Carlos Melara, 20, is a young Salvadoran refugee living in Costa Rica. He is currently a member of GYAC from where he participates to give a voice to young people and other members of his community. His contribution has served to bring a youth perspective to the discussion of refugee issues worldwide.
“Young people’s ideas can serve to support and bring a positive change in the lives of other young people” – Carlos Melara
Could you start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about you?
I’m Carlos Melara, I’m 20 years old, I’m a Salvadoran student and I’ve been living in Costa Rica as a refugee for almost 5 years. The road to my personal growth has been difficult, however, I have met many people who have supported me and I am very grateful to the Costa Rican population who opened their doors to me and made the road easier during the process of obtaining the refugee status. My personal experience has made me interested in helping children and young people at risk, I would like to be a support so that many of them can overcome difficulties.
What has been your experience working for your community and for other young refugees?
I am currently part of an organization called “Jóvenes Madiba” (Madiba Youth), led by youth for youth and where both local and refugee work together. Our organization is not closed to the idea of working only with refugees because although we have different nationalities we share the same problems as locals and we want them and us to move forward in life. We recently presented a theatre play in a community where there are not many refugees, in order to present the fears, problems and difficulties faced by young refugees and asylum seekers, problems that they are often afraid to express. The feedback has been very positive and we were informed that the public was moved by the message we wanted to convey.
What has the experience of being part of GYAC been like for you? What do you think has been its impact so far?
In GYAC we help each other and although we all work on different projects, in a certain way we connect for the same purpose, which is not precisely to change the world but to achieve a little change in each of the countries we live in. For me, being in this organization has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I am very grateful. I think the impact of GYAC has been broad and very positive. We are the voice of refugees and asylum seekers in different parts of the world, we are very committed to our mission. That is why we take the opportunity to participate in the High Commissioner’s Dialogue so that the problems of these people are visualized and that they see that the solutions they have given us during the round of consultations are feasible and can be implemented to eradicate the problems that exist in their countries.
The Global Compact on Refugees has just been adopted in New York City. How do you think young people, and in particular GYAC, can contribute to its practical implementation in 2019?
We have very fresh and up-to-date ideas, we also have the ability to see problems from a more direct perspective that adults do not see. The ideas of young people can be used to support and bring positive change in the lives of other young people and at the same time in the lives of adults. GYAC as a delegation representing the voice of young people has the opportunity to put on the table the real problems faced by refugees. And since we have personally experienced suffering and discrimination we can provide more real solutions that are the result of our work and personal experience. With regard to the Global Compact for Refugees, in 2019 the delegation has committed to 3 key objectives: 1) Engaging in the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees at global and national level, 2) Strengthen our contributions with UNHCR country offices in order to develop National Action Plans to implement Core Actions for refugee youth, 3) Support UNHCR country offices in a variety of countries to conduct training and workshops for youth leaders, UNHCR staff and partners and develop National Youth Advisory Council.
What have you gained from your experience as a GYAC member?
For me being a GYAC member has been a great opportunity to open my mind. Thanks to this experience I was able to perceive that despite being in totally different countries, all refugees face similar problems. On a global level, I now know that it is not a matter of only thinking about me and the problems of my community, but that I can also support and contribute to finding solutions for refugees and young people from for example Morocco, Syria or Afghanistan. At the local level, I have seen that both young people and adults can come together to find solutions to common problems. It has been unique. Likewise, as part of this group, I have had the opportunity to devise new projects that I would love to carry out in the future, one of them dedicated to the empowerment of girls and their personal and professional development. I would like to support them through talks and training facilitated by other girls so that they are able to defend their rights and then spread the message.
To learn more about GYAC’s recommendations to the Programme of Action of the Global Compact for Refugees click here.
By Jessica Hernandez
Task Team on Comprehensive Responses, UNHCR Geneva
Photo: UNHCR/Jessica Hernandez