeting, Claudia Bonamini, JRS Europe Policy & Advocacy Coordinator, highlighted “During the meeting we took some time to re-getting to know each other and re-discuss our way to collaborate. During the pandemic, we could not meet in person, and we were forced to experiment with online meetings. While those were helpful and relevant to exchange punctual information and work on specific topics, we all agreed on the benefits of meeting in person to tackle wider kind of reflections and to establish interpersonal relations that are essential to work as a network.”
The taskforce provided the opportunity to share about the different national realities and reflect on advocacy challenges and opportunities at a national and regional level. From this discussion, it sparked that while the national contexts are hugely diverse, the issues covered by the regional strategic framework adopted last year (access to protection, detention, and alternatives to detention and integration and social inclusion) are still relevant and largely common throughout the region. In particular, the shortage of dignified and affordable housing was identified as one of the major challenges in almost all the countries where JRS operates.
Another point of discussion was the negative discourse surrounding migration, often criminalizing migrants and refugees, which was found to be a constant throughout the region. In this sense, the meeting provided a positive occasion for colleagues throughout the region to recharge their batteries to continue with the important, but often frustrating, advocacy job in the knowledge that they are not alone at that, but that there is a wide network in the region striving for the same cause.
Although participants found that the cooperation within the taskforce can still be improved and the coordination of such a wider network remains challenging, they all agreed that the network has moved in the right direction in the past years: it is increasingly easy for the colleagues at the national level to make connections between the issues the advocate for in their countries and the issues at stake at the regional level. Moreover, the necessity and added value of regional cooperation to align positions and strategies and to initiate joint campaigns is increasingly understood and valued throughout the network, as the record level of participation in this taskforce edition shows.
Established in 2018, the Advocacy taskforce has as its objectives to be the reference point for JRS advocacy in Europe by informing the national advocacy strategies on European issues and by being the platform to develop common regional policy positions. Moreover, the taskforce wants to be a place where national advocacy officers can exchange and support each other.