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UNHCR’s ‘Ramadan Table’ with Private Sector to encourage greater support for refugees


UNHCR’s ‘Ramadan Table’ with Private Sector to encourage greater support for refugees

3 April 2024
Embracing Hope Through Partnership

"Embracing Hope Through Partnership", a panel discussion moderated by Keane Shum (right). The panel featured Dr. Usha (middle) and Prof. Dr. Younes Soualhi (left)

KUALA LUMPUR – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in Malaysia organized a “Ramadan Table” event aimed at fostering private sector engagement in support of refugees. This event was held on Tuesday, 19 March 2024 with the support of the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finances (INCEIF University).

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, compassion, and community. The “UNHCR Ramadan Table” event is a metaphor for the coming together of a like-minded community to explore how the private sector can strengthen support to sustainable solutions for refugees in the country, and to reflect on where the private sector’s engagement can have the greatest impact on the ground.

Held at the INCEIF University in Kuala Lumpur, the event brought together over 80 guests from the private sector, academia, and refugee communities for an evening of dialogue and shared purpose.

In his welcoming remarks, UNHCR Head of Policy and Advocacy, Keane Shum highlighted the growing need for refugee support amidst a complex global landscape.

"Around the world, as crises multiply, needs grow. This has a devastating impact for situations that have fallen off the headlines, including for example, the conflict in Myanmar. That means that in places like Malaysia, UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies have been forced to cut our budgets dramatically this year," said Shum.

Despite the challenges, Shum pointed towards promising opportunities, particularly the growing involvement of the private sector.

"There are some exciting opportunities, largely thanks to increased interest from the private sector in supporting refugees, especially in urban settings like here," he remarked. "Islamic philanthropy has become a key source of support, with a record $46 million raised last year to support nearly 2 million refugees and internally displaced people in 23 countries.”.

The event included a panel discussion titled "Embracing Hope Through Partnership". Moderated by Shum, the panel featured Dr. Usha, Senior General Manager of Advisory from the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) and Prof. Dr. Younes Soualhi, Deputy Director of the International Shari'ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA). The discussion focused on the economic inclusion of refugees, including the perspective of Islam in supporting refugees, as well as exploring potential solutions and collaborative efforts.

For Iftar, all guests were invited to a special meal which included pastries and snacks prepared by refugee communities.

In his closing statement, Shum emphasized the importance of empowering refugees through partnerships.

"Help us unlock and invest in the potential of 187,000 refugees in Malaysia who but for an accident of birth should have received the same opportunities we all have. Instead of excluding them and pushing them to the margins, let us consider including them and empowering them to contribute," said Shum.

“This event is just the beginning. We hope the conversations you have here are the start of sustained discussions to bring refugees to the tables out there in the real world, in schools and workplaces.”