Why summits and entrepreneurs must stand with refugees

There are 50 million registered, forcibly displaced people worldwide

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

There are 50 million registered, forcibly displaced people worldwide. NGOs refer to them as refugees, some media organizations refer to them as migrants - ultimately they are human beings with hopes and dreams.

These people spend an average of 20 years in exile, yet their hopes and dreams may be much simpler than ours as they lack basic necessities such as shelter, education, and the right to work.

For this year’s World Refugee Day, the United Nations has created the hashtag #WithRefugees. Ultimately every individual, government, media organization and business must stand with refugees. Arguably, businesses can achieve the greatest reward by doing so.


Refugees provide much-needed diversity to communities. Historically, diversity has brought much-needed growth to communities. A 20-year study by the International Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that migration has had a net positive impact on 20 OECD countries.

In Spain, for example, the net positive contribution of refugees exceeded that of the natives by 84 percent.

Refugees do not create problems – they offer solutions to them. By highlighting these solutions, governments will be forced to listen

Yara al-Wazir

The Global Entrepreneurship Summit kicks off in Washington DC this week. Although the agenda does not include refugees, they can and should be at the forefront of the conversation.

The CEO of Chobani yogurts has hired more than 300 refugees to work in his factory. A group of entrepreneurs in Germany has tackled the need for more coders by training refugees how to code. These examples must be repeated until they become the norm, until more entrepreneurs and businesses follow suit and realize the value of refugees.


In the age of start-ups, manpower can be one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome. Refugees can provide that manpower. They can utilize their skills and be taught new ones.

Furthermore, average life expectancy is increasing worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, life expectancy at birth increased from 57 years to 64 years, largely due to a fall in the total death toll from major diseases. In order for governments to be able to afford to continue financially supporting their elderly, they need more people who pay into the system.

Every day that refugees await their legal right to work is a day less spent earning, paying taxes and supporting their host government. Businesses should pressure governments to enable this economic growth to happen.

Refugees do not create problems - they offer solutions to them. By highlighting these solutions at conferences, summits and global forums, governments will be forced to listen.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

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