Openingstoespraak van Koningin Máxima tijdens de IGNITE conferentie Rebuilding Futures te Amsterdam

De toespraak is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to say how happy I am to see you all here. Your commitment as private sector, government, knowledge institutions and NGO representatives from across the globe and specifically the Middle East and Africa, is a sign of hope in a world affected by conflicts.

Never before have so many people fled their country because of violence and repression. Across the world, 65 million people have been forcibly displaced. The majority of them are being taken in by neighbouring countries.

Most refugees have had to leave almost all their possessions behind. But many fled with invisible assets of great value.

They have taken their ambitions, skills and talents with them.

They’ve taken their experience as entrepreneurs and professionals.

And they have taken their drive to rebuild their lives and the futures of their families.

Many refugees have no choice but to spend considerable time away from home. Ten or even twenty years is no exception. Therefore, it is vital that we tap into this reservoir of human capital and enable these people to use their capacities to benefit not only themselves, but also their host regions.

For almost 25 years, SPARK has been supporting people in fragile states and societies affected by conflict. One of its key strategies is facilitating start-up businesses by inspiring a culture of entrepreneurship, as well as through training and credit.

As UN’s Secretary-General’s special advocate for inclusive finance for development, I have seen how vital this is. SME’s are the drivers of growth, innovation and job creation, not only in Europe, but also in Africa, Asia and the Middle East as well.

Of course, doing business in crisis-stricken regions requires a specific approach. It is necessary therefore to link up all available expertise, research and lessons learned from both the public as well as the private sector.

Since the majority of refugees are young people, we must also turn our attention to education and scholarships.

We must provide young people with positive alternatives and challenge them to use their capacities to the full.

This conference focuses on the empowerment of  youth and entrepreneurs in vulnerable economies. Let us share as much knowledge as possible on how to spur inclusive and sustainable economic growth. And let us work more closely together in order to make sure that the vast reservoir of human skills and talents in conflict-affected regions is put to good use. To the advantage of us all!

Thank you.