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Blog: ‘Dutch Business Summit on Refugees’

The Dutch Business Summit on Refugees is the first event of its kind in the Netherlands. Hosted by the Tent Partnership for Refugees, together with Accenture, Rabobank and Unilever, the event brings together Dutch businesses making commitments towards refugees in the Netherlands and overseas, with the aim of inspiring even more Dutch businesses to help refugees. Birgitta Tazelaar, Deputy Director General International Cooperation, talks about how the Netherlands works together with companies to contribute to solving specific challenges in low- and middle-income countries, such as creating economic opportunities for refugees and host communities.

About 68.5 mln people worldwide have been forcibly displaced. This creates grave challenges both for the displaced as the countries and host communities that provide shelter. The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs invests in creating better prospects for people to build their own future, but governments cannot do this without the private sector. Governments can create the enabling environment, e.g. facilitate access to finance for SMEs, but companies are the engines that create jobs. And a job provides so much more than an income. On a personal level it builds self-confidence, dignity and personal growth. Finding a sustainable source of income also means having the chance to work on a better future, for yourself and your children.

The NL works together with companies to contribute to solving specific challenges in low- and middle-income countries, such as creating economic opportunities for refugees and host communities. These companies can count on support in various ways for activities that are additional to the market, provided that they conduct business in a responsible manner. The result is an approach in which the innovative power and entrepreneurship of companies, together with economic diplomacy and government financing, leads to more and better opportunities for current and future generations to (re)build their lives.

However, with the high unemployment rates in refugee hosting countries and refugees often residing in remote and marginalized areas, it is a big challenge to invest in these regions. It requires guts, innovation and long-term commitment. But it can be done. That is why the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes TENT’s* ‘Dutch Business Summit on Refugees’ that encourages Dutch companies to support refugees and host countries by: 1) hiring refugees into the workforce; 2) increase sourcing from ‘frontline’ host countries in ways that also create jobs for refugees; 3) incentivize foreign suppliers to hire refugees; 4) invest in refugee entrepreneurs or small enterprises or 5) adapting commercial services to better meet the needs of refugees as well.

And Dutch companies are already active in this area, for example in a project in Lebanon that supported farmers to increase quality of potato production and ability to meet the standards for export to the EU, cooperation with Dutch private sector (HZPC and Janssen-Dongen) - e.g. better seeds and access to network of importers - resulted in first export of Lebanese potatoes to NL/EU, which provided work and income for refugees. Or Groenendijk who is exploring ways to source 1 mln USD worth of garments from suppliers in Jordan that hire or are committed to hiring at least 25 percent refugees. There are many more inspiring examples, but it is not enough yet. So, let’s continue in combining our efforts!

*The Tent Partnership for Refugees is a global initiative that seeks to mobilize businesses to help refugees wherever they live.

Ministry responsible