This week in New York, the UN Member States voted in favor of the Global Compact on Refugees. The integration of the world’s 25.4 million refugees into new communities is a topic that touches nations all over the world, but one that is also fraught with controversy and tension.
Over the last several years, the number of refugees – individuals forced to flee their homes or their countries to escape conflict or disaster – has been increasing. Indeed, the plight of those fleeing conflict and crisis has become one of the most urgent and complex human crises of our time.
But with that crisis comes the equally urgent issue of managing the needs and wants of citizens in the countries that receive these refugees. The headlines and heated debates in Congresses and Parliaments across the world highlight how an influx of displaced populations can create strain on political and social systems.
Questions of sanctity, sovereignty, safety and how to sustain prosperity for local populations bubble up – some more contentious than others – but all stemming from a place of genuine concern.
Ironically, the solution for refugees, who are adapting to a new home, may well be similar for those who grew up in the destination country and feel excluded from a system that doesn’t seem to understand their needs. In both instances, the answer lies in creating inclusive growth and opportunity for all.
At this critical time, Mastercard is entering into a new global partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to increase access to essential technology and products to advance financial education and the provision of financial services for displaced populations around the world.
The IRC offers long-term assistance to refugees displaced by war, persecution or natural disaster. Our partnership with IRC is based on the shared belief that connecting people with opportunity and putting them on a path to financial inclusion is an important step in helping them survive, recover and regain control of their future. Since 2003, the IRC has supported the startup of over 900 owned businesses and in 2016, of all refugees settled by the IRC and supported by employment programs, 84 percent were economically self-sufficient within six months.
By easing the path for refugees to establish themselves, start businesses and engage in commerce, we create opportunities for them to become active, contributing members of the economies of their new communities and host countries. By allowing them to take part in the financial mainstream, we also eliminate reliance on shadow economies or ‘off the books’ financial activities and arrangements – contributing to a safer experience for the migrants and the broader established economy. Indeed, a recent study by the IRC in Lebanon shows that for every dollar spent by refugees, $2.13 goes back into the local economy.
By focusing on inclusion, we can help displaced people and the communities that welcome them achieve financial resilience and opportunity. This isn’t something any one individual or organization can solve for alone. We will be bringing our best assets, people and ideas to support the IRC in the delivery of sustained and meaningful impact. Strong partnership across development organizations, NGOs, governments and the private sector will allow us to address these extremely sensitive challenges over the long term.
Mastercard believes in building a safer, healthier and more inclusive world where everyone can contribute, benefit and thrive. With that in mind, we’re proud to be taking this important step in growing our partnership with IRC into 2019.