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Addressing Displacement in MENA: Roundtable on the Role of Women’s Entrepreneurship - 31 October - 1 November, 2018

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“A comprehensive refugee response should involve… national and local authorities, international organizations, international financial institutions, regional organizations, regional coordination and partnership mechanisms, civil society partners, including faith based organizations and academia, the private sector, media and refugees themselves.” [New York Declaration, Annex 1, para. 2]

1. Background:

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is facing a complex set of inter-related and dynamic challenges including the biggest displacement crisis since World War II. The region is affected by conflict, unrest and instability including in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen, with clear spillover effects impacting neighboring countries. As a result, most countries in the region remain sources of refugees, are being transited by them, or are destinations for them. Of the 68.5 million refugees, IDPs and stateless persons, 40% of forcible displacement globally is in the Middle East and North Africa region, a region that only accounts for some 5% of the global population. Continued instability in the region has resulted not only in large-scale displacement and extensive protection needs. Essential services are overstretched in major host countries, exacerbating protection risks for refugees and posing challenges to social cohesion and peaceful co-existence with host communities.

The private sector has stepped in to play a crucial role in filling funding gaps. However, adequate attention needs to be devoted to better frame and understand the role of the private sector in the provision of essential services, beyond fundraising, for refugees and host communities. Influential women entrepreneurs in the region have demonstrated that the private sector has the knowledge and expertise to make a significant impact and play a bigger role in displacement response.

As social entrepreneurs develop the market with a social purpose, they also have a significant part to play in the promotion of livelihood opportunities for both refugees and host communities. Strategic partnerships must be enhanced to emphasize innovation, policy development, and sharing of best practices and align private sector partnerships with the 2030 Agenda. Furthermore, the private sector’s contributions to peace-building and conflict prevention through more systematic, institutionalized partnerships can contribute to operationalizing the prevention agenda MENA. Specifically, this can be in terms of the framing of environments where employment opportunities and vocational training are more accessible, as well the amplification of protection concerns and advocacy for durable solutions.

In line with the September 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), including the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF), the voice of the private sector remains critical. A central component will increasingly be a comprehensive refugee response that involves a multistakeholder, “whole-of-society” approach including civil society and the business world.

As stressed within the UN’s Women, Peace, and Security agenda, women’s full participation is critical to achieving and sustaining peace and stability within a community. A gendersensitive approach to these partnerships recognizes the role women as central to the success and sustainability of working towards durable solutions for displaced persons, and towards contributing to changing discriminatory norms or legal frameworks which prevent women from reaching their full potential. Given that the MENA Civil Society Network for Displacement (CSND) aims to address the calls to strengthen the role of civil society in responding to the crisis and to strengthen and amplify their voices and actions in favor of the protection and assistance of displaced persons, in support of host communities, the establishment of strategic partnerships with regional women entrepreneurs is in line with the Networks key objectives.