IRC: Taking the Lead


Sarah Siliman
Rachel Nadelman
Anna Ivantsov

International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Each year, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) provides support to many of the millions of people escaping conflict and persecution around the world and is a leader in both post-conflict development and refugee resettlement. Less publicly known, previously settled U.S.-based refugees and immigrants, in the in the form of Community Based Organizations (CBOs), also play an important role in facilitating refugee resettlement and assisting on-the ground international development efforts. These CBOs create an irreplaceable support network for refugees navigating profound life changes, offering a wide range of services from emergency relief and re-construction in conflict areas and refugee camps, to language classes, legal assistance and post-trauma counseling for resettled refugees in the United States. In addition, these grassroots groups offer assistance directed to each community’s unique circumstances and can do this because they developed from within the refugee/immigrant communities and share ethnic, cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and common life experience. Therefore, these CBOs possess a unique capability to understand and foresee the needs of refugees and the home country in ways not necessarily possible for international relief organizations and mainstream social service providers.

The IRC and a three-person student team from the New School Graduate Program in International Affairs partnered to investigate the links and opportunities U.S.-based CBOs can offer both domestically and abroad. Research focused on six resettled refugee populations: Afghan, Burmese, Congolese, Liberian, Sierra Leonean and Southern Sudanese. The goals of this report are to: demonstrate findings on networks and collaborations that CBOs have developed to serve the selected populations; recommend strong grassroots organizations for a possible advisory committee made up of former refugee leaders; and provide information about effective refugee-led organizations for future collaboration with IRC.