Dato’ Sri Prof. Dr. Tahir, Eminent Advocate for UNHCR, recently returned to Jordan to visit Syrian refugees being welcomed in the country and to discuss how could be of further assistance.
The excursion, which was conducted between 1 and 3 April, is the second visit by the Indonesian businessman and philanthropist. It gave him the chance to see refugee friends he made during his last visit and to meet even more refugee families. Jordan, which borders Syria, currently hosts 800,000 Syrian refugees, and has generously played a vital role in addressing the urgent needs of refugees in the Middle East.
During his trip, Dr. Tahir talked to students attending a state-owned school, which provides education for Jordanian and Syrian refugee children together in Irbid. He then travelled to Azraq camp in eastern Jordan, where he brought smiles to so many refugee children by distributing backpacks, school supplies, and footballs in the camp. At the end of the trip, touched by what he saw, Tahir committed to providing an additional US$1 million in cash assistance for Syrian refugee families in Jordan.
In total, as UNHCR’s third Eminent Advocate, Dr. Tahir has pledged to donate USD $10 million to support the education of refugee children around the world. In November 2016, Dr. Tahir was appointed as Eminent Advocate for refugees by UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi for his ongoing work to raise public awareness about refugees and to engage other business leaders to support refugees. The position of Eminent Advocate is reserved by UNHCR for a select few individuals who have shown by their deeds a strong humanitarian commitment to help refugees. Only two other philanthropists hold this title: Hamdi Ulukaya of the United States and Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi of the United Arab Emirates. During the appointment, UNHCR High Commissioner Filippo Grandi thanked Dr. Tahir for his generosity, hailing his “real commitment to ensure the well-being of refugees around the world.”
Dr. Tahir is the founder and chairman of Indonesia’s Mayapada Group, a consortium of businesses in banking, insurance, healthcare, retail, real estate development, and media.
“I want to become a person who serves other people, society, and the nation.”
A dedicated philanthropist, he has supported healthcare and education initiatives to improve the lives of low income Indonesians and has facilitated large fundraising events to raise money for refugee assistance. In addition to his pledged donation of USD $10 million, in 2016 Dr. Tahir donated $2 million to one of UNHCR’s global campaigns, Nobody Left Outside, which calls on leaders in the private sector to help finance shelters for two million refugees by 2018. As a key donor to Nobody Left Outside, Mr. Tahir has been named a champion of the campaign’s Global Shelter Coalition. After visiting Syrian refugees in Jordan in October 2016, he donated $1 million to UNHCR’s Cash Assistance Programme in the country, thus providing financial support for 667 Syrian refugee families in Jordan for one year. Mr. Tahir also sponsored a fundraising concert, “Voice of Refugees,” in Jakarta, Indonesia, during which he publicly urged attendees to support UNHCR and contribute to alleviating the global refugee crisis. The concert was produced and televised nationally by Metro TV on 1 October 2016. More than 1.7 million people across Indonesia tuned in to watch the show.
Tahir’s passion for improving the lives of others motivates him to support the work of UNHCR. “I want to become a person who serves other people, society, and the nation. Wealth is a tool that should be used to attain the ultimate objective: healing the sick, sending children to school, employing workers, helping the weak become strong, and improving the livelihood of the poor. I hope I can help improve refugee lives so they are blessed,” Dr. Tahir confided to UN staff during his visit to Jordan in April.
Global forced displacement has risen sharply in the past decade due to a number of unfortunate events, including the ongoing civil war in Syria, proliferation of new conflicts, and the continuation of protracted unresolved conflicts. Without a major increase in humanitarian funding, millions of people may face life without adequate and safe shelter or livelihoods.
The private sector is an increasingly important donor source for UNHCR, contributing more than eight percent of the organization’s funding in 2015. Individuals and companies in the private sector are not only instrumental in bringing in funding, technical expertise, creativity, and innovation for humanitarian causes, but also are often well-positioned to drive policy change and influence public opinion.