Shifting Power: Examining the Agenda for Advancing Refugee Leadership and Localization

Refugees International, R-SEAT, and The New Humanitarian hosted an event on shifting power on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Panel I: Reimagining Global Refugee Governance

Presented by Refugees International and R-SEAT with endorsement from the governments of Mexico and Canada

To transform global refugee governance, it is time to reimagine a system where refugees actively participate and influence the policies and programs that affect their lives. Their inclusion will make the global refugee system more equitable, effective, responsive, and legitimate.

This panel will highlight the untapped opportunities embedded within the refugee leadership ecosystem and the transformative change that can be achieved when such potential is engaged by the traditional stakeholders in the international aid architecture.


Rez Gardi, Co-managing Director, R-SEAT


Hourie Tafech, Program Manager for Refugee Leadership, Refugees International

S´╗┐arah Smith, Director, Legacy Initiatives, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

John Thon Majok, Director, Refugee and Forced Displacement Initiative, Wilson Center

Marta Youth, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. Department of State

Panel II: How Locally Led Organizations Are Funding Their Futures

Presented by The New Humanitarian, Start Network, NEAR Network, and the White Helmets

The aid sector has long claimed to push for localization, putting more power and money in the hands of affected communities. But realities on the ground faced by locally led organizations paint a picture of unbalanced power dynamics. Local organizations are usually the first to respond to humanitarian crises but have historically faced many barriers to securing funding to be able to carry out their essential work.

As the aid sector continues to wrestle with the reality of making good on commitments to localization outlined in the Grand Bargain, how are locally led organizations taking matters into their own hands to ensure they get the funding they need to do their work? What are some of the innovative ways organizations are going about securing financing?

This will be an essential opportunity for locally led organizations, humanitarian policymakers, donors, and other stakeholders to dialogue about visions of a future for locally led humanitarian efforts.


Irwin Loy, Policy Editor, The New Humanitarian

Irwin Loy, Policy Editor, The New Humanitarian

Opening Remarks

Marcia Wong, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Humanitarian Assistance, USAID


Hibak Kalfan, Executive Director, Network for Empowered Aid Response (NEAR)

Degan Ali, Executive Director, Adeso

Rory Stewart, President, GiveDirectly

Christina Bennett, Chief Executive, Start Network

Monir Mustafa, Deputy General Manager and Head if Humanitarian Affairs, The White Helmets