Today, following the virtual opening of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, businesses and non-profit leaders from across industries demanded action from governments to include refugees in progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in the wake of COVID-19 and systemic racism and xenophobia.

In a statement released by the Business Refugee Action Network (BRAN), global business leaders came together to show their ongoing commitment to improving the lives of refugees, noting the critical role businesses play both in directly creating opportunities for refugees and the powerful voice they have in advocating for them.

Signatories warn that as the spread of COVID-19 plunges countries into health and economic crisis, refugee progress towards the SDGs is in peril. Countries already affected by fragility, conflict and displacement will struggle more than ever to protect refugee populations from hunger and economic hardship

“A failure to take a stand for refugees now – as COVID-19 and systemic racism threaten to erode what progress has been made toward the SDGs – will mean a failure to achieve the Goals for all by 2030,” said David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “Now, more than ever before, the private sector must be a driving force for change in building more inclusive and equitable societies.

“They can directly fund the humanitarian COVID-19 response and livelihood programmes that help refugees regain control of their futures. And they can also use their voice to lobby governments for policies that support refugee inclusion and call for an end to decades of racist and xenophobic hostility toward refugees.”

“The millions of displaced people around the world were already facing unimaginable hardship – imagine being forced to flee your home, only to find you can’t access decent work, or face systemic racism and xenophobia, once you find refuge,” said Matthew McCarthy, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s. “Businesses already had a responsibility to take a stand for refugees and use their voice to hold world leaders accountable for change, especially in the pursuit of the SDGs. But now, as COVID-19 threatens to roll back what progress we might have made, that voice needs to be louder than ever.”

“The world is facing a convergence of crises, from COVID-19 to systemic racism to climate, leaving refugee populations even more vulnerable to harm and marginalisation. These challenges make the aims of the SDGs even more important,” said Halla Tómasdóttir, CEO of The B Team. “Neglecting to take a stand for refugee inclusion at this moment means neglecting to take responsibility for a just and inclusive recovery—a choice no leader, in business or government, can afford to make.”

BRAN is joined in its statement by leading companies from across the private sector, including Citi, Uber and Novartis, among others, as well as philanthropic organisations such as the IKEA Foundation. In addition to emphasising their ongoing support for refugees, from hiring to investment and funding for humanitarian response and livelihoods support, they collectively call on governments to ensure refugees are included in global progress toward the SDGs by creating national policies for refugee inclusion and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19.

To read the statement in full, visit: