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UNHCR's Innovation Fund awards projects designed by refugees for refugees

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UNHCR's Innovation Fund awards projects designed by refugees for refugees

1 March 2023
Italy. The conference launching the first organization founded by stateless people for stateless people in Italy takes place in Rome
Members of Unione Italiana Apolidi (Italian Union of Stateless Persons), which is among the first recipients of UNHCR's Refugee-led Innovation Fund.

GENEVA – A new Refugee-led Innovation Fund from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has awarded 17 organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the lives of displaced people and host communities.

From an initiative equipping stateless people in Italy with the advocacy skills they need to change the narrative on statelessness, to a seed bank and community garden system supporting sustainable food security and livelihoods in Uganda, these innovative projects will make lasting positive change.

“This is an important moment for UNHCR and the wider humanitarian community. People who are forced to flee must take centre stage in finding solutions to the problems they face,” Hovig Etyemezian, Head of UNHCR’s Innovation Service, said at an event to launch the Fund and introduce its first awardees on February 28. “The Refugee-led Innovation Fund is part of that process.”

Co-designed with refugees, the Fund was launched in 2022 to champion the creativity of all displaced and stateless people. It aims to provide refugee-led organizations with meaningful financial resources to implement and develop their innovative projects, as they often face challenges accessing direct and flexible funding.

“Our project will create social cohesion through the establishment of farmer-led committees consisting of different nationalities,” said Arinda Jeninah, a member of Kyete Biingi Tai Nyeme (KBTN) in Uganda, one of the organizations receiving the fund. “It’s an inclusive project that values all the community members, organizes community building activities, as well as [ensuring] access to resources regardless of people’s status.”

With the support provided by the Refugee-led Innovation Fund, KBTN is planning to establish a seed bank and set up community gardens and communal access to equipment in Nakivale refugee settlement. The organization expects 2,400 farmers to directly benefit from the project.

The 17 refugee-led organizations – from places as diverse as Greece, Italy, Mali, Rwanda, and Uganda – are set to receive a combined US$700,000 in direct seed funding this year, as well as holistic support from UNHCR through mentorship and technical expertise. Further details can be found here.

The new Fund and its first supported projects feed into the aims of the Global Compact on Refugees by bringing together a range of actors, notably refugees themselves, to find new solutions to challenges facing forcibly displaced communities and those who host them.

“The project we have developed through the fund is based on the empowerment of stateless people,” said Armando Augello Cupi, the President of Unione Italiana Apolidi. “We hope that through this project, data and research on the phenomenon of statelessness can contribute to improving social policies and raise more awareness on this often-overlooked topic.”

Through the Refugee-led Innovation Fund, UNHCR highlights the power of solutions developed by and for displaced and stateless people, helping to ensure these communities are recognized by all stakeholders for what they are: important local actors and change-makers capable of contributing to their communities. 

The Fund will launch a new call for expressions of interest each year to ensure UNHCR is able to consistently encourage and support refugee-led innovation.

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