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IKEA Foundation “Knowledge Donation” Helps UNHCR Deliver Aid to Emergency Areas


The IKEA Foundation is constantly looking to see how its resources can make the greatest positive impact on the lives of millions of children living in poverty in developing countries. With their long-term partner the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), this has led to a unique donation: IKEA’s logistics knowledge.

Every year millions of children and their families are forced to flee their homes due to famine, war or persecution, and when they do it is often UNHCR that offers their first hope of safety. At any given time, UNHCR has the capacity to respond to a new emergency, assisting up to 600,000 people within 72 hours. When every minute counts, everything from how a warehouse is designed to how a shelter tent is packed makes a big difference.

“For most people, when they think of a refugee camp it is already in place and full of people but in the first hours of an emergency, the biggest challenge for UNHCR is ensuring that the camp is set up quickly and efficiently. The project with the IKEA Foundation is helping UNHCR to save time and resources when we most need to,” says Olivier Delarue, Senior Advisor on Private Sector Partnerships of UNHCR Innovation.

The knowledge donation from the IKEA Foundation brings together logistics experts from IKEA and UNHCR in a workshop format which focuses on knowledge in specialized areas, including quality, product design, packaging, warehouse network design, procurement, transportation and IT. To date, nine workshops have been held at IKEA offices in Pratteln (Switzerland), Dortmund (Germany), Helsingborg, Älmhult and Malmö (Sweden).

By sharing their expertise and knowledge, IKEA co-workers have been able to take the skills that are the core of the IKEA way of working – low prices, simple and efficient packaging, stackable products and much more and see them used to help many millions more people have a place to call home.

“IKEA is always looking at how to make products easier to pack or to move, whether large or small; how to reduce costs and keep the high quality of a product. These are skills that can prove invaluable to our partners at UNHCR and can help make their jobs that little bit easier,” said Bo Ericson, the project leader at IKEA who has been actively involved in the workshops.

UNHCR estimates that there are at least 42.5 million refugees and displaced persons worldwide, and it is estimated that the majority are children. “World Refugee Day is the perfect day for everyone to think about how they can make a unique contribution to help refugee children and families,” said Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “The IKEA Foundation believes every child should have a safe place to call home and we believe sharing the skills and expertise of our co-workers at IKEA will help make this a reality for millions of refugee children.”

Since 2009, the IKEA Foundation has funded UNHCR projects that provide shelter, care, education and training within refugee camps giving children the opportunity to build a better life for themselves and their families. Last year, IKEA Foundation awarded UNHCR a grant of €43.4 million to fund an innovative 3-year partnership to provide shelter and care for 120,000 families fleeing famine and conflict in the Horn of Africa.

For more information, please contact Ann-Marie Grey, Chief of Section, Leadership Giving, UNHCR.