Business community steps up to Latin America’s refugee crisis at first-ever Latin American Business Summit on Refugees

As the UN General Assembly kicked off in New York on September 23 2019, leaders from the business community, government, and bilateral agencies gathered at the first ever Latin American Business Summit on Refugees, co-hosted by the Tent Partnership for Refugees and the Inter-American Development Bank.

With Latin America facing the biggest refugee crises in its history – with more than 4.5 million refugees having already fled Venezuela and hundreds of thousands more displaced from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – the summit aimed to mobilize the business community to step up and support refugees in the region.

The event culminated in 22 companies making new commitments to support refugees in Latin America. This included major global brands such as Airbnb, Mastercard, Teleperformance and Sodexo, as well as Latin American companies such as Ualá, collectively committing to hire over 4,500 refugees, support over 2,000 refugee-owned small businesses, and deliver improved services to more than 110,000 refugees.

For a full list of commitments, click here.

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and Founder of Tent, and Luis Alberto Moreno, President of the Inter-American Development Bank, participate in a fireside chat moderated by Quartz Managing Editor, Heather Landy, on the role of business in supporting refugees in Latin America.

Opening the event, Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO of Chobani and Founder of Tent, remarked: “This issue is not going away any time soon… The only solution is for the private sector to step in.”

Mark Feierstein, former Special Assistant to President Obama for Western Hemisphere Affairs, unveiled new research on the plight of Venezuelan refugees, underscoring the need for actors, including the business community, to treat the Venezuelan refugee crisis as a long-term challenge. Mark remarked, “Many Venezuelans come with a high level of education. So if companies are looking for skilled labor or managers, clearly there’s an opportunity there in addition to unskilled positions.”

Felipe Munoz, Advisor to the Colombian President for the Colombia-Venezuela border, highlighted the “ethical imperative” that host countries have to help refugees. He emphasized that doing so comes with economic benefits too, “This is an opportunity for Colombian society. If (refugees) are involved in the formal economy, they can become consumers and taxpayers, and this would be reflected in an increase of GDP.”

From left: Felipe Munoz, Advisor to the Colombian President for the Colombia-Venezuela border, Mark Feierstein, special assistant to former President Barack Obama and National Security Council Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and Kelly Clements, Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees at UNHCR, participate in a conversation moderated by Heather Landy, Quartz Managing Editor (far right) on understanding the needs of refugees in Latin America.

Closing the program, Tent’s Executive Director Gideon Maltz, congratulated the businesses making commitments, saying: “Too many meetings, especially this week, only talk about the problem; you did something much more substantial today.”

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