Innovative solutions to improve the lives of refugees in Turkey have been presented on 23 September 2019 at a high-level side event co-organised by the Government of Turkey and UNDP on the occasion of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York. The event was hosted by H.E. Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey  and Mr. Mourad Wahba, UNDP Associate Administrator. In his key-note address, H.E. Mr. Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General of Qatar Fund for Development (QFfD) announced their decision to partner with the SDG Impact Accelerator. Mr. Hassan Damluji, Deputy Director for Global Policy and Advocacy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mr. Stefano Manservisi, DG for International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission as well as the representatives of LIMAK Holding and World Food Programme have also participated in the meeting.

Thanks to the SDG Impact Accelerator (SDGia) programme, launched in July 2019 in Istanbul, entrepreneurs developed solutions for refugees to have access to livelihood opportunities through Digital ID systems and portable non-sewage sanitation through reinvented toilets. SDG Impact Accelerator presents an innovative multi-stakeholder platform that harnesses the potential of collaboration across sectors and disciplines and leverages the power of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology to address the challenges that refugees face every day.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Çavuşoğlu stated at the side event that “Companies are now expected to align their business models with SDGs. They develop business models for the low-income groups. This is why we initiated the SDG Impact Accelerator. We hope that SDG Impact Accelerator will inspire all of us to put our words into action. To achieve SDGs, we need to accelerate our efforts.”

The SDGia was launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey together with UNDP. Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, World Food Programme, as well as Limak Group and Eczacıbaşı Group, Turkish conglomerates with global investments have also joined the platform as partners.

Mr. Mourad Wahba, UNDP Associate Administrator, has stated that “Bringing together cohorts of corporations, regulators and other government bodies to explore, discover and work together towards addressing the development challenges could lead to market-creating innovations by systems entrepreneurs. The successful initiatives, as well as the collaborations between private and public bodies for acceleration will bring out unique innovative activities towards the SDGs. One good example of this approach is the SDG Impact Accelerator in Turkey.”

During the side event, H.E. Mr. Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, Director General of Qatar Fund for Development (QFfD), announced QFfD’s decision to join the SDGia platform as a new partner. QFfD is the second governmental partner in the initiative and brings its resources and expertise on SDG-related programs with a focus on refugees.

Mr. Khalifa said: “We believe that such a dedicated initiative towards the refugees within Turkey and LDCs, like SDGia, will harness the collective intelligence that involves combining knowledge from citizens, big data from the private sector and governments, and human expertise to create effective solutions addressing the development challenges faced by the refugees. Such innovative way to address these challenges is much needed today. It combines wisdom, cleverness, and creativity from those actors to create better solutions.”

Representing the Turkish private sector, Ebru Özdemir, Chair at Limak Investments and Limak Foundation of Turkey said: “The critical SDG agenda cannot be realized without meaningful engagement from the private sector. ‘Business as usual’ will not simply achieve the SDGs. We need to go beyond this approach for development. Engagement of the private sector can open brand new horizons and structure for solutions that are innovative, resilience-bases and forward-looking.

Dominik Heinrich, Director for Innovation and Knowledge Management for the World Food Programme, highlighted that “The world today has more refugees and displaced people than ever before. If we want to achieve the SDGs by 2030, we have to learn from and build on Turkey’s experience of hosting the world’s largest refugee population. Rather than looking at refugees as obstacles, we need to empower them by unleashing their creative energy to help us achieve the SDGs. The SDGiA is an important step in that direction.”

In its first programme, which was completed on 13 September, SDGIA has engaged with 25 teams of entrepreneurs from 14 different countries. Two startups presented their experience and solutions at the event. These were:

  • In Digital ID category: Gravity Earth, a startup based in Paris and Nairobi, which offers a cloud platform where everyone can receive, store and manage trusted digital credentials in a secure block-chain based digital wallet. Gravity will collaborate with Sertifier, an Istanbul-based startup and Mark Labs, a Washington DC-based startup in their innovative solutions to be executed in Turkey for refugees.
  • In the portable sanitation category: change:WATER Labs,  a startup based in Cambridge, which develops a portable, waste-shrinking toilet to evaporate 90-95% of daily sewage onsite enabling decentralized sanitation servicing to be much more scalable and sustainable.

Apart from these two startups, through the generous partnership of private and public sector, a total of 250k$ will be used as implementation funding of other startups working in the field with the refugee communities in Turkey to tackle the same problems from different angles using different technologies. The SDGia will announce new challenges in January 2020.

For further information and comments, please contact Mr. Mustafa Osman Turan, SDGia Co-Chair via mturan@mfa.gov.tr and see www.sdgia.org

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