Conflict and violence, human rights violations, natural hazards – the reasons why people are forced to leave their homes are numerous. By the end of 2019, 79.5 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide, of which more than half were newly displaced in their home countries as a result of persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.
While millions were able to return to their places of residence, by the end of the year, the total number of people living in internal displacement stood at a prodigious 50.8 million people. As the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement is calling for durable solutions to prevent and respond to internal displacement, private sector contributions should be acknowledged for the added value they can bring to government-led efforts.
The Connecting Business initiative (CBi) Member Networks engage in disaster risk reduction and preparedness, as well as emergency response and recovery. They have been set up to support government-led and UN-supported efforts and serve as examples on how the private sector – including small- and medium-sized enterprises – can be leveraged in support of affected populations.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in Haiti, the CBi Member Network, Alliance pour la Gestion des Risques et la Continuité des Activités (AGERCA) has worked with UNDP and a group of civil society and private sector organizations in Onaville and Canaan. These communities were created after the 2010 earthquake when displaced people from several municipalities relocated to the outskirts of Port-au-Prince, yet according to Fania Joseph, the Executive Director of AGERCA, over 300.000 people still live there in largely makeshift settlements. To address their needs, AGERCA and its partners have distributed food and hygiene kits, disinfected facilities such as schools and churches, set up handwashing stations in public places and trained people on the importance of COVID-19 mitigation measures.
The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), the CBi Member Network in the Philippines, has been supporting the Maranao indigenous people since 2017 when the conflict displaced as much as 98% of the population of Marawi City and nearby municipalities. Together with partners, PDRF has installed water tanks, mapped out options for restoring regular water supply and provided educational support kits to elementary schools and evacuation centers.
Improving the lives of internally displaced persons also means addressing their immediate needs on food, shelter as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), for example, but also addressing longer-term impacts of displacement. PDRF and its partners have therefore also identified interventions around livelihood assistance and post-conflict business recovery. Over 100 women have been trained on the traditional Langkit weaving and have received mentoring and financial literacy sessions. And in 2018, the Marawi Entrepreneurs’ Forum and Job Fair resulted in over 3,000 jobs being offered to Maranaos and offered capacity building sessions on financing and business recovery for local entrepreneurs and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs).
As we look for the right ingredients to successfully address internal displacement, examples from the private sector may provide helpful insights. Recognizing that instability and disasters are also bad for business, the private sector is equally interested in finding solutions to prevent them from happening and becoming protracted. As an integral part of the societies in which they operate, they have also stepped up to support affected populations, including internally displaced people. The CBi Member Network examples are important as they also demonstrate how we do not have to look for imported solutions, but rather focus on what already exists and is being done at the country-level. As a stakeholder with vested interests in supporting IDPs and contributing to more resilient communities, the private sector – including local businesses – should be included in discussions and action plans around internal displacement.
Photo credit: WFP/Marco Dormino (Haiti)