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Private sector steps up for refugees as Global Refugee Forum opens in Geneva

Press releases

Private sector steps up for refugees as Global Refugee Forum opens in Geneva

16 December 2019
Kenya. Mary and Mumina use tablets in Class 8 at Angelina Jolie School
Refugees use tablets at the Angelina Jolie School in Kenya's Kakuma refugee camp. The school was connected to the internet in 2016 with help from the Vodafone Foundation.

The expanding and crucial role of the private sector in mobilizing resources to support refugees was demonstrated today as the Global Refugee Forum began in Geneva. More than 100 companies and foundations are attending the Forum, co-hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the Government of Switzerland.

With partners such as the Tent Partnership for Refugees, the International Chamber of Commerce, as well as local platforms and networks, UNHCR has mobilized pledges from businesses, philanthropists, and foundations. These private sector pledges will support the international community in developing forward-looking and meaningful contributions that will transform the lives of refugees and the communities hosting them.

Over 30 organizations – including multinationals, law firms, private foundations, small and medium enterprises, coalitions and investment networks – have come forward with pledges worth more than US$250 million. These are centred around the goals of the Global Compact on Refugees and will include specific commitments relating to education opportunities, training and creating jobs for refugees. Other pledges are around connectivity, pro-bono legal services, business development services, investment in refugee-led companies, innovative financing, cash assistance, and access to clean and safe energy.

“As old conflicts continue and new ones erupt, displacing millions of people, we need smart, inspiring, engaging and inclusive ways of helping refugees and host communities, and we can all play a role,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “The private sector, with its creativity, drive and commitment, has already stepped up, making important pledges at the Global Refugee Forum. And companies stand ready to do more.”

At 5 p.m. CET today, Ingka Group, Inter IKEA Group and IKEA Foundation, the Vodafone Foundation and the LEGO Foundation will announce their significant financial pledges, a reflection of the private sector’s pivotal role in helping people who have been driven from their homes and the communities they now live in.

In 2018, there were 70.8 million forcibly displaced people around the world, the highest number on record. The need for a collective response – and collective responsibility – is greater than ever.

Major private sector pledges

Ingka Group, Inter IKEA Group and IKEA Foundation announced commitments across its value chain for refugees. By 2022, they will support 2,500 refugees through job training and language skills initiatives in 300 IKEA stores and units in 30 countries. Inter IKEA Group will create sustainable livelihoods for 400 women through its partnership with Jordan River Foundation. These commitments are boosted by the IKEA Foundation’s commitment of EUR 100 million in programme grants over the next five years.

LEGO Foundation: A US$100 million grant for play-based learning solutions for pre-primary and primary school aged children impacted by the protracted humanitarian crises in East Africa, through a new initiative called PlayMatters, aiming to strengthen resilience and help build social, emotional, cognitive, physical and creative skills.

Vodafone Foundation: A commitment to provide a high-quality digital education to more than 500,000 young refugees with the expansion of the Instant Network Schools (INS) programme. Vodafone will provide free connectivity in schools, and trained Vodafone employee volunteers will support teacher training and provide technical assistance on the ground. There will be an increase in the number of INS projects in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the programme rolling out to new countries by 2025.

A landmark commitment from the private sector was made by over 20 law firms—including some of the largest in the world—as well as in-house counsels for several multinational corporations and a bar association, who together pledged to commit 125,000 hours per year of pro bono legal support to refugees and stateless people. Dozens of NGOs also made a joint pledge to provide legal aid to refugees and stateless persons.

Please Note: UNHCR will host a press conference today at 5 p.m. at the Palais des Nation (Press Room 3) with members of the private sector who will be discussing their commitments. The press conference is open to accredited journalists only.

The programme and further details about the Global Refugee Forum and related events are available here.


Photos and video footage from the Forum are available on Refugees Media.


Media contacts:

  • Elizabeth Throssell, UNHCR Senior Communications Officer, [email protected], +41793377591
  • Astrid van Genderen Stort, UNHCR Chief Emergencies and Marketing (PSP) [email protected], +41793146212