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The ‘magic triangle’ response to the refugee crisis


The magic triangle is a term I heard often at the WEF MENA Summit last week, which focused on the themes of ‘Enabling Generational Transformation’ and ‘Supporting Humanitarian Efforts and Diplomatic Dialogue’. The magic triangle refers to the growing trend of three-way partnerships between the public sector (governments), the humanitarian sector (aid organizations) and the private sector.

The world is currently facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced and more than 21 million refugees worldwide. A large number of these people are in the Middle East and North Africa, and our region needs the support of every corner of the triangle to meet their needs.

The magic triangle and the refugee crisis
‘Protecting Refugees: Our moral Responsibility’ was the subject of one of the most interesting panels I attended last week. The panelists included Imad Najib Fakhoury, Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation; Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; Kelly Clements, UNHCR’s Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees; Christos Stylianides, the European Commission’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management; and Rafiah Ibrahim, Ericsson’s President of Market Area Middle East and Africa. All of them talked about the positive impact that the private sector can have by taking an active role in responding to the refugee crisis – particularly when working in partnership with the public sector and aid organizations.

The Minister from Jordan explained the critical role of host countries and how Jordan has designed several education and employment policies to help integrate refugees. The Canadian Minister of Immigration (a former Somali refugee himself) spoke about Canada’s belief that every refugee should be welcomed as a potential Canadian citizen. He also emphasized the important role of the private sector through providing housing and jobs, and adjusting policies to integrate refugees into their workforce.

The EC Commissioner expressed his conviction that trade and investment would be the only sustainable solution and the private sector has a clear role to play. He lauded Jordan for being a great laboratory that could now serve as a blueprint in the empowerment of refugees. This has forced the EC to review its strategy on aid, half of which is now allocated to the crisis in Syria and as support to the neighboring (host) countries. On a similar note, the UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner argued that the current refugee crisis has changed the nature of humanitarian aid, and that coping with it requires an evolved understanding of the needs of both refugees and host countries. She specifically highlighted the critical role that technology can play in educating refugee children and helping young people develop skills.

The private sector perspective
Ericsson’s own Rafiah Ibrahim shared our view that after food, clothing and shelter, what a refugee needs more than anything else is technology, which is where companies like Ericsson have a big role to play. She explained our approach of using a combination of connectivity, data and cloud to forge strategic partnerships with our customers (telecom operators) and humanitarian organizations in the MENA region to respond to the refugee crisis.

For example, to help educate crisis-affected children, Ericsson is working with the Iraqi telecommunications operator Asiacell and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) on a Connect to Learn (CTL) project in ten schools in the Domiz Refugee Camp in Iraq, that has an impact on more than 6,700 students and 100 teachers.

The project harnesses the IRC’s humanitarian experience and education expertise to support the professional development of teachers. Ericsson provides the CTL cloud based solution to enable access to resources and content via mobile broadband. CTL is accessed through 3G internet provided by Asiacell, providing teachers with access to resources that help them learn how to better meet the complex needs of conflict-affected children and aims to improve children’s learning outcomes. Teachers have access to materials that have been developed by IRC, aimed at helping teachers to create safe, quality learning environments.

Another example of how Ericsson is participating in a magic triangle to help address the refugee crisis is our collaboration with Refugees United and local telecom operators to help refugees re-connect with missing family through Refugees United’s anonymous online family-tracing platform. More than 600,000 refugees are on the platform, which is active in Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq.

Some of the recent work in Jordan by the Ikea Foundation in partnership with UNHCR are other good examples of projects that showcase the power of the magic triangle – three-way partnerships that go a long way in sustainably addressing development challenges in the world today.

Written by Sumana Sarkar

Sumana Sarkar is based in Istanbul, Turkey, where she is Ericsson’s head of sustainability and corporate responsibility (SCR) for the Middle East region. She was previously the company’s SCR manager for RINA (the region covering India, Nepal and Bhutan). Sumana is a social media and technology enthusiast and a firm believer in the ‘Technology for Good’ message and the positive impact Ericsson can and does have on society. Always a strong advocate of gender equality, Sumana has been a CSR and sustainability practitioner since 2002. She joined Ericsson in 2014.