More than 65 million people are displaced in the world today, the highest number on record since the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) began collecting statistics. More than 21 million of these people have crossed international borders in search of safety as refugees. This is the greatest exodus of people since World War II. In Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2015, 2,250 refugees were resettled in Colorado, with the majority coming from Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Cuba. In FFY 2016, Colorado can expect some additional 3,000 refugees by year’s end.
As many of you know, I am the United Nations Principles for Responsible Management Education (UN PRME) Chapter North America Chairperson. In that capacity, CESR received a ‘Call to Action’ about eight months ago from the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with the UN Global Compact (UNGC) and the PRME Secretariat.
I shared the ‘Call to Action’ with the officers of our CESR Fellows. The Call was addressed to business schools to propose solutions and take action that would facilitate in the integration of refugees into local economies. The CESR Fellows were inspired by the idea that CESR could take a leadership role in Colorado by convening relevant groups to address the topic.
They were especially interested in promoting a positive narrative that focuses on the contributions refugees make to communities. In fact, research demonstrates that refugees are likely to start new businesses that create wealth, employ local residents, and stimulate investment. The Fellows wanted to highlight how Colorado business schools could promote economic growth in local economies by assisting refugees with entrepreneurship or in filling labor and skills gaps.
We resolved to hold a Regional Summit to address the Call. We enlisted the support of state and local government officials, NGOs, business leaders and business schools. The objective of the agenda is to listen to these stakeholders in order to learn from their experience. The various panels will consider the demographics of refugee populations, challenges that hinder integration into local economies, the role of business schools in addressing the need, and a partnership among stakeholders to assist b-schools in mitigating constraints.
I want to publically acknowledge the commitment and efforts of Angelina Carranza, president of CESR Fellows. Without the CESR Fellows and Angelina’s hard work, this event would not take place. We just opened registration and we already have over 40 registrants representing 27 different organizations. I think we have touched a nerve!