Private Sector 4 Refugees

The World Bank Group, Confederation of Danish Industry and European Investment Bank identified best practices from the private sector’s engagement in economic integration of refugees.
Employment, livelihoods & entrepreneurship

Private Sector 4 Refugees

The World Bank Group, Confederation of Danish Industry and European Investment Bank identified best practices from the private sector’s engagement in economic integration of refugees.
Refugees at workplace

The project in brief

Implemented by

  • The World Bank Group
  • The Confederation of Danish Industry
  • The European Investment Bank




The initiative began in June 2019 with the launch of the Paris conference on the Role of the Private Sector in Economic Integration of Refugees. On June 11-12, 2019, the World Bank Group (WBG), the European Investment Bank (EIB), and the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) co-hosted this global event which brought together stakeholders from across the public and private sectors to share knowledge and develop new ways to mobilize expertise, linkages, finance, and resources in support of refugees. Within the World Bank, this work is part of an initiative called Refugee Investment and Matchmaking Platform that seeks to mobilize private and philanthropic support for refugees and their hosts.

The outcome of the Paris conference was a Charter of Good Practice on the Role of the Private Sector in Economic Integration of Refugees, containing 20 principles that will now be analysed and further tested operationally in the coming 2-3 years. Based on the results and progress, it could be extended in time.

Project aims 

The goal of the initiative is to promote employment, entrepreneurship, investment, and services for refugees and host communities through a series of high-level conferences and operational applications.

The initiative benefits from DI’s extensive history of facilitating partnerships between public-private-labor stakeholders. It leverages the WBG’s Refugee Investment and Matchmaking Platform and extends its ability to trigger private sector mobilization through business linkages, investment, or public-private partnerships in support of refugees and host communities. The European Investment Bank brings its investment and partnership experience to the initiative, including a background focusing on the socioeconomic aspects of the crises and supporting economic resilience through initiatives investing in the private sector to create jobs and economic opportunities. The initiative also contributes to supporting SDG17 on Partnerships for the Goals. . 

The goal of the June 2019 conference in Paris was to bring practitioners together to determine how to develop new ways of integrating refugees into local economies. It explored topics such as: productive livelihoods for refugees and host communities; entrepreneurial refugee success; the potential benefits of employing refugees; and adapting labor markets to engage refugees. Attendees gained knowledge of business to business techniques (on exports, investment promotion, foundations, and supply chain integration); government investment strategies; operational development experience; and found a space to test new ideas to shape the agenda in a practical way.

The target audience of the conference was practitioners from the field, including: labor market parties (business member organizations, trade unions et al); donor representatives; refugee entrepreneurs; chambers of commerce; investment companies; and development practitioners such as WBG operational units (including the forced displacement community of practice and MDB partners).

Building on the general lessons from the panel events on day 1, and the in-depth working sessions on day 2 (including country cases and sector discussions), the conference culminated in a charter of good practice principles around employment, investment, entrepreneurship and services for refugees and host populations. This charter is now being published, in order to serve as a guide for private sector leaders, government representatives, refugee entrepreneurs, trade union representatives and development actors in their work involving refugees and host populations.

The purpose of demonstrating the initiative at the Global Refugee Forum marketplace would be to disseminate the charter and share the good practices identified by key stakeholders working to boost the employment of refugees and host communities through the private sector.


  • Benjamin Herzberg, Senior Private Sector Specialist, World Bank Group
  • Peter Helk, Senior Advisor, Confederation of Danish Industry
  • Kristina Mikulova, Policy Officer, European Investment Bank

Challenges and how they were overcome


In terms of preparing for the June 2019 conference, challenges included:

  • Gathering a critical mass of relevant stakeholders
  • Institutional differences in terms of priority areas of focus

Operationally, the initiative is still in its early phases but expected challenges include:

  • Operating in fragile environments
  • Overcoming the risk aversion of investing in a fragile situation

More in general going forward:

  • Coordination and complementarity with parallel initiatives to encourage private sector involvement on forced displacement

How challenges were overcome

Ahead of the June 2019 conference:

  • Ongoing communication between institutional representatives
  • Early coordination with UNHCR and other relevant actors

Operational success will hinge on:

  • Engagement with government representatives to ensure alignment with domestic priorities as well as with relevant actors at the local level

Results of the Good Practice 

  • The initiative has identified best practices from the private sector’s engagement in economic integration of refugees
  • The accumulation of these best practices in the forthcoming Charter will serve to inspire other stakeholders to take action, thus – in turn – boosting entrepreneurship, employment, investment and products and services for refugees and host communities
  • Future operationalization of these principles will allow governments, international organizations, and private actors to improve results in efforts to address forced displacement

How the project meets the GCR Objectives

  • Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
  • Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The joint WBG-DI-EIB initiative to boost the role of the private sector in economic integration of refugees constitutes a good practice towards attaining the Global Compact on Refugees primarily in terms of enhancing refugee self-reliance and easing the pressures on host countries.

The June 2019 conference was organized around four themes further reflected in the Charter of Good Practice::

  1. Entrepreneurship: This theme focuses on supporting refugee entrepreneurship, highlighting innovation and incubation programs for refugees, as well as youth entrepreneurship training schemes, and diaspora mobilization in support of refugee entrepreneurs.
  2. Investment: The second theme emphasizes impact investing to benefit refugees and host communities, private capital mobilization to scale companies employing or benefitting refugees, business-to-business deals which increase opportunities for refugees, and innovative blended finance tools that benefit refugees.
  3. Employment: The third theme highlights labor policies as they relate to refugees; private sector experience in selecting, training, and employing refugees; and refugees’ voice and representation in the labor market.
  4. Services and products: The fourth theme looks at how corporations and small businesses adapt to the influx of refugees through market driven approaches, private business support to supplement public aid, and how to adapt and redesign business models.

These four themes (entrepreneurship, investment, employment, and services and products), and the principles generated through the Charter of Good Practice, may contribute to enhancing refugee self-reliance by identifying lessons learned on how best to train, fund, and accelerate refugee entrepreneurs as well as through support to the overall macroeconomic environment to promote policies that can increase refugee employment and increase their autonomy. In turn, they can further help make a stronger business case for the private sector to grow more involved on forced displacement.

The initiative can support the Global Compact objective of easing the pressure on host communities by encouraging entrepreneurship and employment initiatives, thus potentially boosting the number of refugees with jobs and easing the fiscal challenges of host governments.  

Next steps 

The organizing partners of the initiative (the WBG, DI, and EIB) will:

  • Finalize and disseminate the Charter of Good Practice, building on the outcome of the Paris conference on the Role of the Private Sector in Economic Integration of Refugees (June 2019)
  • Determine next steps in terms of testing the principles identified in the Charter, which could include operational collaboration on the ground between the organizing partners and interested private sector actors


Submitted by:

Cordelia Chesnutt, Senior Consultant, World Bank Group