Global Refugee Forum: private sector pledges 250 million dollars in education, training, jobs

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GENEVA, DECEMBER 17 – The growing role of the private sector in mobilizing vital resources to support millions of refugees worldwide went on show today at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, where business leaders from Ikea, The Lego Foundation and Vodafone lead 30 organizations at the Global Refugee Forum promising education, training, jobs, legal services and cash assistance to refugees worth 250 million dollars.

The scale and reach of the assistance became clear in a pledge by the IKEA Foundation, Ingka Group and Inter IKEA Group to assist 2,500 refugees through job training and language skills initiatives at 300 IKEA stores and units in 30 countries through 2022.

The commitment is boosted by the IKEA Foundation’s promise to provide 100 million euros in programme grants over the next five years.

“It is good business to do good, and we at IKEA have the fortune to think in generations,” Tolga Öncu, retail operations manager at Ingka Group told a joint news conference with executives from The LEGO Foundation and telecoms heavyweight Vodafone.

Öncu said IKEA sought to shape a positive narrative around refugees: “These are friends and colleagues, and tomorrow it can be myself, it can be you, it can be our children or grandchildren. I think we owe the refugees today to make sure that the narrative throughout the whole world becomes a positive narrative.”

More than half of the world’s 25.9 million refugees are children. To improve their lives, The LEGO Foundation announced a US$100 million grant for play-based learning through PlayMatters, an initiative to strengthen resilience and build the social, emotional, cognitive, physical and creative skills of young refugee children.

Stepping up to the plate, the Vodafone Foundation made a commitment to expand the high-quality digital education it provides throught its Instant Network Schools programme, from 85,000 young refugees to more than 500,000.It aims to boost the number of Instant Network Schools in Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, connecting students to educational resources and the wider online world. Other countries will follow by 2025.

Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, who founded the Tent Partnership for Refugees in response to the global refugee crisis, spoke of employing refugees at his operations in upstate New York, and the transformation that wrought in their lives. “The minute they started working,” he said, “was the minute they stopped being a refugee.” (@OnuItalia)