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Big Business Helps Refugees


A boardroom would be a more likely place for a meeting between decision makers of four high powered international corporations. Instead they came together in a refugee camp in Thailand. They didn’t come to plan a merger, but to put their hearts and minds together to find innovative ways to assist refugees.

When Arkless and three other members of UNHCR’s Council of Business Leaders came to Thailand this week to visit two refugee camps, no one expected such immediate solutions. But as another Council member, Richard Golding of PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “You have to come to the field and talk to the refugees to understand how we can help UNHCR help refugees.”

The Council of Business Leaders – bringing together corporate heavyweights like Microsoft, Nike, Manpower, Merck and PricewaterhouseCoopers – was set up two years ago to advise UNHCR on how to be more business-like in carrying out its humanitarian work. It’s important to apply “the rigours of the market place” to the UN refugee agency’s mission to “unleash the potential of refugees to help themselves,” said Nick van Praag, UNHCR’s director of external relations.

“In less than one year, has raised over US$2 million dollars, all of which is going to support education and sport in refugee camps around the world,” she said. “Coming to a camp and seeing the real impact of the campaign is priceless. This is about impacting one refugee’s life at a time.”