UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Embassy of the Republic of Korea today brought together international private companies and business networks, diplomatic missions, Non-Governmental Organizations and UN agencies to call for more investment in livelihoods and economic opportunities for refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Forum on Private Sector Engagement and Corporate Social Responsibility for Refugees & Host Communities’ Livelihoods gave the floor to Afghan refugee entrepreneurs, who said that being able to work allows them to become more resilient and self-reliant. Through earning a decent living, refugees can meet the basic needs of their families and become less dependent on humanitarian assistance.
Empowering refugees also means they can give back to the Iranian communities that have generously hosted them for 40 years. Refugee-run businesses have boosted local economies by creating jobs for other refugees and the host community, and promoted innovation in local industries.
“Investing in refugee businesses and allowing them to stand on their own two feet is not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. It is a win-win situation that can benefit both refugees and host communities in Iran,” said Ivo Freijsen, UNHCR Representative in Iran.
Through the Solutions Strategy for Afghan Refugees (SSAR), UNHCR builds the skills and capacities of Afghan refugees so that, when it becomes safe for them to return to Afghanistan, they can reintegrate in their communities and contribute to rebuilding their country.
Thanks to Iran’s generous and inclusive policies, refugees are able to participate in the local economy and can access work in a range of occupations. But at a time when Iran is facing economic pressures, vulnerable populations, including refugees, need more international support.
“Supporting refugees cannot be the sole responsibility of UNHCR or the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Everyone, be it international or national, public or private actors - has a role to play in allowing refugees to live independently, find work and be full contributors to their communities,” said Mr Freijsen.
At the forum, good practices were shared with companies on how to make refugees a core part of their businesses by, for example, investing in their skills, education and training, providing work and internship opportunities, or even buying services and products from refugee-run businesses.
“I believe this forum will provide better insights to private companies in implementing their Corporate Social Responsibilities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the consequence of which will benefit both Afghan refugees and host communities in this country,” said Ryu Jeong-Hyun, the Republic of Korea’s Ambassador to Iran.
Finding practical ways to increase engagement of the private sector to better support refugees is a key element of the Global Refugee Forum, the first of which will take place on 17 and 18 December 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.