PETALING JAYA: Refugees hold the potential of becoming a highly productive resource for their host countries, says Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah (pic).
The Sultan of Perak and Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy Malaysia) patron said that since many of the most severe international humanitarian crises are unlikely to be fully resolved in the near or medium term, our response to them must adapt accordingly.
Although humanitarian action must focus on meeting the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, it must also expand to encompass measures to reduce future vulnerabilities and build resilience, he said.
“This may also involve a different approach to refugees, who often represent a large and very under-utilised resource in their countries of refuge.
“Rather than remaining as passive recipients of assistance, these refugees could become a highly productive resource to their host countries, ” he said while officiating at the Mercy Malaysia International Humanitarian Conference 2019 (MMIHC) in Sunway University on Tuesday (Aug 6).
In his speech on humanitarian action and nation building, Sultan Nazrin reiterated the need for stronger linkages to be forged between humanitarian and development work, in part to ensure that these resources are used as efficiently as possible.
This applies particularly to the changing condition where humanitarian emergencies now last longer and are more frequent, he added.
The call for stronger collaboration between humanitarian and development sectors was earlier made by the United Nations High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, which Sultan Nazrin serves on as co-chair.
On Monday (Aug 5), Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran said that the government has yet to make a final decision on whether to allow refugees to work in Malaysia.
Kulasegaran said that what was mentioned in the Pakatan Harapan manifesto should not be overlooked and that refugees should be allowed employment.
He added that he had advocated for this over the past 20 years as an Opposition MP.
Meanwhile, MMIHC19, running from Monday to Wednesday (Aug 7), is hosting eminent speakers and individuals involved in humanitarian issues from across the world.
This year’s conference also celebrates Mercy Malaysia’s 20th anniversary and brings together humanitarian practitioners, academicians, civil servants, non-government and private sector stakeholders to debate and discuss challenges and opportunities for the humanitarian system.
“It is probably the leading international humanitarian conference in Malaysia as the humanitarian subject is still in its infancy.
“This is quite mature for our society and a conference at this level with this number of international speakers has not been done before, ” said Mercy Malaysia vice president III Dr Shalimar Abdullah.
An estimated 400 participants will attend MMIHC19 with 50 foreign and 50 local speakers.
Sunway Education Group chief executive officer and Mercy Malaysia trustee board member Dr Elizabeth Lee said that hosting the conference was another positive way for Sunway University to collaborate with the NGO in addition to its ongoing community service partnerships.
She added that the conference provided a valuable opportunity for Sunway University students to understand plights within the humanitarian sphere, and for colleagues within the university to network with members of the humanitarian aid community and to form future collaborations.