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Private sector is key to increase employment opportunities for migrants and refugees

The IDB, the governments of Canada and Colombia, and private companies to support working-age refugees, migrants and returnees in Latin America and the Caribbean.

BARRANQUILLA, Colombia – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the governments of Canada and Colombia, and several private companies today discussed ways to boost a regional response to the region´s migrant and refugee crisis enabling better access to employment opportunities.

More than 5.4 million Venezuelans have fled the economic and social turmoil in Venezuela since 2015. Latin American and Caribbean countries have provided refuge to most Venezuelan migrants and refugees, but significant development gaps remain. As governments in the region focus on post-COVID19 pandemic recovery, private sector jobs will contribute to fuel growth.

Participants at the event on the sidelines of IDB´s Annual Meeting (17-21 March) included President Ivan Duque of Colombia; Mauricio Claver-Carone President of IDB, Karina Gould, Canada´s Minister of International Development; Eduardo Stein, UN Special Representative for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants; Marcelo Cabrol, manager of IDB´s Social Sector, and Felipe Muñoz, chief of IDB´s Migration Unit.

"Evidence has shown that most migrants, refugees, and returnees in the region are of working age, and when given the opportunity, make positive contributions to their host societies with new skills, networks, business models and entrepreneurship," said IDB President Mauricio J. Claver-Carone at the event Dignity, Inclusion and Employment: Private Sector Support for Refugees and Migrants, co-hosted by the IDB and the governments of Colombia and Canada.

The event gathered private sector representatives from Chobani, SOFOFA, Claro Colombia, the Costa Rican National Chamber of Agriculture and Walmart. “Socio-economic inclusion of migrants, refugees and returnees leads to greater local, national and regional stability, improves human dignity, and fights xenophobia,” added IDB President.

The Colombian example

Taking an unprecedented step, the Government of Colombia recently announced that it would grant temporary protection status for ten years for the 1.7 million both documented and undocumented Venezuelans in Colombia, paving the way for their social and economic integration.

"We are strengthening the social character of the migration policy and, with its implementation, we will draw a roadmap to regularize the population, expand supportive policies and promote their socioeconomic integration," President Duque said.

Canada: a key partner in labor integration efforts

Canada is an important partner and donor to the regional response to the Venezuela migrant and refugee crisis, both through political engagement and the provision of humanitarian and development assistance to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable groups, particularly women and girls.

"Canada recognizes that together, governments, civil society organizations and businesses all have a role in integrating Venezuelan migrants and refugees into their host communities. No one sector can succeed alone," said Karina Gould, Minister of International Development of Canada.

The critical role of the private sector in generating job opportunities

With more and more forcefully displaced migrants for longer periods of time, companies have a critical role to play in helping them integrate economically in their new host communities.

Successful integration of these populations requires not only enabling public policy so new arrivals can access social services, housing and jobs with dignity; but also, inclusive approaches from the private sector in their employment, hiring and corporate policies to support the onboarding and retention of migrants, refugees and returnees.

Eduardo Stein, UN Special Representative for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants in the region, stressed: “The private sector is in a unique position to contribute not only with the mobilization of resources but also with creative solutions inherent to its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. It plays a key role in strengthening the humanitarian-development link by promoting a society-wide approach. Knowing the best experiences to be able to apply them according to the context is a very valuable knowledge management mechanism in this context.”

For its part, private sector representatives shared their experiences in employing migrants and generating inclusive environments. These included

Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO & Founder of Chobani and Founder of the TENT Partnership for Refugees; Janet Awad Pérez, Director of Firmas & Advisor at SOFOFA; María Consuelo Castro, Director of Sustainability at Claro Colombia; Oscar Arias, President of the Costa Rican National Chamber of Agriculture and Agroindustry; J. Welby Leaman, Senior Director of Global Government Affairs (Americas & Africa), Walmart, along with the participation of Irene Arias, General Manager, IDB Lab; and Tomás Bermúdez, General Manager, IDB Country Department Andean Group.

"When policy-makers take steps to help refugees, when rules and regulations allow refugees access to work and allow private companies to participate, I find more and more CEOs, entrepreneurs, large companies and brands that are willing to participate in the topic. Our studies also show that consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that support refugees,” Ulukaya said.

IDB´s support to host countries in the region

The IDB remains committed to supporting the efforts of host countries in the region. Since 2019 the IDB has approved investments for US$630 million, including US$55 million in IDB grants and resources from donors. This support includes improving access to water and sanitation, better housing, access to education, health, social protection, and jobs.

Launch of MIGnnovation

In the framework of the event, the IDB launched MIGnnovation, a new approach linking migration and the unlimited capacity of human beings and organizations to innovate, gathering best practices from Latin America and the Caribbean.

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.

External Contacts

Andrea Ortega

Andrea Ortega

Tegan MacKay

Tegan MacKay

Lucas Gómez

Lucas Gómez
Additional Contacts

Munoz Gomez,Felipe

Munoz Gomez,Felipe
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