Advocacy in Eastern Africa

To advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons is one of the pillars of JRS’s work in eastern Africa. Our mandate to accompany and to serve is complimented by advocacy, which seeks to bring about changes in policies and practices that will benefit a range of forcibly displaced persons, in particular asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees. 

To be uprooted from one’s home is a traumatising and humiliating experience. In Africa, conflicts caused by political, ethnic, religious interests or the scramble for natural resources are often the reason for large scale displacement. Those who are forced to flee often become desperate and loose their sense of identity. Advocacy is a vital tool to ensure that their rights and freedoms are protected while they are displaced.

JRS advocacy happens on different levels. First and foremost JRS carries out advocacy work on the ground. For instance, if the food distributed in a refugee camp is not received by those most in need, JRS personnel intervene directly with the organisation responsible. If this fails, the information is passed on to staff in the national, regional or international offices. Where appropriate, JRS works with other organisations raising issues publicly in the media or privately in centres of power, such as Geneva, Rome, Brussels and Washington.

JRS advocacy is qualified by key characteristics. Rooted in field work, it is based on Jesuit values and is relations-centred and research-based. That is why research and policy work addressing root causes of displacement within the region are an integral part of JRS advocacy efforts. In order to ensure that advocacy strategies are effective, JRS works in coalition with government institutions, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and non-governmental agencies in eastern Africa. JRS adopts a non-confrontational approach to advocacy because we believe in diplomacy, inclusive negotiations and building bridges to address the issues we have identified.

JRS advocacy takes into account various groups of displaced persons: unaccompanied minors, elderly persons, persons with some form of disability, female-headed households, child-headed households, women, children, refugees in urban areas as well as survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. 

Our advocacy activities in eastern Africa include:
  • Raising awareness about the situation of asylum seekers, refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees in refugee camps and urban areas;
  • Ensuring that their rights are protected and that national and international refugee law and practice are respected;
  • Analysing current situations and lobbying for fair and just changes in legislation, policies and practices affecting displaced persons;
  • Encouraging states and institutions to address the root causes of forced displacement by working with JRS representatives in Rome, Geneva, and Washington DC ;
  • Collaborating with other Jesuit institutions such as the Hekima College Institute of Peace Studies and International Relations and International Relations and African Jesuits Aids Network (AJAN) on research and conferences surrounding peace building and sexual and gender based violence;
  • Incorporating advocacy initiatives into services and activities; and
  • Contributing to International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict and Child Soldiers International.