PROSPECTS: A Conference on "Economic Inclusion and Livelihood Development of Young Refugees in the MENA Region"

IsDB, ISFD, SPARK, and other global partners take a step forward for job creation opportunities, education for out of school children and empowering NGOs, starting from 2020

Istanbul, Turkey, 13.09.2019 – The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and its poverty alleviation arm, the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD) say they, in collaboration with their development partners, are taking steps for streamlining several vital projects for refugees in the least developed communities in their member countries. The projects include; “creation of job opportunities, helping out of school children get back to school, as well as empowering local NGOs. Announcements were made during the “PROSPECTS” conference in Istanbul (12 -13 September 2019) co-hosted by SPARK an international development NGO, under the theme of “Economic Inclusion and Livelihoods Development for Young Refugees in the MENA Region”.

In his statement to the opening session of PROSPECTS conference, read out by IsDB’s Abdi Abdullahi, the Vice President of the Islamic Development Bank, HE Dr. Mansur Muhtar referred to the main mandate of the Bank for spearheading economic progress through sustainable development programs, and reiterated IsDB’s commitment to continue supporting “all innovative efforts and initiatives that bridge humanitarian and development approaches to boost the economic and the social resilience of the refugee-hosting countries and other concerned countries of the MENA Region.” “The Bank’s interventions to support refugees focuses on education, skills development, strengthening young refugees’ employability and livelihoods development,” the statement read.

Furthermore, Mr. Khemais El Gazzah, Senior Advisor to the Director General of ISFD, Dr. Waleed AlWohaib, told the “PROSPECTS” conference that ISFD, with the association of many partners, organizations and governments including SPARK, will be embarking, at the beginning of 2020, to launch two ambitious programs. “The first program targets creating 1 million jobs for youth and women in the 57 member countries of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, OIC, and the second aims to empower 500 local NGOs in the said countries,” he explained. Mr. Khemais further added that ISFD has made a strategic shift in its business model and will be allocating 30 per cent of its waqf (endowment) capital, amounting to around US $850 million, to be invested directly with the poor through economic empowerment projects and programs. He then asserted that on September 27, 2019 on the margins of the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York, the IsDB and ISFD in close cooperation with the UNDP will be launching TADAMON, an international platform for empowering local NGOs.  

Several key note speakers addressed the two-day event, amongst them; Mr. Bart van BOLHUIS, Consul General of Kingdom of the Netherlands; Mr. Yannick Du Pont, Director, SPARK; and Mr. Saddettin AKYL, DG, Turkish Ministry of Family, Labor, & Social Services.

The Dutch Consul General, H.E. Mr. BOLHUIS in his key note address, admired Turkey and Syria’s other neighboring countries and local communities for their generosity” in embracing refugees and supporting them in rebuilding the future. He also praised IsDB, ISFD, and SPARK for organizing PROSPECTS, stating that the Netherlands is also a hosting country and along with the EU is supporting efforts for enabling refugees, the Syrian refugees, in particular.

Yannick Du Pont, Director, SPARK, meanwhile, presented a brief history of what the organization has done for the refugees in the past quarter of a century in different parts of the world adding: “we are still dreaming our biggest dream: creating jobs for youth. That is what SPARK does. Working together with youth and local partners to create pathways of employment in often the most challenging circumstances. To be here today at PROSPECTS, a conference about economic empowerment for refugees, I am proud to see this collective effort.”

According to Yannick Du Pont, more than 55 local organizations and NGOs took part at the two-day PROSPECTS conference to commit to a common goal which is creating job opportunities for refugees in the MENA region. He extended special thanks to SPARK partners namely, the IsDB, the ISFD, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and above all, Turkey, for the great example of best practices that the country has set on how to support refugees and hosting communities.

Meanwhile, Saddettin AKYL, DG, Turkish Ministry of Family, Labor, & Social Services, touched upon how his country has gone numerous extra miles in managing the refugees’ crises and hosting and integrating them in to the Turkish society. He also elaborated that the Republic of Turkey has amended its laws to save lives and develop the livelihoods of refugees.

The two-day conference then saw the holding of 7 specialized workshops where the participants reviewed the situation on the ground and presented practical solutions for MSME support, private sector facilitation, resource mobilization, refugee women empowerment through entrepreneurship, higher vocational education, as well as job creation for the youth in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.