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IFC UNHCR joint initiative

UNHCR considers a whole-of-society approach to address the challenges faced by refugees and their host communities and has been cultivating innovative partnerships to find sustainable solutions.

In December 2022, UNHCR launched a partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group. With an initial 5 year mandate, this initiative seeks to address the challenges faced by refugees and their host communities by fostering private-sector solutions and supporting the creation of economic opportunities in areas hosting large refugee populations. Through leveraging both organizations’ expertise and mandates, the partnership aims to promote market-driven opportunities.

The IFC UNHCR joint initiative is hosted in IFC’s Regional Office in Istanbul, Türkiye, promoting the implementation of Private sector interventions in forced displacement in various countries across the globe. While acknowledging that the private sector is not a panacea, the Joint Initiative is supporting teams of both organizations and other stakeholders to achieve private sector solutions whenever relevant.

Key objectives of the IFC UNHCR joint initiative

1. Create inclusive market opportunities in forced displacement contexts.

Attracting private sector investments in refugee-hosting areas can lead to the establishment of new businesses, industries, and job opportunities. These investments benefit those who have been forcibly displaced and enhance the economic well-being of the local host communities and the host country at large by providing access to services and opportunities.

2. Disseminate relevant knowledge on private sector solutions in the forced displacement response. 

By harnessing and sharing lessons learned, the initiative raises awareness among key stakeholders, including governments, businesses, and communities, about the benefits of engaging the private sector in addressing forced displacement issues. It can address misconceptions about private sector engagement in displacement contexts. Evidence-based outcomes of private sector interventions can furthermore serve as a platform to share best practices, lessons learned, and success stories and encourage innovative approaches that demonstrate how businesses can actively engage in the forced displacement space that goes beyond traditional aid-based approaches. It will also highlight lessons learned on how to engage with and leverage private companies in forced displacement contexts.

Cultivating innovative partnerships

By combining IFC’s private sector expertise and resources with UNHCR’s key mandate and knowledge in refugee protection, the initiative seeks to create sustainable solutions that foster self-reliance, inclusion, and economic resilience for displaced individuals and their host communities.

Why the private sector?

In forced displacement contexts, addressing these challenges requires a multi-faceted and ‘whole of society’ approach involving collaboration between various stakeholders, including but not limited to UN agencies, governments, the international community, and the private sector. While UNHCR plays a pivotal role in helping refugees rebuild their lives through integration, repatriation and resettlement opportunities, private sector interventions have been shown to offer additional solutions when it comes to financial inclusion, developing agricultural value chain, renewal energy and more. Besides, the private sector added value in creating job opportunities, especially in developing countries, which is widely acknowledged.

The private sector derives various benefits from investing in the forced displacement space. Beyond reputational enhancement and appealing to conscious consumers, the private sector can leverage its market expertise, identifying and developing new business opportunities aligned with the skills and capabilities of displaced individuals. By promoting financial inclusion, tailored services, employment, and entrepreneurship, the private sector can tap into new markets and customer segments among displaced populations. Actively supporting the economic integration of refugees into the local workforce provides businesses access to a diverse pool of skilled and motivated workers, contributing to increased productivity and innovation. Additionally, by being involved in delivering essential services, such as healthcare, education, and energy, the private sector has an opportunity to expand its market presence while simultaneously contributing to the well-being of displaced communities and their hosts.

En 2019, Serafina, una refugiada de Burundi en el asentamiento de Kalobeyei, en Kenya, abrió un puesto de vegetales con una subvención otorgada por socios de ACNUR del sector privado.

New IFC and UNHCR initiative to boost private sector engagement for refugees and their host communities