Coalition to alleviate poverty of refugees and host communities initiated

October 2019

 Nicole Stolz, Head of Advisory Services, Caritas Switzerland,

Enabling refugees to work in their country of asylum has received renewed attention over the past few years. When refugees are able to work, they can provide for themselves and their families, increase their resilience, regain their dignity, and build independent lives and meaningful futures. Moreover, a growing body of evidence suggest that refugees can contribute positively to the host economy if enabled to work. Thus, economic inclusion of refugees can be mutually beneficial for refugees, host communities and host governments.

The Coalition uses the well proven poverty alleviation model, The Graduation Approach. The model has been extensively used in the development community, and, as noted by the Economist is one of the few poverty alleviation strategies that works consistently across countries, cultures, and conditions. Economists argue that the model’s success is due to a combination of consumption support and asset/cash transfers, followed by up to two years of training, mentoring and encouragement. The consumption support ensures that the ultra-poor are not forced to spend, sell, or consume their future asset transfer – be this in the form of cash or in-kind for entrepreneurial activities. Further, continuous mentoring ensures capacity building for the extremely poor. This ensures that the program participant is on the right path to self-reliance and builds the necessary skills.  

The approach was pioneered by BRAC in Bangladesh in 2002 with a 95% success rate of poverty graduation. It has since been tested in over 43 countries worldwide. The approach guides households step-by-step from poverty to self-reliance.

The duration of a graduation programme is approximately 18-36 months per household. It includes a minimum consumption support, market-oriented skills training for self- or wage employment, asset transfer, access to inclusive financial services through savings groups and/or linkages to formal services, access to social and legal services and continuous mentoring. Graduation programs are most effective when they build on existing services/programs.

With an average cost of US$ 1,400, a CGAP study shows, it is highly cost effective as there is a clear end date to the programme.

Caritas Switzerland will work under the coalition using the graduation approach in the Syria and Venezuela crisis as well as in the Sahel.

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