The United Nations General Assembly gathered last week to focus a bright light on the over 65 million people who are displaced worldwide. One message was clear: sympathy for the plight of refugees simply is not enough.
Every sector of society shares a responsibility to address the root causes of the crisis. One may ask why the private sector should devote so much time and resources to giving back to communities in need around the world. Simply put: we have a moral obligation to act, and it is in our enlightened self-interest to do so. Business cannot succeed in failed societies.
During times of displacement, emergency assistance to meet basic human needs is critical. While these needs are many, ensuring access to health care is of fundamental importance. Health is, in many ways, the overlooked building block critical to supporting other basic needs and rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Further, health care for vulnerable populations must go beyond access to emergency services. Given that the journey for refugees and migrants often takes many years, and the fact that noncommunicable diseases have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of death worldwide, access to primary health care must be addressed within the overall conversation. Access to health care must also include a special focus on the unique needs of women and girls, who are often the most at-risk. Lastly, it is critical to remember that our collective responsibility does not end when refugees arrive in their destination country.
Working toward creating a truly sustainable, secure, and healthy future for the world’s refugees cannot be the job of any one sector. International, multi-sectoral cooperation is the only effective solution. Although public-private partnership is certainly not a new concept, the world’s full embracing of the true value that the private sector can contribute is only just beginning to be realized.
There is a critical contribution for the private sector to make if given the opportunity to be a true partner of governments, international governmental organizations, NGOs and civil society. Harnessing the full power of this collaborative model means engaging the private sector beyond traditional charitable donations, to leverage the unique expertise and competencies businesses possess. At Henry Schein, we have seen first-hand the results that these types of innovative public private partnerships can yield and have demonstrated proof of this model through our work with the United Nations World Food Programme, WHO, World Bank and our valued supplier partners to develop the Global Supply Network for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. We have made a common commitment to help send a broader message that our collective impact is exponentially greater than any of us acting alone.
In the decade since Thomas Friedman said that the “world is flat,” ease of travel and telecommunications have enabled the highest degree of interconnectedness ever experienced by humankind. “Global” and “local” are more intertwined than ever, and the plight of refugees is the plight of us all. Each of us must have the courage to stand up and do our part. And we must do so in partnership with one another.
Stanley M. Bergman is Chairman and CEO of Henry Schein, Inc., a Fortune 500® company and the world’s largest provider of health care products and services to office-based dental, animal health and medical practitioners, with more than 19,000 team members and operations or affiliates in 33 countries. www.henryschein.com. Mr. Bergman addressed the United Nations General Assembly Summit for Refugees and Migrants plenary session on the vulnerabilities refugees face on their journey on 19n September, 2016.